Video: Reality bites for modeling hopefuls

By Chris Hansen Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/23/2009 11:48:25 AM ET 2009-02-23T16:48:25
TRANSCRIPT

This report originally aired on Dateline on Friday, May 2, 2008. An update aired on Dateline on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009. Click here to read Gemase Simmons' response after the original broadcast.

Ask a group of typical 20-somethings about their TV viewing habits and there's really only one universal answer: most of them watch reality television.

So you can hardly blame 22-year old Phillip Doubek, part-time college student, electrical contractor, and aspiring model, for thinking that reality TV could be his ticket to the top.

Phillip Doubek: That's what I wanna do.  I wanna try to get on a reality TV show, get my face out there. 

Last September, Phillip was killing time with that other 20-something obsession, MySpace, when he happened upon the Web page of a model-turned-reality-show-producer named Gemase Simmons. 

Doubek:  I came a cross him and noticed that he had reality TV show auditions.  I emailed him, sent him a few pictures. He goes, "yeah, come out to the audition.”  

Hansen: What were you hoping other get out of this?

Doubek: A good job for modeling. I would love to get with a great agency and be on my way.  That's my career.

The casting call Phillip was invited to was being advertised around the Web last fall, from Craig’s List, professional modeling sites, to a popular Houston Webzine.

Sabrina Griffin of Dallas, Texas felt Gemase Simmons was speaking directly to her.

Sabrina Griffin: You too can be a model, if you've ever wanted to be a model this is your chance. This was in my chance to be on a show that was geared specifically for me.

Hansen: Somebody who wants to be a model.

Griffin: Yes.  A supermodel…

Phillip, Sabrina and a group other young people were about to have the experience of a lifetime. They were told the show would be broadcast around the world, giving them exposure and unlimited opportunities.

Like many reality shows, it would be a grueling competition with physical challenges and heartbreaking eliminations until one final winner was declared.

And like “America’s Next Top Model,” that other famous modeling competition,  this one would have its own Tyra Banks: producer and former modelGemase Simmons was also the host...

Gemase Simmons: Eventually one of ya'll will be the model who doesn’t get up at 5 a.m. unless it's for $10,000, but first your gonna earn it. Let’s go play games.

But first, before any of this filming got underway, there were auditions held at a popular Houston nightclub.

The host arrived in a Hummer stretch limo, a line of hopefuls waiting by the door.

Doubek: So we walked inside, and they had the camera crew set up, and everything.

Hansen: Was it impressive?

Doubek: Oh yeah.

Those who survived the audition would make it on to the show.

Doubek: And they start namin' off names, and I think I was like the seventh person called. 

Hansen: What did you think was gonna happen, as you stood there on that stage that night at the night club?

Doubek: I thought my life was gonna change.

We interviewed seven of those lucky contestants. Competing against Phillip and Sabrina would be Jose Garcia, Tiphani Abney, GiGi Freeman, Ugo Mozie and Joslyn Pennywell.

Joslyn Pennywell: Modeling is my passion. It’s something I've always wanted to do. it was a prayer or a wish come true.

Once they were selected, each contestant was bombarded with paperwork, emails, and phone calls from the show's producer. There were questionnaires to fill out...and a contract to sign.

Hansen: What was the promise had you won the competition?

Garcia: The promise was $50,000 and a two year contract--

Ugo Mozie: And a spread in his campaign and like you'd be the face of his cosmetic line.

Ugo Mozie,  just 16 about to turn 17 at the time, showed the contract to his parents and an attorney.

Mozie: He didn't see any flaws in it. He said it looked legit, like a real contract.

The contestants were told to clear their calendars for two months, putting work or school on hold, if they hoped to stick around to the end.  

Tiphani Abney: I had to stop working for awhile.

Griffin: I had to borrow money from my family. 

Hansen: How much were you counting on winning?

Female contestant: Everything. This was our chance.

Filming began in November 2007. It started, literally, as race. The question was, was it a race anyone could really win?

It was the day they'd all been waiting for: Young people had been selected by Gemase Simmons to compete in his modeling reality TV show and filming was finally getting started.

Chris Hansen: You thought you were walking into a dream, basically.

Phillip Doubek: Oh, yeah.  I mean (laughs) I was living the life.  I was telling my friends, you know. Telling' other people.

Following what is by now a well-worn reality show formula, day one began with a challenge.

The would-be models were assembled in a hotel lobby wearing '20s style costumes, receiving instructions from one of Gemase's on-air assistants.

Tiphani Abney: So we have on these costumes and then they tell us that we have to run from the bottom of the steps of the hotel to the [roof]. At the end of the race there was a shoot. We all went to one room and then he took us out of the room, you know, one-by-one and there was a shoot.

Hansen: And who won the competition?

Female contestant: I think Ugo.

And like so many other reality TV shows, when it came time to do the judging, the host played the nitpicking critic. And, of course, contestants were interviewed every step of the way, sometimes by Gemase himself.

Joslyn Pennywell: We also did confessions where we had to go into a room one by one and discuss our experience so far. 

On the second day of shooting, the group moved to a ranch for what the show's host, Gemase, called "model bootcamp."

And there was good news: Initially, the contestants were told that the show would be broadcast nationally on the ION network. But as taping got underway, Gemase said it had been picked up for even wider distribution by an international network called Fashion TV.

The bootcamp contests were fierce, but for kids reared on reality TV, it was just what they'd expected. Except for one thing... Phillip and some of the othersthought they'd be competing against at least twice as many models.

Doubek: The only thing I didn't understand is he told us for the guys it's not gonna be easy. You know, “There's gonna be a lot more of y'all.” And when we showed up there, was like, what?

Female contestant: Yeah, all 10 of us total.

Doubek:  And I was kind of skeptical at first, you know, thinking' like, "What happened here?"  

They say Gemase explained away the missing contestants by saying this small group had been given a free pass to the final round.

But there was something else that seemed unusual: Gemase had made some big claims about his background.

Female contestant: He said he used to work for Ford Models.

In fact, the host's modeling career was an important part of the show.

Pennywell: He kind of trained us per se that whenever he would walk in we would have to say, "Supermodel on deck”

Problem was, Gemase Simmons didn't exactly fit the profile of a supermodel.

Sabrina Griffin: He was shorter. He was more average looking.

Looking back, those were a red flags that the contestants say they should have paid more attention to.  After all, who was this man they'd signed up to spend the next two months with? They really weren't sure.

On the other hand, this all had to be real.  After all there were those lights, those cameras, and of course, the action.

The challenges were heating up. There was a pre-dawn wake-up call, a drill sergeant to bark orders, and a race through the mud wearing next to nothing on a chilly Texas morning.

Cameraman Izzy Cardoza was in charge of the shooting.  He's an award-winning news photographer, who's also shot for reality shows including “American Idol.”

He thought the physical challenges were borderline cruel.

Izzy Cardoza, cameraman: These kids were just freezing. Some of them were in their underwear.

But for the most part, the models-in-training took it in stride.  As long as the cameras were rolling, what's a little dirt and pain for the chance at $50,000 and the job of their dreams?

They even laughed it off when two members of the group got in trouble for taking hot showers in the middle of the mud competition.

The host went berserk over that. And, as punishment, the whole group had to run laps on a tennis court-covered in mud for 90 minutes. 

The contestants assumed that the tantrum was largely for the benefit of the cameras.

After all, on reality TV, crazy sells… and there was plenty of crazy.

But the cast members were about to become leery of their on-air host. That's because in this reality show, the really weird stuff may have been happening off camera.

What may have been a make-believe tirade for the benefit of TV cameras was one thing, but some contestants say they were really taken aback later during a shoot at a beauty salon.

Gemase had the camera crews videotape the young women getting bikini waxes.  What's more, the host wanted to be in the room.

Gigi Freeman: Yeah, he was in there raisin' up the cover, looking while we were getting waxed.

He even made the men suffer through body waxes of their own.

Cameraman Izzy Cardoza says it was a challenge to keep the bikini wax shoot from getting R-rated. What he saw was more explicit than what he taped.

Izzy Cardoza: I tried at some point to be discreet because how are you gonna put this on television?

Hansen: Did you feel intrusive?

Cardoza: I did, I felt a little embarrassed.

But if the cast and crew were growing a bit uneasy with the on-camera action, it got even worse with what some say was the host's off camera behavior.

Contestant Sabrina Griffin says Gemase Simmons sometimes made offensive remarks to her when the cameras weren't rolling.

Sabrina Griffin: References to your crotch, or your butt… you know, “There are a lot of things that I could do with a body like that.” 

Hansen: You felt he'd crossed a line.

Griffin: Completely. Completely.

But it was on their third night of model bootcamp, after days of excruciating physical challenges that the guys say their Bible-quoting host really crossed the line.

Ugo Mozie: Oh, I mean like prior to this night, I was always getting the sense of him like looking at me in different ways.  And like always sensed his was...

Hansen: What kind of different way?

Mozie: Like in the sexual way. one night, he said "We have to have a meeting."  So he called me. I'm up there. I go to his room.

Hansen:And no camera are rolling?

Mozie: No. No cameras rolling.

Hansen: Did they strike you as strange?

Mozie: Yeah. It was very strange.

Ugo says the private conversation with Gemase involved his promising future as a model.  The host said he could find Ugo lots of high-profile work, but there was a catch: Ugo would first have to willing to take what he called a "protegee job."

Hansen: Protege job?

Mozie: Protégée.  Yes.

And this job involves sleeping with the casting director.

Hansen: So it was making it sound like that this is how the business works.

Mozie: Yes.

Hansen: You have to have sex with the casting director?

Mozie: Yes.

Hansen: The casting couch.

Ugo: To get big. To be a supermodel. He said he had to do it. Everyone else has to do it too. I said "No, hell no, straight up."

Hansen: Was he hitting on you?

Mozie: He was like indirectly hitting on me, like trying to, um… feel me out.

Hansen: And you were how old at this time?

Mozie: I was seventeen at this time.

One by one the guys in the group say they were called to the host's bedroom-- no cameras rolling-- to talk "business."

Jose says he was promised a big-time gig modeling for Jockey--- but first he had to strip down to his underwear for a private audition.

Jose Garcia: And he asked me if I was like, you know, circumcised and stuff.  and-- (laughter) I was like--  but it was like, "What does that has to do with modeling?"

Phillip also had a late-night business meeting in the host's bedroom.

Phillip Doubek: He's like, "I've talked with Gap. I've talked with a surfboard company. All these other companies want you to be a model for their agency."

And, like the others, Phillips says his conversation with Gemase took a very strange turn.

Doubek: He started saying "Yeah, you gotta be comfortable with guys.  and you gotta-- you should sleep together with a guy just so you get comfortable being around them."  And I was like, I've done modeling in the past and there was never been nothing like that before. And then he was finally like, "Well, why don't you come lay down with me?" 

Hansen: He wanted you to come lay down next to him.

Doubek: Yeah. He offered me to lay down, take off my clothes and stuff.  And I was like-- right when he said that, boom--

Hansen: You were outta there.

Doubek: Yeah, out the door. 'Cause I was furious at the time.  I wanted to pack my bags and leave 'cause I wanted no part of this show anymore after that happened.

But Phillip and some of the others still believed the show might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity-- too good to give up.  So that night, the guys say they made a pact--- agreeing to stick around.  But from now on they'd be looking out for each other. No more private meetings in Gemase Simmons' bedroom.

But if the guys thought they were able to protect themselves from the TV host's alleged advances--what about the girls?

Well that same night, a female contestant told the others that she was worried. She confessed that she'd had unwanted sexual encounter with Gemase before the taping began-- and now said she was afraid he would try to be alone with her again.

The young woman didn't want to be interviewed on camera, but she told Dateline the encounter happened during a meeting at the host's apartment. She says Gemase told her to come by to discuss an upcoming modeling shoot.  She says he then asked her to strip to her underwear for  what he called a "cosmetic exam," a full-body skin check he said was necessary to book the job.

*Female contestant: "Cosmetic exam." Like--

Hansen: And you--

Female contestant: Where he had to touch, basically--

Another female contestant: Touch her.

Hansen:  What did he do exactly?

Sabrina Griffin: He violated her.  He touched her in her private parts.

That 18-year-old contestant had been participating in the taping so far, but now told the others that she wanted out.

Gigi Freeman: She was traumatized. We went in the bathroom. And she called her boyfriend. And he got her out of there.

Hansen: And she was gone?

Female contestant: Yeah.

When the sun rose that next morning, one contestant was gone... those who remained were rattled. But there was something else wrong, a new twist none of them anticipated...

Gemase [on tape]: You guys will be head and shoulders above any other model in any other agency anywhere on the planet with our show going around to 202 countries.

202 countries?

In fact, the show was beginning to unravel.

One  contestant had taken off in the middle of the night, and some of the others suspected that the host was hitting on them .

But up to now, the one thing that had made this reality show seem real were the camera crews following them around, professionals who knew their stuff.

And then to everyone’s surprise, taping abruptly stopped.

Chris Hansen: so, one day, there's no camera crews there.

Female contestant: No.

Hansen: And what did Gemase say about this?

Griffin: What he said was that the camera guy was starting to pick favorites. And he was too interested in some--

Female contestant: --Of the girls.

Hansen: So, Gemase said that he fired the camera man?

Female voices: Yes (in unison).

But that's not at all how chief cameraman Izzy Cardoza remembers it.

Izzy Cardoza, cameraman: No, that's not the case. (laughs)

Izzy says he and Gemase had a deal: Gemase would pay him and his crew by certified check, meantime Izzy would hold onto the show tapes as collateral. 

But after just four days on the job, Izzy says he had a bad feeling about his new client...

Cardoza: I said “If you don’t have a check for me Monday morning, I can't continue production. I'll have top halt production.” And that was it.

Hansen: He never came up with the check.

Cardoza: No.

Had the show run out of financing, hit a bump in the road?

Or... was something else going on?

The cameraman had no further contact with the cast members after he stopped shooting, and didn't know about the alleged sexual impropriety.   At the time, he just wanted his money, nearly $12,000.

And when Gemase stopped returning his calls and emails, he came to his own conclusion.

Cardoza: That's when I realized that this guy, he's not legit.

But what Gemase hadn't counted on was that, in the past, cameraman Izzy Cardoza has worked for NBC News. It was on Izzy's tip that we started investigating and found out that he wasn't the only person who claimed to have been ripped off by this reality TV show.

The show's fashion photographer says he hasn't been paid.

The bootcamp ranch says Gemase owes it money.

There's an unpaid bill with a car company hired by the show.

And a Web site company that says its out more than $26,000 bucks.

And remember that impressive audition at the nightclub? The club manager, camera crews, and Webzine that sent out this publicity email all claim they've been stiffed -- given bad checks by Gemase.

And what about Gemase's history as a supermodel?

Apart from photos on his MySpace page, we couldn't find any evidence that Gemase Simmons made a living as a fashion model, let alone a supermodel. The Ford agency says he's certainly never been on their roster.

We did learn that Gemase is 31 years old, originally from Chicago but living in San Antonio, Texas for at least 10 years. His corporation, Gemase Inc., was registered there in 2003.

And, we found this online bio that says he's a everything from an R&B artist to a political consultant, as well as author of a forthcoming book entitled "James: Confessions of a Con Man."

What's more, despite all that talk about the show airing around the world in "202 countries,” Dateline found out that the reality show never had a TV deal to begin with.

We called ION, the network formerly known as Pax. They say that while Gemase had inquired about buying airtime, a kind of infomercial arrangement, ION never had a deal to broadcast his show. 

As for Fashion TV?  A spokesman there says its never even heard of Gemase Simmons.

So it sure seems there was very little that was real about this reality show.

Meantime, back at the bootcamp ranch, the contestants were largely in the dark about all of this, though they were growing increasingly skeptical and a little worried.

But they were about to do some investigating of their own, and would be shocked by what they found out.

After the camera crew walked off the job, Gemase Simmons managed to move what was left of his modeling reality show cast the from the San Antonio Ranch to a luxury condo building in Houston.

The building management had donated three apartments in exchange for publicity.

In Houston, Gemase told the group that new camera crews would be arriving soon.  Meantime, the contestants say, he insisted that the show could go on.

Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent: The activities continued?

Female contestant: Right.

Hansen: Without cameras?

Female contestant: You go it.

How was he going to shoot a reality show with our camera crews? Well, the contestants we interviewed say Gemase told them new apartments were wired up with hidden cameras, recording their every move.

But as you'd imagine, by now they'd begun to question nearly everything he said.

Griffin: We were told that we were constantly mic'd. We were constantly under surveillance. I was, honestly, very scared. I wasn't sure what was a lie and what with the truth. 

This big-time reality show was clearly falling apart.  There wasn't even money to buy food.

Unsure what to do next, the aspiring models began to act more like aspiring investigators. 

They quietly asked the building manager if there were hidden cameras in the walls and were told that wasn't true.

And one contestant called home, asking a family friend in law enforcement to run a background check on Gemase, and that's when the other shoe finally dropped.

Female contestant: And they found several counts of -- 

Hansen: A laundry list --

Various voices: Yes.

Female contestant: ...A long list.

In his hometown of San Antonio, police say Gemase Simmons has ten outstanding arrest warrants. He's currently wanted on charges ranging from evading arrest to stealing a rental car.

And, our research also turned up four criminal convictions.

Two case of "theft of services," one involving a bad check to a video store. For that incident, Gemase's mugshot shows him apparently dressed as a clergyman.

He's also been convicted of giving false information to a police officer, and he has as one conviction for lewd conduct.

Griffin: Huge charges that were on there and, you know, everything just started to unravel after that.

The cast members now had to face the fact that their short-lived reality show careers were over. One by one, they began heading home.

Most were now behind on their school work and bills, after putting their lives on hold for a dream that turned out to be a disaster.

Phillip Doubek: My self-esteem and everything was just real low. I felt bad, didn't wanna do anything. I felt so let down. 

Sabrina Griffin: And it just makes you question everything, you know, when you go through something like that.

Jose Garcia: I lost my dream at the end.

Garcia: It crushed me so hard, man.  It hurt so bad that I thought I would never get back up again. 

So was this the end of Gemase Simmons productions?  What would he do next? Leave town? Get a real job?

Not at all.  In fact, he began casting a new set of models almost as soon as the first group fell apart.

Witness the spin-off series, of the series that never was.

We got access to video of a new audition he held while he was still living for free at the Houston condos.

The camera crews who shot that audition, and like the others, say they were never paid.

But despite the reality show's serious lack of funds, Gemase had now doubled the potential prize money!

The second cast of the second reality show didn't stick around for very long.

Aside from the audition, no cameras showed up to tape anything, and soon management at the luxury condos asked Gemase to leave. He then briefly brought his new models to a Houston office building but management there says he never paid the rent. So it seemed, Gemase's days as a would-be reality show host were finally over.

It seemed Gemase Simmons had fooled dozens of people: from the unpaid camera crews to the hopeful young people who had believed this could be their big break.

Hansen: Was this guy that slick? Or were you guys just a little bit naïve?

Sabrina Griffin: It was a little bit of both. We wanted it bad. We really wanted it.

Doubek: We had that faith, like, like, somehow, some way there'll be some opportunity for us to, like, make something out of this, like—

Griffin: It wouldn't have worked if we didn't want it so bad.

And there's at least one more person Gemase Simmons fooled, at least for a little while —Jaqueline Christine Foster.

Jacqueline Christine Foster: I told him I don't want to have sex with him, he tried to get on top of me, all that.

Foster is a college student who hopes to get into medical school. She tried out for the reality show at that first nightclub audition, along the  other contestants we interviewed, though she says she was less interested in modeling than in making easy money to pay for school.

Foster: If there was a chance I could win $50,00 dollars. I could use $50,000.

And Jacqueline-Christine says she was further enticed when, soon after the audition, Gemase offered her something extra, a big-time modeling job with the fashion company Juicy Couture.  She'd be paid $2,000. 

But first, she needed one of those so-called “cosmetic exams.” 

Hansen: And what was this cosmetic exam supposed to entail?

Foster: Before I went to Juicy Couture, I was supposed to get my skin checked out so that they'd be able to match the make up. Yeah, that kind of made sense to me.

The night before the job, Jacqueline Christine drove four hours from Houston to San Antonio to stay at an apartment she was told had been rented for the filming of the show.

She says she knew something was wrong when the accommodations turned out to be a dirty, empty flat with Gemase Simmons sleeping on an air mattress on the floor.

Foster: Once I got to the apartment I knew, like “This is foolishness. This is baloney. I cant believe I am here. I'm afraid.”

Hansen: Why didn’t you just get the hell out of there?

Foster: Because I wanted to get paid in the morning. I wanted at least wanted my gas money.

Hansen: So, he does the cosmetic exam that night.

Foster: Yes.

Hansen: The so-called “cosmetic exam.”

Foster: Yes.

Hansen: And how are you dressed at this point for the cosmetic exam?

Foster: I just have my bra and panties on. And that's it.

Hansen: And you're laying there on the air mattress.

Foster: Yes.

Hansen: Which is on the floor.

Foster: Which is on the floor.

Hansen: In this dirty apartment.

Foster: Indeed.

Hansen: And he's doing what to you for this “cosmetic exam”?

Foster: Well, he's like kissing on my neck and like feeling my legs and stuff like that.  And I'm just like laying there like, “Just get off of me.” Heebie-jeebies.

Hansen: Did he touch you inappropriately?

Foster: Yes. Yes.  He tried to put his hands between my legs and I kept my legs as tight as I could. I just like laid there. 

Hansen: Did you ever say to Gemase "don't touch me"?

Foster: Yes. I said, "Look, I'm not having' sex with you.”

Hansen: And you were very clear?

Foster: I was very clear.

It was already the middle of the night and against her better judgement, Jacqueline-Christine stayed ‘till morning so she could go with Gemase to that supposed modeling job.

But, as if to add insult to injury, she says she had to drive the alleged super-model there in her own car.

Foster: I'm pissed off. You're supposed to be this big time model for 20 years and you don’t even have a car? C'mon, even I had a car and I don’t have any money.

But the $2,000-dollar modeling job turned out to be just a shopping trip to the local mall.

Hansen: So, after all this rigmarole, you end up at Juicy Couture?

Foster: Yes.

Hansen: And it's just a store with nobody there--

Foster: It's just a store.

Hansen: So, he's playin' you this whole time?

Foster: Yes.

Hansen: Start to finish?

Foster: Yes.

Hansen: I gotta tell you, if I'm your father (laughter), you know, I am so mad at my daughter right now. 

Jacqueline Christine says she left embarrassed and furious, but also determined to do something.

Remember how some of the models said they were confused by how few people actually showed up for the taping? 

Well that's in part because, before the taping began, Jacqueline Christine got on MySpace and tried to warn any contestants she could find-- telling them she thought Gemase and his show were a complete fraud.

Foster:  I was like, “I’m just trying to warn you… I'm not doing it, I wouldn’t do it if I were you.”

The contestants who made it to the taping obviously never got the message.

And now, we were going to give Gemase Simmons his real network TV debut.

These young people say Gemase Simmons wasted their time and shattered their dreams... but if he was really just a con artist, what was his angle?  It didn't appear to be money...

Foster: What do you think this guy was really up to?

Joslyn Pennywell: I feel like he wanted to feel powerful, feel like he served some kind of purpose. And at the same time, he wanted to be able to use and manipulate all these people to get money and get things free and to get his way.

Griffin: It was a power trip. 

Izzy Cardoza: I think he does it for the feel of being a star.

And by playing the part of a star, some think Gemase is really just after something else...

Contestant: It had to be that he was trying to sleep with people.

Hansen: So, you think this whole modeling show was a way for Gemase to try to have sex with young women and quite possibly, young men...

Foster: It does.

Hansen: ...quite possibly young men?

Foster: To be honest, that has to be it.

Gemase Simmons was all over the nearly 40 hours of videotape we'd obtained from unpaid camera crews who say they were ripped off by his so-called reality show.

And this is what Gemase looked like back in 2005, when he shot yet another unfinished reality show with another camera crew that hasn't been paid.  They say they've been looking for Gemase Simmons for years. So where was he?

We went to his last known address in Houston, but were told he'd just moved out. We also went looking online and found this posting on Gemase's Myspace page--- a solicitation for new models. 

So we asked a Houston woman, Shelley Keys, to answer the ad for us, hoping it would lead to a meeting with Gemase.

She got a call from someone who claimed to be Gemase's intern, but who sounded suspiciously like Gemase himself. And after many more phone calls, she was invited to meet with a group of young women in a hotel lobby.

A dateline producer went along carrying a hidden camera.

The women were apparently looking for new recruits on behalf of Gemase, who they described as a super-model-turned successful reality show producer.

Assistant: He's like Tyra banks, and he's not as well known. He's coming out with a reality show, yeah.

That meeting led to an invitation to a party Gemase was having at this high-rise apartment building. 

So, I went up and introduced myself, and told Gemase I wanted to ask him some questions.

He readily agreed to an interview, but excused himself for a moment, and never came back.

The cell phone number we had for him was shut off the day after our brief encounter.

And that's where our story ended-- the first time.  With Gemase, the would-be television star, dodging his chance for a real network TV debut. But after our story aired in May of 2008, Gemase surprised us by emailing our producer and agreeing to meet me for a sit-down interview.

He arrived in New York with his sister, and with a woman he called his associate producer.

Chris Hansen: This is not the first time I've tried to interview you.

Gemase Simmons: No.

Chris Hansen: We chatted for a moment.  You said you'd be right back after going to the men's room.  And you never came back. 

Gemase Simmons: Yes.

Chris Hansen: And why was that?

Gemase Simmons: Well, because I had an active warrant for my arrest. You don't wanna be on TV when you have a warrant. 

As we'd reported, Gemase had 10 outstanding arrest warrants at the time of our broadcast.  After the story aired, he pleaded guilty to the most serious charge-- vehicle theft-- and was out on bail awaiting sentencing at the time of our interview.

So now, after months of avoiding our questions, we were finally about to hear his version of reality.

Chris Hansen: What was your intent? What were you trying to do?

Gemase Simmons: I was trying to put together a reality show that would generate enough revenue to finally pay the staff and myself. Do a show that will actually introduce a, "next model," if you will--  

Chris Hansen: What happened?

Gemase Simmons: Everything went-- spiraled out of control, to say the very least. 

Chris Hansen: Going into it, did you have a deal to air the show?

Gemase Simmons:  I had talked to ION Network. 

Remember, we'd already confirmed that Gemase had talked to a salesperson at ION about buying time to air his show-- an informercial kind of arrangement.  But Gemase told us that he didn't have the money to actually do the deal.

Chris Hansen: You never cut them a check.

Gemase Simmons: I-- I didn't have a check to cut. So, I never cut them a check.

Chris Hansen:  but I sat there just like I’m sitting here with you, with a number of contestants, all of whom told the same story about you making them believe that there in fact was a deal for this show to air.

Gemase Simmons: Well, I--

Chris Hansen: Are they all lying?

Gemase Simmons: I provided-- I think they're all misled.

Chris Hansen: All misled?

Gemase Simmons: Sure.

Chris Hansen: Well, they claim they're misled by you.

Gemase Simmons: And I-- and I did not mislead them at all--

Chris Hansen: You didn't mislead them?

Gemase Simmons: No. It was very clear through the e-mails that I sent them, very clear through the conversations that we had that we had nothing signed with-- with ION as far as-- the final product, until it was done.

But what about all that talk about the show being broadcast around the world, and the important clients who would see it on Fashion TV? Well, Gemase admits that what he said on camera wasn't true.

Gemase Simmons: Everyone knew we were gonna talk to fashion TV as well. So, we did some things for the camera so that when we did the deal with fashion TV we already had b-roll footage.  But, it wasn't part of the show, it wasn't part of the--

Chris Hansen: Just to be clear, when you said that, you did not have a deal with fashion TV.

Gemase Simmons: No. Nothing finalized.

Chris Hansen: OK.

And his claim that he was a supermodel? He says that's just an innocent exaggeration.

Chris Hansen: Were you ever a supermodel?

Gemase Simmons: I told them I was a supermodel because I am self-made. I told them that everything I got I’m gonna make on my own.

Chris Hansen: You didn't pay anybody who worked on this show, did you? Video: Gemase responds

Gemase Simmons: No.  No.

Chris Hansen: You left a lot of people holding the bag.

Gemase Simmons: I did. I did. And I’m very sorry for that.

But I owe these people, I know I owe these people, I am reaching out to these people...

Chris Hansen: Reaching out? No one has been paid?

Gemase Simmons: I haven’t had any money. (laughs)  

Chris Hansen: But, if you don't have the money. Why promise things? You're supposed to have the money before you hire the camera people.

Gemase Simmons: Sure.

Chris Hansen: You're supposed to have the money before you get the limos. That’s how show works.

Gemase Simmons: I know that now.

Chris Hansen: You get a bunch of money, and then you produce the show.  What you do was con a bunch of people into being involved in a show, and didn't pay anybody.

Gemase Simmons: I didn't con them at all.

Chris Hansen: You didn’t keep any of your promises on this deal.

Gemase Simmons: I didn't con them at all. And the story's not over.

Chris Hansen: You didn't con 'em?

Gemase Simmons: No, I did not. I spoke to the camera guy the day before we started taping.  I told him exactly what we were going through. I said, "Look, I have no money for this show.  I've been trying.”

Chris Hansen: Look, you know I talked to Izzie. You stuck him for more than $11,000.

Gemase Simmons: I didn’t stick Izzie at all.

Chris Hansen: He did the job.

Gemase Simmons: He did the job.

Chris Hansen: Did you pay him?

Gemase Simmons: No.

Chris Hansen: So, you stuck him.

Gemase Simmons: Well, I didn't have the money to pay him. If I say to you, "I don't have the money for this, but I need your help.” If you say okay, I didn't stick you, I didn't con you.

Chris Hansen: That's not what Izzie says.

Gemase Simmons: Well, I-- I know that's not what Izzie says, but that's exactly what happened.

But what else was happening behind the scenes during the reality show taping?  We wanted to ask Gemase about those sexual allegations.

Chris Hansen: Ok three of the male contestants we interviewed all said that you told them gay sex was part of modeling.

Gemase Simmons: (laughter) I didn't say that.  I didn't say that.

Chris Hansen: Did you ask one of them to lie down next to you?

Gemase Simmons: Absolutely not.  Absolutely not.

Chris Hansen: Why would they lie about this?

Gemase Simmons: I think sex sells, first of all. I think they thought that they would get on television. Creative stories get you on TV all the time.  Did I invite them into my bedroom to have sex with me?  No. 

Gemase also denied promising any of the cast members modeling jobs.

And when we asked him about that female contestant who left in the middle of the shoot, Gemase said she actually propositioned him-- sending him unsolicited nude photos of herself, and dropping out after he rejected her advances.

But what about Jacqueline Christine Foster and her story about what happened during a so-called "cosmetic exam"--a term we heard from three would-be models involved in the show?

Chris Hansen: What is a cosmetic exam?

Gemase Simmons: You know I heard that terminology first time after your show aired.

Chris Hansen:  Three different women who don't really know each other, all said that you said they had to take a cosmetic exam. (laughter) And you gave that cosmetic exam. How could three women use that same term without it being true?

Gemase Simmons: Well, Jacqueline Christine actually auditioned with the show.  So, she did know the other ladies that were there. She couldn;t continue with the show.

Chris Hansen: She claims you made unwanted sexual advances.

Gemase Simmons: That wasn’t the case at all.

Gemase says that anything that might have happened between him and Jacqueline Christine was consensual.  And that she's angry because he did not pursue a relationship with her.

Chris Hansen: So, you're saying she's-- she's a spurned lover.

Gemase Simmons: She-- yes, she is.  She is.  And she was very upset.  And I--

Chris Hansen: now, I-- I’m gonna tell you, having sat with her for some time and interviewing her, she's gonna go ballistic when she hears that.  Not because she's a spurned lover.  Because you're lying right now.

Gemase Simmons: Well, I don't think so.  I mean, I remember exactly what happened that night, Chris, exactly what happened that night.  I remember exactly what happened.

Chris Hansen: She says the same thing.

Gemase Simmons: Right.  Well, and-- and that just wasn't the case. 

But how would Gemase explain this explosive allegation? After our interview with the contestants, 17-year-old Ugo Mozie showed us these pornographic photos, and this sexual cartoon, he received in text messages from Gemase's cell phone.

Ugo Mozie: It’s kinda scary. I am nervous and I don’t know, like, why is he sending me these text messages.

Gemase Simmons: I didn't send it to him.  I didn't send any of that stuff.  The separate--

Chris Hansen: You didn't.

Gemase Simmons: I didn't send it to him.

Chris Hansen: So, the phone automatically sent--

Gemase Simmons: I didn't even know how to send-- no, he had to send it to himself.  I didn't even know--

Chris Hansen: Wait, whoa-- whoa-- whoa.  Ugo sent those messages to himself?

Gemase Simmons: Chris, I’m telling you, Ugo sent the messages to himself.

Chris Hansen: That doesn't make any sense--

Gemase Simmons: Chris, it makes incredible sense. While I was out working on the show and doing all this stuff, Ugo has my phone, my assistants have my phone, they answer it for me all the time. The message came to my phone, he got it, he thought it was funny or-- or cute, and he wanted to have it to share with his friends.  So, he'd send it to himself.  They do it all the time.  I didn't even know how to send it--

Chris Hansen: No, but I’m talking specifically about pictures of male genitalia and a sexually explicit cartoon that were sent from your phone to Ugo.

Gemase Simmons: it did come from my phone.  And I take responsibility that it was my phone. He had the phone all the time.

Chris Hansen: I know, but this was after we did all the interviews, after this whole thing blew up.

Gemase Simmons: Sure.

Chris Hansen: So, there's no way that he could even get involved with your cell phone.

Gemase Simmons: That may be what he represented to you.  But, that's just not the case. 

Chris Hansen: So Ugo--

Gemase Simmons: --at all.

Chris Hansen: --lying?

Gemase Simmons: Well, if he says I sent the pictures to him, then yes.  Because I didn't send those pictures to him.

Chris Hansen: is Jacqueline Christine lying?

Gemase Simmons: You know, I think that her account of the story is only partially true.

Chris Hansen: Izzie is not telling the truth.

Gemase Simmons: uh-huh. Izzie's not telling the whole truth.

Chris Hansen: So, everybody else is lying, and you're telling the truth.

Gemase Simmons: Well, I thought it was important for me to come on here and say that.

Chris Hansen: Everybody else is lying.

Gemase Simmons: You know, I--

Chris Hansen: That you're the victim of a smear campaign.

Gemase Simmons: They did a very good job of it, Chris.  They did a very good job of it.

Gemase says he's done with reality TV for now, but says he's still trying to get a show off the ground.  This time, a talk show, starring the guy who-- if nothing else-- seems to talk a good game.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments