I’ve now managed to work my way back to Australia’s Next Top Model, Season 3 – arguably the season that revolutionised Next Top Model around the world by proving that a bona fide high-fashion model could emerge from a reality show. It’s easy to say with hindsight but watching Alice Burdeu tower above all the other competitors was like seeing a prettier version of Snow White & The Seven Dwarves, with Snow White played by a young Karen Elson.
Seeing Burdeu cruise through the competition (even if her ‘back was still peeeeeeling’ as she memorably wept during a VT) was not the only highlight. One of the most entertaining contestants was batshit-crazy Paloma Rodriguez, nuts enough to impress even wild-eyed Tyra. She’d have a meltdown on an episodic basis with perennial bouts of ‘anxiety attacks’ (which the rest of us would no doubt diagnose as nerves, stress or PMS), whilst exuding an air of general superiority and entitlement that obviously went down a charm with judges, finalists and viewers alike. Having said that, she had underhand manipulation skills worthy of the slimiest politician – despite constant arguments with the girls, coming out with gems like ‘Guess what – you just lost me as a friend!’, somehow the person she’d belittled would always return to Paloma proffering forgiveness with one well-manicured hand and apologies with the other. Her best moments were wailing like the sky was falling in when one contestant was eliminated and having an ‘anxiety attack’ due to someone talking too much in a taxi (no really) on the phone to her bemused mother (‘What? I can’t hear you!’), all the while pouting at the camera in designer shades. As you do. [Below are some of her best shots, on the rare occasions when she wasn't having an anxiety attack]
There was also the bewildering progress of Steph Hart, a pretty but average girl in the mould of the many pretty but average girls that Neighbours and Home & Away suggest form half the population of Australia, who became the benefactor/victim of Jodhi Meares’ latest girl-crush (see: Demelza Reveley) and somehow made it all the way to the final. I hear she’s now working in a mall, such is her next top model potential. Third-placed Jordan Loukas, with a face caught somewhere between Jessica Biel and the Siamese cats from Lady & The Tramp, was my personal favourite, with her phrase ‘Game on, mole!’ becoming part of my everyday vernacular. I try to use it once a day, for anything from shouting at my screen over annoying NTM contestants to digging into a tub of ice-cream. And, three cycles on, I’m still not certain that the ‘alternate girl’ (Jane Williamson) was even human, let alone female. I’ve seen more expression on an emoticon.
All this is mere small fry compared to the steaming hot mess that was the finale. If you were annoyed that Jodhi Meares didn’t turn up to present Cycle 4’s final, Cycle 3’s proves why not showing up was the best decision she ever made, even if it robbed bloopers shows of at least an hour’s worth of footage. For the parts where Meares remembered to speak, you could practically see the glint of the Autocue in her frightened eyes; mostly, she just stood frozen amongst the chaos as awkward silences, bizarre attempts to fill awkward silences and bellowing arguments ran riot over proceedings. Until Charlotte Dawson, no doubt being screamed at through an earpiece, inevitably took over.
There was a row between Meares, photographer Jez Smith and Alex Perry over the merits of Steph H – no scripted witticisms here, just messy shouting over each other, with Meares and Smith both supporting Steph but for confusingly conflicting reasons, while Perry’s anti-Steph pro-Burdeu tact essentially boiled down to a child singing ‘I know you are, you said you are, but what am I?’, albeit with one eyebrow raised. As the head of Priscilla’s Model Agency, gave her speech about how Steph was basically shit (I’m reading between the lines), Meares forgot about her mike, sighing ‘Here we go…’ over Priscilla’s criticism. And just as Alex Perry was about to cast his vote, had actually launched into his speech, in Jodie blundered with a “vital” recap of the votes so far. I could practically hear the producer bashing his head against a wall. Whilst Meares stood around looking like a spare part, it was up to Dawson to round up the show and actually present Burdeu with her prize. Television gold.
Oh yes, the photos. Whilst not a patch on seasons four and five, my favourite shoot was the modern-day Mary Poppins one, also known (by me) as ballerinas with brollies, shot by Dean Tilton. I absolutely love the dreamy romantic styling and although a lot of the faces are semi-obscured, I think these photos qualify as art rather than glorified adverts. Jordan’s pose makes the most out of the fetish ballet shoes and tutu-esque tulle, all the more incredible if you consider she was being whizzed through the air on a harness at the time. (l-r: Alice, Jordan)
My other favourite shoot was by Jez Smith, in a glorified advert for Meares’ swimwear line. Once you forget about the two main problems, that you can rarely see either the swimwear or the models’ faces, these have a beautiful, mysterious yet serene quality. And then up pops Burdeu, totally blowing everyone out the water (excuse the pun) and as Perry put it, making Meares’ cheapo line look like Chanel. (l-r: Jordan, Steph; bottom: Alice)
Finally, a campaign for Ian Thorpe’s underwear line, photographed by Lyn & Tony. I still don’t quite understand why girls are modelling men’s underwear, especially as you can barely see the underwear in the first place. This was the obligatory ‘emotion’ photoshoot and I do love Alice’s rather petulant interpretation of angry – which I think Dawson interpreted as the bloke being a rubbish shag. Dawson was also on fine form for Jordan’s attempt at suspicion – ‘Is she suspicious because he looks a bit gay? And that, my friends, is why AusNTM will always whip BNTM’s arse.