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Gordon Tokumatsu, Fabian Rodriguez
Tatenda Mbudzi is one of the six college students from across the country who won a contest to help present the Oscar statuettes this year. More than 1,000 students competed for the opportunity, sending essays and videos answering the question, "How will you contribute to the future of film?" Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Hollywood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Feb. 21, 2013.
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.
"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.
UCLA student Tatenda Mbudzi of Zimbabwe said he doubted his friends were jealous that he will help replace models at this year's ceremony.
"I mean, look at this face," he said, laughing.
The show's producers had to tell Mbudzi five times before the news of his selection finally sank in as a reality.
"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."
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.
Other student presenters include AJ Young, from Columbia College Chicago, and Abe Diaz of DePaul University in Chicago.
"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."
NBC4's Gordon Tokumatsu contributed to this article.