Stephanie Arakel shook her thang on stage with LMFAO for the better part of the year in 2009, just as they were blowing up. Only 21 years old, she quit her job, strapped on a polka dot bikini, and traveled all over the country with them. You can see her downing drinks in the "Shots" music video, below.
But despite becoming a fan favorite, by the end of the year, she was fired in an email. Her great offense? Being "big boned," she says. (Representatives from the duo's management and record label did not respond to requests for comment.)
Today, Arakel opens the door to her boyfriend's San Fernando Valley home clad in an oversized T-shirt. It's clear she takes good care of herself, which makes the alleged reason for her firing seem dubious.
She's eager to talk about her new career managing her rapper boyfriend, whose name is Jayoh Jr., and launching a record label called Unlimited Intellectual Property. But she eventually begins peeling back the LMFAO onion.
While she was working reception at an L.A.-based woman's clothing company in 2008, a fellow employee drew her into the nightlife scene. One morning she received a text from a guy she'd met the night before -- it was LMFAO member RedFoo, though Arakel had no idea who he was.
He invited her to his New Year's Eve show and, when the girl they had hired to dance fell through, asked Arakel to step in. She wasn't paid, but was given a giant zebra pimp coat to complement her bikini, though naturally the coat came off at the hype man's call.
She was soon brought on board as the first "official" LMFAO bikini girl, paid in cash after each show.
"The next thing I knew I was quitting my job and I went on the road," she says, adding that she performed with them for nine months in 2009, getting paid to party day and night. About the only time she could find to sleep was on airplanes between cities.
This was the group's first tour -- which served to promote their new album Party Rock -- and they performed across the country, seeming to gain momentum with every stop. "It would range from private shows, which were maybe 100 people, all the way to huge arenas and fairs with 5,000 plus easy," she says.
She was a hit, and fans began to know her by name -- or at least by face. At some shows folks brought posters of her and hoisted them up. "I loved it," she says.
But the fantasy soon came apart at the seams.
According to her recollection, the problem began when, at an Arizona show, she was handed the mic during a remix of the Black Eyed Peas' song "Boom Boom Pow." "I sang Fergie's part," Arakel says. "Foo was never the same."
Her growing popularity was threatening the duo's spotlight, she believes, and they weren't happy about it: "I honestly feel like Foo was like, 'This isn't the Black Eyed Peas, you are not about to turn into Fergie.'"
Before long he was criticizing photos of her, she goes on. "They were all upward photos. He was trying to tell me that my legs were too big and that I didn't fit the body type of the bikini anymore. And I was just like, 'What the fuck?'"
Two weeks later she received an email from RedFoo saying she wouldn't be needed for LMFAO's Australia tour -- or for any more of their tours.
Next, a "help wanted" type post appeared on the group's website, soliciting for her position.
Up until recently, model Stephanie Arakel represented LMFAO as the Polka Dot Bikini Girl at home and on the road. LMFAO is now looking to expand its horizons and welcome more beautiful girls to the ranks. LMFAO is seeking bikini girls all across the U.S.
If you think you have what it takes, submit a VIDEO showing LMFAO why you deserve to be the next Polka Dot Bikini Girl, along with your three best photos. Please include a close-up of your face, as well as a full body photo.
At the time of her firing Arakel weighed 110 pounds, she says.
Cutting her loose, they gave her $200 to hold her over until she could get a job "or something," she recalls.
She proceeded to tell her story on Twitter, and her fans were supportive, she says -- not to mention incensed at LMFAO. She doesn't regret speaking out. "I never publicly apologized and I don't think I ever will because it was fucked up."
Nowadays she contends that being dropped may have been a blessing in disguise, as she quickly found out she she wasn't too "big boned" to be a model, and made more money in the process. Her credits include the cover of Show magazine (twice), working at the Playboy mansion and appearing in Entourage and Californication.
Further, utilizing the contacts she made on the road, she was cast in music videos for artists including Usher, Murs and Soulja Boy and hosted nights in Hollywood clubs.
She's now focused on Jayoh's career. His first album, Take 2: The Journey Begins, is due out later this summer, and they're releasing webisodes in the run-up.
She particularly appreciates how he respects women, she adds, unlike, say, a certain sartorially challenged duo she could name.
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