Reality reaches Missoula 

When MTV debuts its newest reality series, “Miss Seventeen,” on Monday, Oct. 17, one of the contestants—described by the network as a group of “overachievers you love to hate”—will be Brianne Burrowes, a junior in the journalism program at the University of Montana. Burrowes can certainly be described as the ambitious sort: While a straight-A student at Polson High School, she started her own themed teen magazine called Unlimited (one issue tackled the topic of courage, she explains, with stories covering “everything from having the courage to follow your dreams to the courage to wear an outfit that may not be the coolest”). That’s the kind of initiative that seemingly made her the perfect candidate to compete for the title of Seventeen magazine’s “ultimate role model.”

“I’ve been reading Seventeen since I was in sixth grade,” says Burrowes, 19, who also spent a year as a Seventeen reader/contributor collecting information for surveys (i.e., “Why is your boyfriend not returning your calls?”).

“I don’t consider myself a celebrity at all,” Burrowes told the Independent in a recent phone interview chaperoned by MTV, “but the coolest thing to happen so far is that they put all our pictures in the last issue. For me, that was incredible.”

The show splits 17 contestants into teams that take on tasks aimed at unveiling the best qualities of Seventeen readers, including intelligence, honesty and kindness. Atoosa Rubenstein, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, judges the competition, which eliminates women randomly throughout the series. The catch is that contestants are evaluated when they think the cameras aren’t rolling—a gag meant to capture some cattiness among the supposedly nice girls.

“There were times when us girls didn’t get along—I mean there were 17 of us living together, so, as you can imagine, especially with us being girls, it wasn’t always so pretty,” says Burrowes, who’s not allowed to discuss the competition’s outcome.

What Burrowes can confess is that being a small-town Montanan helped her stand out.

“It made me more unique,” she says. “Here I was, this girl from Montana. When you’re from a small town, people want to know more about you.”

Starting Oct. 17, viewers will have their chance.

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