I stopped recapping Australia’s Next Top Model when I hit Season 7; after re-watching it recently, I remembered why – it was boring.
Yes, the show had its most successful winner ever in the shape of the stunning Montana “Monty” Cox – who has since walked for the likes of Chanel, Dior, Givenchy and Tom Ford at London, Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks (*waves happily at awful Season 4 winner Demelza Reveley, last spotted advertising Ferrero Rocher*). That’s her up above managing to rock having no eyebrows in a Dubai desert by the way. And her managing to rock a ridiculous beehive and sweltering winter clothes in summer down below. Goddess.
But a cast of beautiful girls does not necessarily great television make, and given the fact that Season 7 didn’t include:
By now, you probably all know about Australia’s Next Top Model, Cycle 6 – for all the wrong reasons! This was the season that made international headlines after host Sarah Murdoch announced the wrong winner, a huge shame for someone like me, who had been quietly and avidly following the show for weeks only to find massive unavoidable spoilers all over the Internet before I had even set eyes on the finale! It was also a huge shame for the show, which had enjoyed its strongest year yet and undoubtedly, it’s slickest live finale (lest we forget the car crash telly of Jodhi Meares’ face-palming Season 3). And yes, the cock-up of all cock-ups was even more cringeworthy when you watched the final in its entirety, where runner-up Kelsey Martinovich was allowed to celebrate winning for a good minute and a half whilst Murdoch’s face slowly turned a shade of green her Botox never thought it could manage.
ANYWAY. The downside of it being the best year contestant-wise was that, drama-wise, it was actually a little dull. The funniest moment was when the obligatory crew-cut at makeover, Sophie Van Der Akker (skin possibly entirely composed of foundation, below) attempted to re-attach her ratty hair extensions back at the house. So they cut her hair even shorter instead! Kudos also to the evil genius who decided to send the girls to Japan for their overseas trip, where they made bemused appearances on a ‘Super Kawaii!!!’ show, where they had to hop like bunnies and dress as schoolgirls and Lolitas, whilst their midget stylists burst into tears of happiness/sadness/randomness at every opportunity.
Drama came courtesy of the most beloved of all AusNTM tropes – the bogan (see Eboni Season 2, Leiden Season 4, Cassi Season 5). This year, it was Gold Coast Meter Maid (think Hooters girl, but in charge of parking fees) Kimberly Thrupp (above). Alternating between giving ‘110%’ and not being arsed, she objected to a shoot concept as, at the grand old age of 20, she ‘didn’t believe in true love’, swore during a presenting challenge and, despite saying her ‘butt’ was ‘grabbable’ at a jeans promo, took issue with having to model swimwear and flounced off to pack her bags (needless to say, she didn’t leave and instead continued to give ‘110%’ whilst admitting she wasn’t trying her hardest). Alex Perry called her ‘so annoying I want to stab myself so it can all be over’.
When she was finally given the boot for her attitude, renowned photographer (and AusNTM Nigel Barker-lite) Jez Smith tried to offer some encouragement about carrying on. Instead, dear Kimberly stuck her chin out, told everyone she wasn’t going to carry on modelling and was going to ‘do something with my life’. Renowned supermodel Sarah Murdoch told her she had ‘the goods to make it’, to which Kimberly maturely replied, ‘Don’t want to. Learnt enough… need to find something else to entertain myself with now’. Hear that sound, Murdoch? It’s a 20 year-old Gold Coast Meter Maid pissing all over your entire life’s work and career! Sadly, the cameraman had gone to sleep, too busy segueing to the moving elimination soundtrack, and was too late to capture the reactions of the panel (can you imagine how Alex Perry looked?!), allowing us to merely hear their ruminations about how they should have kept the previously-eliminated girls instead. Kimberly then refused to hug anyone (‘Is the car out back?’) and made her exit. Kimberly was last seen fishing around for a model agency.
Fortunately for the lack of drama in-house (the final two, Kelsey and Amanda, were both so sickeningly nice and beautiful that they make Elle Macpherson look like a troll) was that the judges were on top form. Despite a personnel change from the catty Jonathan Pease in the Mr Jay role, to former Banana In Pyjama, the superfluous Josh Flinn (main contribution: report cards that Sarah Murdoch made a big fuss of at panel before chucking away without a second glance, occasional bursts of tap dancing, alas not in banana/pyjama costume), there were plenty of great quotes like:
I would raise my eyebrow… if I could.
(On a photo) She’s competing with the couch… and I keep thinking to myself that’s quite a fabulous sofa.
(In reply to someone saying a photo had ‘a Dynasty look about it’) More like dysentery!
Hmmm… perhaps you had to be there, but Alex Perry and Charlotte Dawson took time out of their Facebook slanging matches to continue to be the best thing about the show. Alas, they had very little reason to get bitchy, as the photos were almost universally ridiculously strong. The majority of them looked like professional editorial or ad campaigns, especially in contrast to NZNTM’s amateurish second season (more of which later).
So onto the pretty things… and too many good ‘uns to pick from! As you may have worked out, my love for all things 50s inspired meant I was a sucker for the first week’s Mad Men-inspired photo-shoot, shot by Jez Smith. Gorgeous styling, beautiful make-up and a great atmosphere, albeit more Hitchcock heroine than Joan Holloway (cue girls wondering if Grace Kelly was a man * sigh *). I love how Jez Smith actually captures some emotion from the girls’ eyes (many shoots this series, although pretty, are simply that… just pretty), often a quiet pain or sadness that’s at odds with the flawless imagery. I’ve liberally scattered this post with my favourite photos, which are (top to bottom): Sophie, Kimberly, Joanna Broomfield (wistfully romantic – love this shot), Kelsey, Chantal Crocolo (Keira Knightley’s Egyptian half-sister), Alison Ware and Sally Geach (who both didn’t even make it through the first round!). Kathryn Lyons, meanwhile, looks simply beautiful, as she continued to do throughout.
Kathryn (above) was probably the most photogenic model I’ve seen yet on NTM. In VTs, she was an unassuming scrap of a thing, bony, bad skin, mousy; in photos, she somehow transformed into a gamine graceful goddess, a divine creature blessed with flawless skin and a beautiful bone structure, with a touch of the Audrey Hepburn about her. My favourite photo of her was from the swimwear shoot, which literally took my breath away. It’s just stellar – stunning, sensual with a gorgeous natural ease to it. Needless to say, it’s the banner picture.
Week 2 was a denim campaign, think glossier 80s Bananarama record sleeve (above)! Jessica Moloney’s could be published tomorrow (Jessica Stam and Lily Cole’s love child, given an emo makeover). I also love the use of body shapes and lighting in Amanda’s photo, and the steel tubes and industrial setting work well with the double-denim styling to give an edgy, cool feel.
Week 3 was beauty shot time, in the presence of Harper’s Bazaar editor Claudia Navonne. With an accent pitched somewhere between one of Roald Dahl’s witches and an East European madam, Claudia’s description of ‘POUFF! Magic happens!’ never fails to entertain. Kelsey’s tigress shot (above) is stunning – that fierce mane of hair, the sense of movement in a static image and eyes that connect and are saying very naughty things!
I love the whimsical feel of Week 6’s accessories shoot for Cosmo (above), with one very important accessory – a live animal! The real thought that had gone into matching the animal with the accessories is superb and works in different ways; whilst Amanda’s strong editorial look contrasts spectacularly with the cute little pig she’s holding, Jessica really captures the fun side of the shoot, interacting naturally with her Dalmatian and producing a really infectiously lovely photo.
Week 7 (are you bored yet?) and the usual NTM sadistic streak reared its head, getting models to sport lingerie in sub-zero temperatures (above). I love the vintage, Dr Zhivago-esque styling, whilst the scenery provides a stunning backdrop. The iciness really brings out the ethereal blue in Jessica’s eyes and I was banging on about how wonderful Kathryn’s photo was several days later. (Can you BELIEVE she got sent home that week?!?!).
Finally, deep breath (are you worn out yet), a few moments for eventual winner Amanda Ware. A deserving winner in my eyes, who I’m proud to say I picked out right from the off, as she was about the only one in the opening credits who didn’t look either awful or unable to walk without looking drunk. Her best photo, for which Alex Perry ran out of synonyms and intensifiers for ‘expensive’, was shooting luxury brands on a luxury yacht. She looks long, lean, entirely above it all… and yes, ridiculously expensive (although as ever, Kathryn gave her a run for her money). In contrast, Tyra Banks much-mooted ‘High Fashion’ Cycle 15 of ANTM saw contestants defying belief and actually dressing up, often in drag, as famous fashion designers. Is there any question as to which series has more class, style and intrinsic understanding of how fashion should work?!
However, my favourite thing about the whole season was the promo. Are there many greater pleasures in life than seeing Charlotte Dawson waving wads of cash at the camera as a bookie (!), 16 pretty girls pretending to be racehorses/greyhounds (!!) wearing evening gowns and going face-first into the dirt (!!!) and Dame Alex Perry, complete with sunglasses and fur, lowering his binoculars to declare ‘Expensive’!!!! The answer (for NTM devotees anyway): no. Enjoy!
Incidentally, this post means I have now reviewed every season of Australia’s Next Top Model so far! That can only mean one thing – ranking time! So if you’re wondering where to start with AusNTM, here’s my take:
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.
This blog promised to deliver you pretty things but so far, this has consisted mainly of cute objects spotted out and about in HK (novelty tweezers, windmill pens, lai see packets). So may I present to you some genuinely literally pretty things – contestants and their photos on Australia’s Next Top Model, Season 5.
Crawling the walls in frustration at having to wait a whole week for new episodes of the current season of Britain’s Next Top Model (I do weekly recaps for Teentoday), I started working my way through various cycles from around the world. Apart from America. I’d say ANTM jumped the shark long ago, but I’m not sure it was ever under/behind/away from the shark to start off with. Miss J has become such a grotesque caricature of a camp fashionista that he sets my teeth on edge, his cringeworthy flights of fancy with batshit-crazy Tyra are skin-curling (their rambles at panel are like you’ve picked up the receiver and accidentally overheard your parents having phone sex or something) whilst the last vaguely bearable part, the photo-shoots, have become so outlandish that they’re now totally ridiculous. In contrast, most other countries’ takes on the format are grounded in reality, shooting real campaigns and photos that could feasibly feature in glossy magazines, rather than adverts for the local freak show.
Season 5 of AusNTM was possibly my favourite cycle of the show to date. The judges were hilariously catty whilst actually speaking sense, the girls were uniformly pretty from the start (rather than the usual ‘I could find better hanging round my street corner’ but who apparently have ‘a strong look’ or could do ‘great editorial’ work), the challenges were realistic, the show was well-paced yet still drama-stuffed and the photos were often breathtakingly beautiful. Season 5 featured ‘bogan-ista’ Cassi van der Dungen, who punched walls in anger, swore at the end of catwalks, was continually puffing on a fag despite habitually claiming to have given up and proclaimed her desire to leave every other week whilst frustratingly taking amazing photos too = brilliant television. I was just happy that the word bogan was in common usage in Oz and not just a creation of Neighbours. [She later managed to get embroiled in a Facebook war with Charlotte Dawson and Alex Perry and make derogatory comments about the French after quitting Paris Fashion Week.]
And I haven’t even mentioned lantern-jawed Lola’s line theft during the Maybelline commercial, one girl weeping she would rather go home than have her hair cut and the insane amount of bitching that culminated in fat accusations, fag ends being dumped in someone’s bed and Cassi storming into someone’s shower and all-too-scarily threatening to rip her hair out. The season was eventually (and justifiably) won by Tahnee Atkinson, a big blue-eyed curvy beauty with an irresistible mouth. Totally cute, and yes, I had a girl-crush on her all season.
I adored the final photo-shoot, by Jez Smith; the banner photo of Tahnee was my absolute favourite of the series. I love how the background, all crashing waves and ominous clouds, is ultra-dramatic yet Tahnee, in her beautiful buy-me gown, is so serenely lushly beautiful. The greyscale effect adds a romantic, timeless quality; basically, wow. Claire and Cassi aren’t looking too shabby in theirs either – I particularly adore how vulnerable and bare Claire looks whilst Cassi, for all her flaws, really is an Oz Kate Moss.
The desert shoot, by Russell James, was just stunning (top to bottom: Tahnee, Adele, Franky, Cassi, Clare, Lola). You can always tell the good photographers from the bad when every single girl manages to look great (I now always look out for James on these shows as his work is so consistent). I love how these photos tell a story, that the setting looks cinematic in its stark baking beauty, that the colours are so vivid and that there are more fierce eyes going on here than Tyra has managed in a whole career. Most importantly, the girls’ bodies are smokin’, the styling is fantastic and the end result is an amazing strong but sexy look. The heat practically ripples off the celluloid.
It certainly beats seeing Tyra’s minions endlessly recreate the ‘Broken Down Doll’ pose whilst pretending to be a slab of meat at an abattoir, don’t you think?