VOOM Judges, Part I: the Bricklayer’s Son and the Tiger Mama

We’ll start with Peter Kelly, the only judge who resembles a normal person. He credits his upbringing by a working-class bricklayer for his sound moral compass, sense of humor, belief in his own capabilities, and the understanding (sometimes lacking in the one-percent) that “working class” doesn’t mean “no class.”


Kelly’s working-class roots held him in good stead during VOOM: Of the five judges, he alone sat through the entire pitchathon, soldiering on through the entire 29-hour ordeal as the others, lacking his stalwart bricklayer genes, fell by the wayside.

Kelly was educated as an engineer, giving him acute insight into exactly how remarkable Efoldi is (see: upcoming blog on the VOOM finals). His favorite motto is “Two ears, one mouth” (at least we hope it’s a motto—if it’s a physical description, Kelly is definitely on the right track with regard to facial features). His secondary motto, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten,” is a bit obscure to us, but seems to be working for him.

And that’s it for Peter Kelly. We’re sure there’s much more to him, but we couldn’t find it on the Internet.


Tyra Banks, on the other hand, is well known, but not necessarily for her deepest strengths—one of which, to our surprise, is kindness. She has described her middle-school self as a “popular and gossipy” girl who drove others from her clique on a whim. By high school, however, she’d grown three inches and lost 30 pounds, a transformation so shocking to adolescent sensibilities that the other students turned on her, taunting her with names like “Giraffe” and “Lightbulb Head.” (“Lightbulb Head”? Good grief, children can be cruel.)


“To be made fun of, and to have no friends, and to feel miserable every single day,” Banks has said, taught her compassion. She understands. “I was that kid who teased people,” she once told a miserable high school student, “and I was also that kid who was teased. You are so brave.”

When Banks gained weight in the mid-’90s, her  agency drew up a list of “designers who will not book Tyra because of hips and breasts.” So she turned to modeling for Victoria’s Secret, where, she has said, “I sold more bras and panties than anybody else—and I was traipsing down that runway with 30 pounds more booty than the other girls.”

In December 2006, a candid photograph of Banks in a swimsuit was used by the tabloids to create an uproar: One publication labeled her “America’s Next Top Waddle”; others joined in with “Tyra Porkchop” (making it clear that the children who called her “Lightbulb Head” went on to write for the tabloids).


“It really made me angry,” Banks has said. “I did not shed tears, but I called my talk show and said, ‘I want to say, loud and clear, ‘You can kiss my fat ass!’” (for which we thank her from the plump bottoms of our hearts).

In a profile in the New York Times, Banks said, “I love being underestimated…. I’m not interested in walking down a bunch of red carpets, dating someone famous, being in a big movie…but I do want power, and not for financial reasons. Whatever happens to people—women especially—doesn’t have to be their fate…. That is something I try to instill every day on the talk show. When they give up or they stop trying, I get so mad. I can never believe it. How can you quit? Life is hard sometimes, but how can you quit?”

The sum total we knew about Banks before VOOM was from the tabloid headlines that assault one in a supermarket queue. But it appears that she actually is, as she claims, fierce. When she says, “I think I was put on this earth to instill self-esteem in young girls,” what comes to mind is a mother tiger protecting her cubs: fierce, and intent on teaching her babies to be fierce as well. Bravo, Tyra.

Next up, two more judges: the Social Median and the Spanxer.

your Efoldi friends



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