When he was a senior at Lewiston-Porter High School, Teddy Van Deusen was told he should try modeling. Now, the 2004 graduate appears to be modeling his career after Chad Michael Murray, the television and movie star from Clarence.
Van Deusen, 19, is one of 10 models in "8th and Ocean," the new MTV reality series from the producers of "Laguna Beach."
"Ocean," which airs at 10:30 tonight, explores the ups and downs and competition among young Irene Marie models living the good life in South Beach, Fla.
Anyone who remembers T.J., as he was called at Lew-Port, shouldn't be that surprised he's become a model, even though the only vote he won at school was "Best Hair," not "Best Looking."
"The company that took my senior picture used it in their brochure," explained Van Deusen in a telephone interview. "People said, 'You should be a model.' "
A snowboarder and skateboarder, Van Deusen planned to attend Oswego State College and even attended orientation. But the same local modeling agency where "One Tree Hill" star Murray started his career asked Van Deusen to go to a modeling convention in Orlando.
"Irene Marie spotted me and she asked me to come out and give it a try," explained Van Deusen.
Faced with dorm life in Oswego or life on the Florida beaches, the choice was clear to Van Deusen.
"I decided I've got to take this chance," he said.
Van Deusen is making the most of it. In the first episode, he was chosen for a modeling job with the more personable of two beautiful and competitive twins.
"I'm a quick learner," said Van Deusen. "Once you get a couple of jobs, you get good at it and get a confidence about yourself."
He said his parents, Edward and Beverly, have been very supportive. They gave him the money to get started. Van Deusen, who said he took advanced placement courses in high school, said he essentially is using his college money.
His mom admits she and her husband were a little "anxious" about the decision to put college on hold.
"He's been a good student all his life," said Beverly, who doesn't have cable and watches the show at a neighbor's house. "We decided if this was something he wanted to try, let him do it for a year and he could always go to college sometime later."
He's had enough work to keep college in the distance. His mom said people constantly praised her son's appearance.
"I've always taken him aside and said, 'You are good looking. That's a gift. You've done nothing to earn it. You need to work on your inner self and beyond.' He's done it. He's a very good person."
Teddy almost immediately earned some catalog work for Kohl's and JC Penney, but there's no doubt that "8th and Ocean" is his big break. It's a reality show that focuses on each model's personality traits.
"They started following us around," he explained. "They get to know our lives a little bit and tag on to that. Once they know the major dramas in your life -- the problems and the good things -- they attack that a little bit."
Van Deusen has the support of his buddies back home, many of whom are leaving for the Navy shortly. Initially, some of them were skeptical of his modeling career.
"When you say 'modeling' and you talk to the homeboys, they say 'Ohmygod!' " said Van Deusen. "When they saw the show and you tell them the good life I'm having, they understand. No one gets to do this."
Trips to the local South Beach clubs, where the models are treated very well, are part of the show's appeal. But it isn't just a "chick show," said Van Deusen.
"The show's for everybody," he said. "Guys see us just being guys. They want to know what good looks get you."
His cell phone provides the answer.
"The weirdest thing is since being a model -- it's not like I got better looking," said Van Deusen. "But I get triple the number of girls calling me."
And that number could increase if he follows Murray's path into acting.
"That's exactly what I'm planning," said Van Deusen.
His mother is excited about the prospect, even if he puts college on hold longer.
"I feel more talent is involved [in acting]," she said.