Photos: Sydney Spies on sexy yearbook pic controversy, new Syfy movie
Earlier this year, Durango High student Sydney Spies's protest over her yearbook's rejection of two sexy photos landed her on the Today show. Afterward, Miki Spies, her mom, told us Sydney had submitted a third photo, but that, too, was nixed in favor of the her school ID pic -- see how it looks in comparison with the rejected shots below. Given the passage of time, Spies is philosophical about the results -- and excited about TV and film opportunities that came to her in the wake of the controversy.
Here's another look at the first photo that editors refused to publish:
The reported rationale? The image was deemed unacceptable because it violated the school dress code, which calls for tops that "fully cover the chest, back, abdomen and sides of the student."
Due to this response, Spies turned in a second shot:
This one was also a no-go, Miki told us a few months back. In her words, "The editors said they wanted to maintain their award-winning status, and they felt it wasn't professional."
Miki didn't specify the third photo she submitted from a shoot posted online by the photography shop in question, Thru the Lens Fine Portraits. But she confirmed that it was another "model-type photo" -- one that she felt would only receive a thumbs-down if the yearbook editors were "scrutinizing it too much." And apparently they did, because they eventually opted for an image snapped for her ID card, over her objections. Here's a photo shared by Miki that shows the image as it appears on the yearbook page alongside other senior pics.
By the time the yearbook was distributed, Sydney was already gone. She took an online class that allowed her to fulfill her graduation requirements early and chose not to walk with her class at the official ceremony. "I was done anyway," she says. "I didn't feel the need to go back."
The PR barrage that surrounded her complaints about the photo rejection "came as a complete shock," she says. "We called the Durango Herald, and I didn't expect anything aside from that -- being in my hometown newspaper. But then Denver called, and then New York. I was definitely surprised."
The same was true of the negative reaction she received from some classmates after appearing on Today. Granted, she had plenty of fellow students "who'd come up to me and say they supported what I was doing," she concedes. "But there was also a lot of online bullying, you could say. People wouldn't say anything to my face, but they were fine saying things online about me. Some people who I thought were my friends were saying bad things."
This reaction was a factor in her early graduation decision, she confirms -- and after looking at the published yearbook, she believes hypocrisy was also in the air. "There are some pictures in there that you could say are sexy," she allows, adding, "I wasn't really surprised they used the photo of me they did, because after everything that happened, it got personal. I think they just wanted to be as mean as possible."
But Sydney's too busy to dwell on such things. Before she became a nationally known figure, she'd entertained the possibility of an acting career -- and now, suddenly, she's got an opportunity to launch one.
After one of her TV appearances, "the head of the Syfy network said he wanted me to be in a movie. So they got hold of me and my mom and flew me out to Louisiana" to play a part in a horror flick called Final Initiation -- although its Internet Movie Database listing uses the title American Horror House. "It was pretty short notice, but really fun."
Miki reveals that Sydney plays a sorority girl in the flick, which is tentatively slated to air on Halloween, adding that the producer was impressed with her skills, calling her "solid as an actor." But beyond pointing out that Final Initiation/American Horror House features the likes of Alessandra Torresani, of Caprica fame, and veteran bombshell Morgan Fairchild, she's been asked not to reveal anything more, including whether her character (dubbed "Missy" on the IMDB page) gets out of the movie alive. "All my friends are asking that," she says, laughing. "And I'm like, 'I'm sorry! I can't tell you.'"
There's also what Miki characterizes as "an after-school type movie" that Sydney will be filming over the summer -- and then she plans to move to Los Angeles and attend acting school. "I've always wanted to go to L.A.," she says. "This just gave me a boost."
Her Hollywood trajectory has inspired haters to suggest the yearbook flap was all part of a calculated scheme. "Some people think I did this on purpose, which obviously isn't true," she stresses. "I couldn't have expected any of it." But she certainly doesn't regret what she did. In her words, "It was a growing experience for me. It definitely showed me who I can trust and who I can't."
She also thinks the past few months have thickened her skin in ways that will help her down the line. "I'm sure I'm not going to get every role, but I think I'll be prepared -- because now, I've experienced disappointment."
Look below and page down to see more photos from the Thru the Lens shoot.
Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Westboro Baptist Church counter-protest at East High champions love over hate (PHOTOS)."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.