He majors in neurobiology, constantly fiddles with his Rubik’s Cube, and he’s the president of the Chess Club. Is it any surprise that the producers of the WB’s Beauty and the Geek chose Brandon Blankenship from a pool of 200,000 nerds to become one of America’s favorite poindexters?
Blankenship, a 21-year-old UM senior, is one of eight “geeks” on the reality TV show, now in its second season. Beauty and the Geek, which Blankenship refers to as “a social experiment,” pairs highly intellectual, socially inept males with dazzlingly attractive, academically challenged females in a competition based on information exchange. The pair that succeeds most in socializing the geek and educating the beauty ends up walking away with a prize of $250,000 each.
“That is so me. I have to be on,” Blankenship thought to himself as he watched the first season of Beauty and the Geek. After he ran a gauntlet of 15 stages in the selection process for season two, producers Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg agreed Blankenship belonged on the show and sent him to L.A. last fall.
A self-described “jack-of-all-geeky-trades,” Blankenship took a semester off for the chance to make it through a slew of challenges, ranging from pop culture trivia to room redecoration. He and co-stars shared a house, each sharing a room with a partner. While in theory, beauties and geeks mix as well as oil and water, in reality, the cast found themselves happily coexisting despite their differences.
“At first, I remember thinking, ‘My goodness, what did I get myself into?'” admitted one of the show’s beauties, Cher Tenbush, of her first impression of the geeks. “But these guys are real people, not just some nerdy caricatures like I had imagined.”
“It was just a bunch of really nice people,” Blankenship shared.
Now, months after the show’s taping, the cast is still in touch on a friendly basis.
“I’m actually hanging out with Sarah tonight,” Blankenship said, referring to one of his co-stars, Sarah Coleman, a dental assistant in Fort Lauderdale.
While some women may complain that Beauty and the Geek perpetuates unflattering stereotypes of females as the more vapid sex, Blankenship defended his female co-stars. “These girls are really smart. Most of them have college degrees and some have even gone to med school. They just don’t value the same things as the geeky guys.”
Regardless, Blankenship admits that the show was edited to highlight the women’s ditzier moments and the men’s geekier moments. “It’s funnier that way,” he explained, pointing to the show’s primary objective: entertainment.
But would it work the other way around, with nerdy females and attractive males? “I think there would be a much less cohesive dynamic,” Blankenship answered. “Most of the time, good-looking guys are conceited and into themselves. I can’t see them being as patient and caring toward the girls.”
According to his castmates, Blankenship stood out in his kindness.
“What I liked most about him was that he has a lot of character,” shared Chris Saroki, 22, one of the geeks. “He has deep values, high standards, and a strong moral character.”
“He was a very patient teacher,” Coleman said of Blankenship. “Amanda [his partner] did better than Tristin [another contestant], a member of the National Honor Society…I think that speaks volumes for Brandon’s patience and teaching ability. They both wanted to learn.”
Nevertheless, Blankenship found himself as part of the first pair to be eliminated when he failed to name at least two members of Destiny’s Child and the title of Usher’s 2004 best-selling album, Confessions.
For Blankenship, post-Beauty and the Geek life has been a return to relative normalcy. “I get recognized two to three times a day as ‘the guy from the show,’ and girls too hot to talk to me are now Facebook friends with me,” he said. “But other than being more popular with complete strangers, life isn’t that different.”
In the meantime, Blankenship hopes to graduate this semester and open a branch of his father’s financial services business in the near future.
“I’m glad that I did it,” he said. “I learned a lot. Both the guys and the girls increased their self-confidence.”
New episodes of Beauty and the Geek air on Thursdays at 9 p.m. on the WB.
Hannah Bae can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.