I don’t think my family has what it takes to be "America’s Next Top (family) Model." We just completed the annual Christmas picture shoot, and, well, it’s done. And while I can’t say no one got hurt — there was blood, sweat and tears — we all survived.

I don’t think my family has what it takes to be "America’s Next Top (family) Model."

We just completed the annual Christmas picture shoot, and, well, it’s done. And while I can’t say no one got hurt — there was blood, sweat and tears — we all survived.

There are four of us: my wife, Sharon, me and our two boys. Jay is 3; Finn is 8 months, not a lot of time to develop his modeling chops.

I went into the family Christmas shoot with eyes wide open. That’s because I’ve watched a few episodes of “America’s Next Top Model.” This is my wife’s fault.

I know what’s at stake. I know the challenges and obstacles that stand between a great photo shoot and a dud because Tyra Banks has armed me with the wisdom. Banks, a former supermodel, hosts the show that sees women compete to become “America’s Next Top Model.” Little did I know, Banks’ success has turned her into a self-appointed modeling Yoda (“want it, you must”). The show’s model hopefuls flitter around her in hopes of siphoning off some of that brilliance.

Well, I applied some of that brilliance to the family photo shoot, which is the make or break family picture of the year. Sure, family vacations, Halloween and birthday parties are big, but none provide the exposure of the Christmas picture. It goes to some 70 homes with our Christmas letter.

We went into the shoot with my father-in-law as the photographer and my mother-in-law as the coach, whose tools consisted of stuffed animals and things that jingled. Yes, those were for the boys. Mostly.

The goal is to capture four natural, gleaming images representing the members of my family, using the most unnatural of devices: The posed photo.

Let’s review the strengths and weaknesses of the models. My wife is clearly the money player here. She’s beautiful and has a comfortable smile that she could hold through a tornado. Tyra may tell her to “go for sexy, without being hoochie,” but those waters are far too deep for this young Luke Skywalker.

And then there’s Finn. Finn has a light. The question is will the stress of the shoot dull that? He has to learn to push all of that stress — you know, from being unable to reach his rattle — out of his infant head. The other challenge for Finn is that because he’s so cute, he tends to be a little too commercial. He’s got to find an edge.

Jay, at age 3, already has taken some amazing photos, but now he, as Tyra-Yoda might say, “seems to be doubting” himself. He’s a great looking kid, but can he translate that to film?

And the really weak link in this frame is yours truly. I don’t have the gift of modeling. I’ve never gotten past the fact that if I smile, I look stupid and 20 pounds heavier. It’s true.
When I took a job at one newspaper, people from the community who’d seen my picture in the newspaper couldn’t recognize me in person because they expected I’d be pulling a wagon.

The smile has become my Achilles’ heel. I can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t dare part my lips and reveal my teeth — who knows what kind of damage that could wreak? So I go with a lips-sewn-shut grin. And this grin has a shelf life of only about 2.5 seconds.
After that, it looks like I’m trying to overcome indigestion. I don’t have the courage to climb out of this rut. It’s hard to sell happy when you look miserable.

As you can see, we had a lot of unknowns heading into this all-important photo shoot.
Moments into the shoot, there was trouble between the models. Jay took a swipe at Finn’s face and drew a little blood. Finn was unable to persevere. He needed pureed fruit before he’d again step in front of the camera.

With our coach jingling things and me trying to coordinate my 2.5-second-smile with those brief windows when the boys actually looked in the direction of the camera, it took all 36 frames of the film (yes, we still use film), and still our photographer wasn’t sure he had a winner.

When the pictures came back, our flaws were magnified. We’d lost our necks, and our legs obviously didn’t go on forever.

There were no winners. We picked the frame that seemed the farthest from a loser. Our family and friends will likely be happy to see our flawed but smiling faces; however, I don’t expect we’ll get a call from Cover Girl anytime soon.

Sorry, Tyra. Obviously, we didn’t want it enough.

Tom Martin is editor of The Register-Mail. Contact him at tmartin@register-mail.com or 343-7181, Ext. 250.