Volume 95, Issue 95
Thursday, March 4, 2002
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Live from the Loft:
|By Molly Duignan
"You can't touch or turn the cameras, so if you're gonna get it on or have freaky sex above the blankets, they can still film your faces. We all know we make some freaky faces when we're getting it on."
Annie Guillo, a 21-year-old former exotic dancer from Coquitlam, British Columbia is living the life of "reality" TV. As part of U8TV's second season, Annie lives with seven other people in a downtown Toronto loft, producing shows for the Life Network and their website U8TV.com while living under the constant surveillance of 24 cameras.
During the month of February, U8TV's website drew 645,000 hits. On television, 1.52 million viewers tune into U8TV: The Lofters program on the Life Network each month.
U8TV's wide audience seems unreal to Lofters like Annie. "I was at a movie last night with [fellow Lofter] Danny. The whole theatre was packed and I thought, 'you know what? There are more than this many people that watch me every night!' It was kinda strange."
Despite the popularity of the show, Annie maintains that she hasn't succumbed to the celebrity lifestyle. "I don't think it's really settled in that I'm on TV. I don't walk outside the loft and think I'm a movie star. I'm just an average girl," she says.
Annie's decision to try out for the year-long commitment was spontaneous. "I signed my form on the dash of a car and showed up about five minutes before they were done," she explains.
"I needed a different pace. I wanted a different job, that was the main thing. I was interested in moving to Toronto, trying something new, meeting a whole new group of people, making some new friends and trying to figure myself out."
U8TV.com, launched in 2001, is Canada's first Internet television station. U8TV creates primarily web-based programs that are also licensed to television, where five of the 10 web-based programs are broadcast.
Annie says the difference between the television and web shows is a matter of focus, whereby the latter deals with the lives of the Lofters, gossip, highlighted events and personal issues and the former deals with social issues and informative topics.
The adjustment from exotic dancer to professional media personality was slow but steady for Annie.
"The loft is a strange environment. I mean this is home, yet I'm always on camera all the time. The hardest adjustment about moving into the loft is leaving my family and friends and trying to relate to people I don't even know," she says.
Annie's period of adjustment was suddenly thrust into the spotlight when she was recently nominated as part of U8TV's Twist. This year's show has a unique facet: every 10 weeks, two lofters are nominated by the show's producers and it is up to viewers to vote online for who should stay or who should go.
"I thought I [might be] nominated after some of the minor things I'd done that were no-no's, like turning the camera when [I was] trying to get [my] freak on in the shower, stuff like that," she explains.
"I felt like crap [when I was nominated]. I thought, 'oh my God, I made this huge change and maybe it was for nothing.' Then things turned around and I realized, you know what? Screw this, I got what I wanted. I wanted that huge change, I wanted to feel better and I wanted to get out of dancing, grow up a bit and have a kick in the ass experience.
"I realized these people I'm living with are actually pretty cool and I didn't even know them. It took the stupid nomination to make us realize that and now we feel a lot tighter," she explains.
Luckily for her, Annie made it through this nomination period and a new Lofter will join her in the loft Apr. 8.
Being so far from home has made Annie miss some of life's smallest pleasures. "I miss some personal conversations. I used to walk around naked in the mornings and I miss just being alone and private and making love with my partner. You just can't do those things here," Annie says.
While living your life on television may cause problems with people from your past, Annie has had the opposite experience.
"A couple nights ago we were doing a bondage show and we did an anal sex show too and my Dad will say, 'honey, great show, you looked great in the bondage gear' or 'you did awesome.' You don't think your Dad would support you like that, but he knows I'm outspoken, so he just thinks I'm funny and it's awesome."
Being chosen to be a Lofter has changed each Lofter's life. Had it not been for U8TV, Annie says she'd still be at home in Coquitlam, living a life less glamorous.
"I'd still be dancing, I'd be single and I'd probably be really depressed, making a lot of money not caring about what I was doing," she admits.
But life after the loft will be a whole different story. "After the loft? I'm gonna sleep for a week, I'm gonna walk around my apartment naked and pick my bum and fart and do anything I want because no one's watching," she jokes.
Annie predicts the re-adjustment to the real world will be hard. "I don't think things will go back to normal, it might be kind of strange.
"This is supposed to be the real world, but it's the real world with a twist."
Copyright © The Gazette 2002