Tag Archives: Next Top Model

Australia’s Next Top Model, Cycle 6: Wrong winner, right everything else

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.

kelsey martinovich ausntm mad men

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 brothel 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?!?!).

kathryn lyons ausntm cruise

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 ugly 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:

BEST TV:  Cycle 5 > Cycle 2 > Cycle 1 > Cycle 4 > Cycle 3 > Cycle 6

BEST PHOTOS/MODELS:  Cycle 6 > Cycle 5 > Cycle 2 > Cycle 3 (Alas, one Burdeu does not make up for a cast of shorties) > Cycle 1 > Cycle 4

The word cycle looks strange now. My work here is done.

Canada’s Next Top Model, Cycle 3: Ticket to nowhere?

Been feeling out of sorts lately but unable to work out why? Well, I might just have the answer! It’s been over a fortnight since I did a Top Model post!

Cycle 3 of Canada’s Next Top Model was the best Canada had seen yet. Given that Season 1 was fronted by Long John Silver’s wooden stump (I’ve heard she goes by the name of Tricia Helfer), populated with a cast of ugmos and won by an anorexic who gave up modelling before she’d even begun, you can see this isn’t exactly the most glowing of endorsements. Thankfully, Tyra freed Mister Jay in time for Season 2 and by Season 3, he had rounded up a vaguely attractive cast, half-decent panel and enough budget to ensure that shoots no longer looked like they had been done by that dodgy bloke who hangs round your mall.

Although it was the most recent cycle of CNTM, the series still felt like it was occurring in the medieval ages of Top Model-dom – a too-short run, a dated look and a distinct lack of drama. But it was good to see an unshackled Jay Manuel declaring he hated the word ‘fierce’ – take that, Tyra!

What drama there was started off pretty low-key. One girl walked before anyone had even learnt her name. Another girl didn’t really fit in. There was the obligatory meltdown at makeover – ‘I look like a muffin!’ – and the most un-dramatic outing of a lesbian I think I’ve ever seen on reality television. And then there was Maryam.

Maryam was originally from Iran, meaning she was the one who would make incessant references to her culture every time she had to reveal so much as an ankle on tv. So far, so standard. But as the girls screamed, whooped and jumped up and down on discovering they’d be Bahamas-bound for a bridal-themed photoshoot, it transpired Maryam didn’t have a passport. Poor girl probably thought she wouldn’t need it, given CNTM had thus far been so low-rent that the furthest the girls got from Canada was probably being made to flick through American Vogue. Everyone thought Maryam was a goner and Barbadian-born Ebonie thought she had her best shoot yet but the show stumped up a special shoot for Maryam, using better green-screen effects than Clash of the Titans, and girlfriend absolutely rocked it.

Come panel and Ebonie’s photo (above) was truly horrible and looked like she was having the worst period OF ALL TIME (judge Yasmin Warsame: ‘I’d buy that, I’m sold!’ *on seeing close-up* ‘Oh dear, I change my mind!’). Ebonie still thought she’d done brilliantly and was promptly sent packing, still protesting her brilliance. Surely I’m not the only one who gleefully cackles when stuff like that happens?!

I absolutely loved this shoot because I’m a sucker for bridal. A childhood spent collecting Barbie stickers and swooning over Disney movies has meant that seeing a bridal gown triggers some primal urge that sets me off squealing and clapping my hands like a seal. Contrast tropical setting and pretty dress with looks of intense pain and sorrow and I adore it even more, regardless if it’s an idea as old as (certain parts of) Janice Dickinson. My favourite photo of the entire cycle was Heather’s (the banner photo), the perfect balance between serene beauty and utter wretchedness. I also love how true Rebeccah’s feels – a quiet moment of sadness captured on film. [Her story about how she achieved it, by thinking about when her dog died, would have made even the most Botoxed-up fashionitas shed a tear… if their ducts hadn’t been frozen solid, of course.] And as for Maryam? Can you tell her signature look was ‘fierce’? She was the only girl to show some attitude and look pissed and I think it pays off. [Below, left to right: Rebeccah, Maryam]

Just when you thought the passport dramz was over, cue more screaming, whooping and jumping up and down because the girls were headed to New York! And guess what? Maryam still didn’t have a passport!

Having blown the budget on two international trips and green-screen technology, there was no special treatment for Maryam this time. So whilst the rest of the girls did some fancy shoot portraying two different characters in one photo, Maryam called upon a photographer mate (quite likely that dodgy bloke who hangs round your mall) to make her own picture. As she was shown posing in what appeared to be someone’s cloakroom, rattling on in her thick Iranian-accent about being pictured with a gecko, this was hide behind your pillow viewing. Clutching her brown envelope at panel, containing what you imagined was some amateur snapshot of her gallivanting with a lizard she probably found in the streets (very common in HK), I could barely watch for fear of this sweet little Iranian flower being brutally stamped out by the judges. And yet, it somehow turned out awesome, better than the stupid New York shoot and she even escaped the bottom two! Only to be given the boot a week later…

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the standard of the shoots, although after a bit of digging on forums, it appears that’s because most of the ideas were nicked from other (better!) fashion editorials anyway! Photographed in Week 1 by Nigel Barker (*groan*), I initially thought the concept of being shot at random with a wild animal was a bit of a stunt. But, combined with glam 80s styling, big hair and a liberal dose of fierce eyes, it worked (in fact, something pretty similar was done this current season of AusNTM). [Below: Maryam, Nikita, Rebeccah, Heather]

Meanwhile, I simply loved the styling in Week 2. It looked, as good old Alex Perry would say, ‘expensive’. These lushly opulent designer frocks are works of art and were shot and styled accordingly. I could do without the random flashes of bright light but Nikita (the ‘muffin’ makeover girl, who was a great contestant – quick, witty, bitchy but still likeable) looks regal and exquisitely untouchable – bow down! I also really liked Rebeccah doing something a bit different and channelling Twiggy, which really works with her outfit and haircut. [Below: Rebeccah, Tara – purely because I love her outfit, Nikita, Heather]

Finally, beauty shots avec duct-taped mouths. It’s such a great concept for a beauty shot that I refuse to believe it hasn’t been used before, but the CNTM girls do it justice. It would be easy to fall into an oppressed woman trap so I love how defiantly Nikita eyes the camera, but still in an aloof sexy way. And those are some quality cheekbones (and nails)! Heather’s ethereal, almost resigned look heavenwards manages to transcend both the duct-tape and the huge hair whilst Rebeccah channels Twiggy… again! And I’m still going to love her for it… again! Her make-up is more cutesy than the other girls, so the big eyes look great with it and the composition of the shot, with her peeking out from one side of the photo just like she’s peeking out from one side of her hair, is kookily clever. [Below: Nikita, Rebeccah, Heather]

So, a solid season with solid photos, a solid cast and enough drama to keep things ticking along for eight episodes that can be wrapped up in a weekend. Basically, just enough reason to forgive and forget for a few weeks that Canada is responsible for both Justin Bieber and Avril Lavigne. Oh, ok, nothing can make up for that!

Australia’s Next Top Model, Cycle 2: Bogan is best?

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?!

Australia’s Next Top Model, Cycle 1: The importance of being a power pussy

Quite why Australia’s Next Top Model doesn’t crow about the success of its first season is beyond me. Whilst Season 3’s Alice Burdeu gets trotted out at the drop of a hat, Season 1’s winner goes unmentioned and unremembered – strange given that Gemma Sanderson has been amongst the most successful of the Next Top Model alumni internationally, working steadily ten (!) years on from the programme, albeit on a mainly commercial level (you’ll spot her regularly and ASOS and she’s actually one of the top-earning e-commerce models in the world). I had actually heard of her before the show, which must mean something!

If you’re used to first cycles having an awkward host, ugly cast, cheap shoots and an uninspiring winner (hello Canada and Britain!), look away now. Other than a first episode where the cameraman hadn’t realised that filming over the host’s shoulder with a direct view to the photos she was handing out probably wasn’t a great idea during call-out, Season 1 was a cracker. The drama… the tears… the bitching – and that was just on the phone to their loved ones! Nothing beats an unhinged wannabe, fresh from being accused of being anorexic, screaming ‘YOU DO NOT OWN ME!!!’ down the phone at her on/off boyfriend or an encouraging mother motivating her upset daughter by forcing her to repeat ‘I am a Power Pussy!’ three times in the full glare of the viewing public.

Then there were the characters. Having watched six series of AusNTM, I’d got used to there always being one “bogan”, a skanky small-town girl whose hicks-ville ways are held up as cause for amusement. This being the first series, there was not just one bogan but half the bloody cast! This lot were mostly endearingly ignorant, with Aborigine model Shannon McGuire coming out with gems like people must be famous because ‘they have a commercial’ (she was slightly stumped as to what to call herself when the finalists got to film one themselves) and being startled at a fancy restaurant by a waiter putting a napkin on her lap and mesmerised by the concept of mineral water!

There was also gobby Sam, pleased to lose a challenge since she was sick of being the experienced one (‘I am so happy to be the underdog for five minutes, thank God!’), an attitude she strangely lost when she happened to win one. Girlfriend even had her own signature pose, the ‘Triple S’ (Sam Shoulder Squint). There was wooden Atong, one of the few black women ever on NTM not to have received the trademark Grace Jones cut at makeover, who thought that someone had stolen money from her wallet in the first episode – yet gave wildly differing values each time she was asked about it. There was plastic Allana, who was continually quizzed over her definitely not-fake boobs, threw a tantrum at makeover when her scraggy hair extensions were removed, was thrown out of a challenge by Napoleon Perdis’ far-more-normal brother for refusing to ditch her fake eyelashes and walked before she was pushed for repeatedly sneaking out to meet her boyfriend. And there was eventual winner Gemma, who managed to shack up with a dinner guest one evening (they found his underpants later!) and whose depression caused sudden outbursts of tears that, as sod’s law would have it, only mortal enemy Sam seemed to be able to quell.

Judge-wise, there was the first appearance of a happier and more innocent Alex ‘expensive’ Perry, albeit with obsession of getting rid of ‘midgets’ and those deemed ‘not beautiful’ already in place. There was someone who claimed be a stylist but wore clothes that looked like they’d been picked by his mum and who had about as much personality as said apparel; however, he did have the best line of the series about a girls’ chunky arse: ‘Stick a handle on it and it’s an overnight bag’.

Fox8 are keen to erase all memory of Erika Heynatz, who jumped ship to another channel in pursuit of her singing career (attempts at which she sadly inflicted on us in Season 2), but she was actually a great host, the most hands-on one I’ve ever seen. I wondered if she even had a room in the model house, given the regularity with which she’d pop up for the most mundane of events, at one point strolling round the corner and scaring the daylights out of Gemma! She also turned up unscheduled to give Allana a memorable bollocking when she quit, ending her diatribe with a delightfully abrupt ‘Happy birthday babe!’

Even the photos were unexpectedly good. The best shoots were done by Nick Leary and I wondered why he hadn’t appeared on any of the latter seasons of AusNTM; come episode four, where he came on to two of the girls and ‘pashed’ another at a party, I soon realised why! Regardless of how he lives up to his surname (think about it…!), his photos are rather fantastic. The sexy swimwear shoot was the first of the whole season, making the hit rate of quality shots even more surprising – let’s just say you can never beat a good pair of fingerless gloves! [Shown earlier: Sam, Shannon, Allana]

The second shoot, on horseback, was similarly gorgeous. They feel like scenes from an epic  movie – romantic, moody, but with a sense of adventure and breathless sensuality too. My boyfriend had issues with the fact that you can barely see the horse in most of them though! [Above: Gemma, Shannon; Below: Sam, Zoe – who is now apparently a wrestler!]

Finally, leery Leary was in his element with the obligatory nude photoshoot. Gemma’s shot (the banner photo) is just beautiful – a judge commented that her gilded limbs looked ‘genetically engineered’ they were that perfect – and although the other girls all produced great photos by going straight for the fierce jugular, I preferred Gemma’s more elegant approach. The boring judge suggested that she was trying out for The Lion King, but that tawny quality complements the pose nicely, managing to be graceful, statuesque and powerful all at once. Bear in mind that this is the first ever cycle of AusNTM and we got three sterling shoots, whilst Cycle 14 of ANTM had ‘dresses made of hair’ and ‘vampires in a bath’ as themes.

In case you’re wondering what’s with the artfully deconstructed banner photo, I’m afraid that Cycle 1 is from a time before the Internet got good and so I went for screencaps instead. Most of the shots were only released in sizes fit for hanging on the Borrowers’ walls, whilst Sam’s horseback photo was entirely different and markedly inferior to the one shown on the programme so my pieced-together screencap is a bit of an exclusive! As for the swimwear shots – well, those were so smoking that they’re still in most of the models’ portfolios five years on. I guess there’s something to be said for having your photos taken by a bit of a perve then.

Australia’s Next Top Model Cycle 3: A Burdeu in the hand is worth two in the bush

alice burdeu ausntm

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.

alice burdeu australia's next top model

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.

ausntm-cycle-3-jordan-alice-mary-poppins

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.

Well, that and their amazing promos of course…

New Zealand’s Next Top Model, Cycle 1: Fug down under?

nzntm christobelle anger ruby joy

Onto the next stop in my English-speaking tour round the world’s Next Top Model franchise – New Zealand, Cycle 1.

Since it was New Zealand’s first ever cycle, we can excuse a few of its teething problems – a panel that hadn’t learnt how to be charismatic yet, some cheap amateur photography, occasional bouts of clunky editing and a fairly rough gang of finalists. But you just can’t keep a good format down.

christobelle grierson-ryrie nzntmvictoria williams nzntm

For each of these negatives, there was a glowing positive. So whilst stern and humourless Sara Tetro was evidently handed hosting duties in some sort of Faustian pact for offering a contract with her agency as the prize, we were also gifted with one of the best ever judges on any NTM show. I have no idea who Colin Mathura-Jeffree is (model slash actor slash all-round heap of fabulousity, since you asked), but he’s a complete natural. His role is somewhat ill-defined – not a stylist but hanging around the girls with the same persistence as any judge with a Jay in their name. And thank God he hangs around, as he’s hilarious. Of course, now I’ve said that, I can’t remember a single hilarious thing he ever said but his one-liners were quick, witty and un-contrived, especially in the face of wooden Sara, who seemed to find his presence an irritant. One of my favourite moments was when a contestant was castigated for referring to a designer’s clothes as ‘comfy’; a week later when she didn’t like her outfit in a shoot, Colin wickedly asked if it had at least been comfy. My hoots of laughter only increased as an oblivious Sara tutted like a grandma seeing a mini-skirt.

It helped that Colin was also prettier than half the girls that cycle and seemed to view his every appearance as an opportunity to raid his dressing-up box. He turned up as a punk, a maharaja, a matador, a dandy, an extra from a Boy George video… a montage of all his looks may have proved more entertaining than the show itself. Screw catwalk practise – he turned up one week just to throw cakes at the girls! And I’ve just found out that his acting debut was as a ‘sword-wielding warrior’ on Xena: Warrior Princess, which is just so utterly perfect. I hope he wears the costume to panel someday. CMJ – we salute you!

Rebecca Rose Harvey nzntmteryl-leigh felicia bourke nzntm

As usual, the judges seemed to eliminate the most obviously attractive girls in the semi-finals, leaving a pair of sisters (included to manufacture contrived sibling rivalry stories for as many episodes as possible), an African (who threw out the ‘Is it ‘cos I is black’ line as early as episode three) and a ginger bobble-headed alien on a trip to Earth (I believe that’s what constitutes “high fashion” on Next Top Model shows) who my boyfriend hated with a passion. One contestant missed a photo-shoot because she basically couldn’t be arsed.

And there was gloomy single-mother, Teryl-Leigh, who had never smiled in her life so clearly had lost all function in the corners of her mouth, meaning her every utterance came out as a monotonous misery-soaked drawl. She was such a black pit of woe, a toxic vortex of doom, that I was worried I’d catch depression just from watching and being sucked into her beautiful sad eyes. That being said, I did quite like the cast’s first photoshoot proper, mainly down to the 1930s-aviatrix styling… very Clara Bow in Wings. (From top to bottom throughout article: Christobelle, Victoria, Rebecca Rose and Teryl-Leigh).

The show was eventually won by Christobelle Grierson-Ryrie (I swear half the battle in winning these shows having an extravagant name under your belt), who I want to say looks like a grown-up Dakota Fanning except Dakota Fanning has actually grown-up and Christobelle is only 16 so the comparison doesn’t quite pan out. Best photos above – love the poses, love the styling, there’s something girlish yet mature about her that really works.

Reality show fans may be familiar with the ‘redemption arc’ trope, where a previously dislikeable character becomes endearing – in a coup for editing prowess, Hosanna Horsfall (what a name!) didn’t just do an arc, but managed a full circle! She started a desperate antisocial try-hard, maligned for her much-practised circus freak poses. But somehow, her ability to get up Teryl-Leigh’s nose and demented determination made her oddly appealing, becoming the panel’s go-to figure for demonstrating the right attitude. But then, she started believing her own press, smugly gloated in the face of other people’s eliminations, couldn’t even be bothered to play at being civil to the other girls whilst remaining as utterly demented as ever. Her best photos (above) are the ones that capture the maniacal gleam in her eye – you genuinely believe she might drill a hole in this guy to get at the prize (especially if it was located in his spleen). Scary.

But onto the photos. Yes, the show made it look as if there were all of about 3 working photographers in the whole of New Zealand, one of whom was scrounging for extra money by being on the panel too – Craig Owens, whose first shoot was absolutely awful (cheap, hideous unflattering make-up, hideous dated styling), was somehow invited back another 2 times! It seems a basic of photography to not choose the shot where the model’s face is obscured – Owens managed to do it twice (see above)!

nzntm cycle 1 victoria laura

However, I did love his second photo-shoot, where the girls channeled emotions whilst styled like 50s film stars (see banner photo). The styling is just superb and the best shots look like they could have been publicity shots from the golden days of Hollywood. Christobelle, looking like a cross between Veronica Lake and Marlene Dietrich, does anger so perfectly here – an arched eyebrow and icy glare that’s perfect for the sort of controlled fury those stars did so well. Ruby’s photo is just pure joy – possibly my favourite from the whole season. She manages to completely engage with the viewer and looks so radiantly, naturally happy that you can’t help but burst into a smile as well. This is made better by knowing that to achieve this glow, she was thinking about the time a friend fell off her chair and smashed her head on a desk. Victoria doing seductive and eventual finalist Laura doing grief ain’t too shabby either (I love how there’s something stage-y and mannered about Laura’s, which really fits the film star brief well).

[A sidenote on Ruby: despite producers trying to contrive weight issues and attitude problems (because she muttered ‘for real?!’ when the first thing she was told on arriving on-set was that she only had two minutes for a photo), she remained breezily unbothered and utterly charming throughout the series. Her best moment was when a huge bug flew in her eye on one shoot; it separated into three parts, the body and both wings, and unable to get it all out, she had to do the photo with a wing stuck in her eye. Gross.]

It took Nigel Barker, borrowed from ANTM, to produce the most consistent set of the series. My favourite shot is actually of Teryl-Leigh, whose mournful expression works really well with the gloomy atmosphere; it really ‘captures a moment’, which is my favourite type of photography. As ever, the combination of dilapidated surroundings and couture gowns is a winner (above, Teryl-Leigh and Victoria, who was the most classically beautiful of all the finalists yet unfortunately peaked before the contest had even started).

I’ve managed to write more on this than AusNTM Cycles 4 and 5, both of which are actually better television. But with season 2 of NZNTM currently screening now, what better time to catch up on the awesomeness of CMJ? He even has his own acronym, FFS.

Australia’s Next Top Model, Cycle 4: A model example?

Whilst BNTM continues to progress at a snail’s pace i.e. weekly, I’m rapidly making my way through every other English-speaking cycle in the Next Top Model franchise.

As you’ll already know, I rated AusNTM Cycle 5 rather highly. Alas, whilst Cycle 4 offered no punching of walls, swearing at end of catwalks or stealing of lines, it did have a huge bullying controversy and a thoroughly undeserving winner to recommend it – if recommend is the word! Winner Demelza Reveley may have had the flowery name and golden good looks of a Disney Princess, but what a horrid creature she was. Ringleader of the self-named ‘Bitchketeers’ (how dumb must you be to give yourself such a name knowing you’re being filmed), she sniped away unpleasantly at fellow finalist Alexandra Girdwood throughout the entire run and together with her minions, made life a living hell for contestant Alamela Rowan whilst giving simpering butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-mouth VTs. [Alamela was a bit of an oddity anyway – with her alarming poise, pale skin, sing-song voice and penchant for bursting into operatic arias, she had the air of a possessed child from a horror film.]

Quite how Demelza managed to reach the final, let alone win, remains to be seen (she also had a string of vacant-looking photos and fat hips which she did nothing about, even when another girl, Caris, was continuously badgered about her body) – especially as the final of AusNTM is partially decided by public vote. Perhaps it was because she was up against Alex, whose main claim to fame that series had been deliberately fattening up the rest of the girls with calorie-loaded muffins (pure brilliance!). She also had collagen implants, meaning her lips stayed put even when she’d left the room hours ago, a strong editorial look that didn’t always work for other shoots and was clearly more fashion-savvy and intelligent than your average NTM contestant, easily running circles around the Bitchketeers in any arguments. Or perhaps it was because of the blatant favouritism shown by host, Jodhi Meares – herself the cause of controversy for being the only head judge with credentials as a glamour model, being unable to talk without a huge red clipboard of prompts and having a last-minute freak-out which meant she didn’t present the live final and was never seen or talked about in NTM ever again.

But onto the pretty things – the photos. You already know about my love for Russell James so unsurprisingly, I’m a fan of these beach shots. I think more could have been made of the setting, yet I love the intensity he gets out of the girls. These photos have a beautiful warmth and innocence to them, with their eyes completely connecting with the camera. Who knows how much Photoshop goes into these things, but the way James captures the light, depth and glitter to models’ eyes is totally arresting. This, incidentally, is Demelza’s best photo – it wasn’t even shown on the show and is supposed to be advertising swimwear, so make of that what you will! (top to bottom: Sam, Demelza, Alex, Caris)

My other favourite shoot this season was by Simon Upton, where the girls modelled shoes whilst being harnessed to the side of a tall building. The styling here is fantastic – I love the bright colours and fluorescent make-up, which complements the dynamic energy of the poses. With such great styling and the dramatic cityscape background, the girls really didn’t have to do much (well, if you count bouncing off a wall at a 90 degree angle wearing stiletto heels and with a harness digging into you as not much). The top banner picture, which has an amazing movement to it, is of Leiden, the butch bogan of the series, who was always ‘shittin’ bricks’ and having frequent meltdowns and made for very good viewing too. Also shown are (top to bottom) are Sam, Alex and Caris – I’m still in two minds over Caris’ photo, as she either looks like a serene fallen angel or just a corpse, but at least it’s interesting, which is more than I can say for Demelza’s efforts.

I mentioned that the girls didn’t have to do much for Upton’s shoot – and Demelza certainly did just that. Not much. This photo has the air of the crew tidying up for the day and realising ‘Shit – we left a girl up there!’ Alas, Reveley was not left out to dry but had merely slipped whilst bouncing about. Never mind that by being flat-out horizontal, she ruins the proportions of the photo – the model should be the focus, not somehow hanging like a bat on the peripheries and only noticeable because of her colourful quilt-thing. The very thing she’s supposed to be selling (the shoes) barely make the frame! Oh well, at least the skyline looks nice.

Here’s the Russell James shot that was chosen for the show. I’d find it vaguely inoffensive if Jodhi Meares hadn’t suddenly started orgasming and having babies over it – made doubly awful by the fact that the girls were modelling her bikinis and so she had the sway of being the client too. Her posture’s awful, her eyes are vacant, she looks generally gormless and the whole thing’s just blah, lacking the intensity of the rest of the James’ shots. And as my boyfriend pointed out, the pose that Meares went gaga for was stolen from Willy The Wimp, a character I had no idea even existed before I was forced to Google Image to verify my boyfriend’s claims. And now, I can’t see this photo without thinking of a shy-looking monkey. Willy The Wimp for first call-out!