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updated: 2/21/2013 5:00 PM

Students replace models as Oscar trophy carriers

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  • AJ Young, 23, from Chicago, holds a prop Oscar before walking on stage during rehearsals for the 85th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Wednesday.

      AJ Young, 23, from Chicago, holds a prop Oscar before walking on stage during rehearsals for the 85th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Wednesday.
    Associated Press

  • AJ Young, 23, from Chicago, right, and Jennifer Brofer, 30, from Austin, Texas, center, talk backstage during rehearsals for the 85th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Wednesday.

      AJ Young, 23, from Chicago, right, and Jennifer Brofer, 30, from Austin, Texas, center, talk backstage during rehearsals for the 85th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Wednesday.
    Associated Press

  • Hearin Ko, 19, from Seoul, South Korea, center, and ChaRon Brabham, 20, from New York, prepare to go on during rehearsals for the 85th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Wednesday.

      Hearin Ko, 19, from Seoul, South Korea, center, and ChaRon Brabham, 20, from New York, prepare to go on during rehearsals for the 85th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Wednesday.
    Associated Press

 
By Sandy Cohen
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- You know those tall, leggy beauties that normally carry the Oscar trophies so the stars can present them?

They've been replaced this year by aspiring filmmakers. Six college students from across the country won a contest to help present the Oscar statuettes this year.

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"This tradition of the buxom babe that comes out and brings the trophy to the presenter to give to the winner seemed to be very antiquated and kind of sexist, too," said Neil Meron, co-producer of this year's Academy Awards. "They're just there to be objectified. Why can't we have people who actually care about film and are the future of film be the trophy presenters?"

So he and co-producer Craig Zadan developed a contest directed at college students that asked: How will you contribute to the future of film? More than 1,100 students submitted essays and videos, and six were chosen to appear on the Oscar telecast.

They attended their first rehearsal Wednesday.

"I'm still in shock," said ChaRon Brabham, 20, of Brooklyn, a theater major at State University of New York, Pottsdam. "I can't believe it, but it's real!"

The winning students each turned in an essay and a 30-second video about their aims in the film industry, and all said the opportunity to appear on the Oscar show is life changing.

"Hollywood has always been a dream that was so far away," said Hearin Ko, 19, a sophomore at Boston's Emerson College who hails from Seoul, Korea. "To finally be here and see everything, it brings the dream closer to me. This can really happen if I try hard. It's not as far as I thought it was."

Abe Diaz of DePaul University in Chicago is a chemistry major who always considered film a hobby.

"This is the fork in the road right now," said the 18-year-old son of two doctors. "It'll definitely help in making me more aware if this is something I can do."

All six winning students will walk on the Oscar stage during Sunday's ceremony. They're each getting a makeover and formal tuxedo or gown for the event as well.

"For a film student to be at the Oscars is huge," said Jennifer Brofer, 30, a Marine Corps veteran who is now a film student at the University of Texas at Austin. "This is where we aspire to be one day."

Other student presenters include AJ Young, from Columbia College Chicago, and Tatenda Mbudzi, a Zimbabwe native studying at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Meron said he hopes the student-presenters become an annual Oscar tradition.

"There's a legacy that we bring," he said. "And if we never do the show again, we would love for this to continue."

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