If you thought Season 1 of Australia’s Next Top Model hit the ground running, Season 2 proved you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Before the finalists even got within sniffing distance of the model house, they were subjected to a gruelling army assault course followed by their first sweaty mud-encrusted photo-shoot followed by their first elimination! Alas, poor bug-eyed Sasha’s trek to Sydney was all in vain – possibly a ruse to cover up the fact that ugmo Sasha had clearly been mistakenly invited in the first place. This was all within the first twelve minutes.
The real twelfth finalist, spunky Madeleine Rose, allowed to escape the indignities of the assault course, was already clad in a slinky evening dress, sipping champagne and awaiting the rest of the befuddled girls at the model house, who thought she was their hostess. No such niceties, Madeleine had already bagged a bed. Meanwhile, it transpired another girl was related to Olivia Newton-John (I’m now hoping that everyone in Australia is at least her first cousin). We’re only fifteen minutes in.
23 minutes saw “Princess” Hiranthi lock the rest of the girls in the apartment by pissing off to the gym with the only key-card but without telling anyone. 25 minutes was the first catwalk challenge, somehow won by Eboni who’d strutted down with only one shoe on. 33 minutes in saw the first big house argument, over Princess’ hour-long sessions in the bathroom whilst 43 minutes saw the first big house piss-up, complete with lesbian snogging and Lara shaving off a sleeping Hiranthi’s eyebrow.
Remember how last season built up to a final nude photo-shoot? Well, this season, it started with one! Princess Hiranthi ummed and ahhhed over whether to participate, one girl gashed her knee with a razor and there were more tits flying about than at a nut-stuffed bird feeder but actually, the photos turned out rather nicely. Lara’s, below, was my favourite – I love how soft and sensual she looks here – whilst the most action-packed of action-packed first episodes culminated in an unexpected double elimination. Bloody hell.
Frankly, this would be enough drama for a whole season of most other Next Top Model shows. But Cycle 2 continued to progress like a soap-writer’s wet dream. Olivia Newton John’s third cousin once removed quit. Lara flashed her bum in a shop window. Alex Perry debuted his ‘expensive’ line. One girl planted horse manure on another’s pillow. Man-eater Madeleine got laid at one challenge win and had a fling with a grungy-looking member of the crew (‘We just chatted’ she claimed, as infra-red footage showed her moaning and squirming around her sleeping bag in ecstasy). Then another girl claimed the same hair stylist had come onto her too, cue him yelling ‘If you think your little fucking presence can fuck with my existence, you’ve got another thing coming!’ Next scene: him being driven away (rumour has it he only left because she threatened legal action). Runner-up Jess slowly began to unravel in a series of panic attacks and death glares. Then there was the saga of Eboni.
Cycle 2’s bogan, Tasmanian Eboni’s platypus bill of a mouth seemed unable to open properly, meaning every uncouth utterance came out as an obscenity-laden manly drawl that practically needed subtitles. On a punishing trek round the bush, she began suffering back pains and was carted off to hospital. She returned briefly but on being unable to feel her arms in a swimming session, was ferried back to hospital again. They uncovered a problem with her artery that could potentially cause a stroke so she announced that she was pulling out and her photo disappeared from the end of episode group shot. But then, lo and behold, she was back! Effectively given a bye for the week, Madeleine and Jess were rightly angry yet bizarrely edited to look like villains whilst Eboni launched into one of her usual foul-mouthed tirades and mimed strangling Jess behind her back. Eboni’s injury meant she was unable to pose properly, but outrageous favouritism from the panel saw her all the way to the final, by which time the abnormal artery had been talked up as Eboni having actually had a stroke, become a paraplegic and waiting at death’s door. (Contrast this special treatment with how Gemma’s depression, also a serious illness, was near trivialised in Season 1.)
If last cycle was the Season of the Bogan, this was the Season of the Blonde. We started off with about fifty indistinguishable pretty blondes and an all-round decent cast but despite this, we ended up with a final two of brunette fugs. At least Jess started photographing amazingly at the end, with a touch of the Erin O’ Connor about her, but I just wasn’t a fan of her look. Meanwhile, Eboni had a brace of early strong shots (just not in close-up, thank you very much) but her attitude, lack of versatility (I dread to think how grotesque a smiling shot of her would have been) and most obviously, health problems should clearly have sent her packing.
The drama didn’t end there. Post-win, Eboni ended up confined to hospital for six months, unable to attend the reunion show never mind do any actual modelling, and declared that she wasn’t even sure if she wanted to pursue the career anyway. Well, her dreams came true as she was last spotted waiting tables. That’s in-between being charged with obstructing police after jumping on the back of an officer and being removed from a club kicking and screaming after punching someone (antics that make Cycle 5’s Cassi look like a mere amateur). Meanwhile, Jess sent Eboni abusive text messages during the series’ broadcast, stormed out of a signing session with fellow finalists and punched someone in the gob after snogging a girl at a Gay Bash (literally – ho ho ho) party.
Amidst all this, they still found time for the photos to be amazing, with a five-episode stretch of seriously gorgeous shoots. Following the beautiful nude shots, episode two had a circus-themed lingerie shoot could have easily descended into ANTM absurdity. Instead, it managed to look gritty, powerful and arresting; I particularly enjoyed how cute-as-a-button Lara was contrasted with a circus freak’s rolls of flab. I also love the sexy nonchalance of Madeleine’s pose – the cross of the legs, the cock of the head, the challenging look at the camera. Eboni and Louise’s poses, though practically identical, conjure up entirely different moods, with Eboni’s all long-limbed strength whilst Louise has a sadness and loneliness in her eyes. [Top to bottom: Lara, Madeleine, Louise, Eboni]
Episode 3’s black-and-white 50s starlet emotion shoot, shot by judge Georges Antoni, reminded me of NZNTM Season 1 – except the latter are just good photos whereas Antoni’s are more like art. Simone, playing seductive (as if I need to tell you), is just sinuously sexual here. The curve of the body, the parted lips, the languid eyes… she looks like Anita Ekberg or something, captured in a private moment of just being intensely sexy. Caroline (sadness) epitomises the whole beauty-pain thing that I’m sure is another Tyra-ism and I love how Antoni catches the movement of her wiping away the tear. Meanwhile, Madeleine’s photo (screaming anger) just feels so alive. It looks exactly how I imagine a starlet having a mid-scene temper tantrum, plonking herself down on-set and screaming at some unfortunate minion would look. The glare of light across her eyes is an evocative touch too. [Top to bottom: Caroline, Madeleine, Simone]
Episode 4 marked the returned of Nick Leary and, what with hair stylist Carl stealing his pervy thunder, he just got on with taking stunning photos – even more commendable given how grotty the girls were after a night in the bush. It was all about the styling – a sort of romantic colonial prairie-house look, all big messy hair, big flouncy skirts, white lace gloves, rumpled haystacks and wild animals. Simone’s close-up is flawless but I adore the shape her skirt makes and the lazy way her hands drop down in the full-length version too. The rest (and Lara’s pouty mouth, full stop, which gets the honour of being the banner photo) are just pure sex distilled into a farmyard. [Top to bottom: Simone, Eboni, Louise, Madeleine]
Episode 5’s swimwear shoot marked the first sighting of Jodhi Meares as the client for her Tigerlily line, showing more spark than she did in two seasons as host! I think these photos, by Simon Upton are simple yet stunning. They could be campaigns for Ralph Lauren or Abercrombie & Fitch as they have a wholesome, fresh, natural beauty about them. I absolutely love the guarded look Simone is shooting to camera, which makes you feel like you’re totally intruding in her moment. [Top to bottom: Simone, Madeleine, Louise]
Overall, Season 2 offered almost the perfect balance between pretty things, great telly and the mind-boggling conundrum that has confounded all AusNTM fans for the past 6 years: how the hell did Eboni win?!