Ghost -- sort of -- in the SI swimsuit show

First things first. Readers need to know that the three males involved in editorial work here at GetReligion decided that this was the best photo to accompany this post. It was the most modest photo and it was the wackiest one, as well. I was going to say that the brief television career -- as far as we know -- of the born-again swimsuit superstar Shannon Hughes was an example of a reality-TV-era story that contained a religion ghost. Then I realized it wasn't really a ghost. The religion angle is right there for all to see, especially in reporter Ed Bark's rather restrained entertainment feature in The Dallas Morning News.

Here's the basic plot. Hughes played the coveted role of Bible Belt babe on NBC's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search series. This was your basic "dream job" contest. Think The Apprentice with sun and way, way fewer clothes. Hughes lost out to a lass from Las Vegas. And that religion angle?

Ms. Hughes, a 2003 graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, had openly portrayed herself as a moral but free-spirited Christian throughout Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search. During the opening part of last week's final Bora Bora photo shoot, she agreeably wore only a lei and micro bikini pants.

"You can still be a sexy Christian. I don't think God's gonna be against that," Ms. Hughes said memorably.

She was philosophical during Wednesday's phone interview. "Everything happens for a reason," she said. "God just has better things for me ahead. Maybe he just thinks I can handle this disappointment better."

So there you go.

After thinking this over for a few minutes, I wondered if there isn't a really good Los Angeles Times Magazine cover story hiding in all of this. Last year, one of my best students down here at Palm Beach Atlantic University briefly flirted with the idea of accepting an invitation -- she is an athlete, journalist, model and actress -- to leap into the last round of competition to join a Survivor cast. She took a pass.

We talked about it and came to one conclusion: Reality television executives must love the idea of casting the innocent Christian who gets to look strange and, if the producers play their cards right, slides into temptation with plot-friendly results. I don't watch these shows much, but I have read enough to know that this is an important feature in many post-Real World shows. There has to be demographic research behind this trend.

Meanwhile, what's up with Shannon's boots?

P.S. Here is a Baptist Press update on the Christian couple in the new Amazing Race on CBS. Anyone out there have a favorite religious believer in a reality TV role?

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