Tag Archives: photography

Australia’s Next Top Model, Cycle 7 – the full Monty?

montana cox

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.

montana dubai ausntm season 7

But a cast of beautiful girls does not necessarily great television make, and given the fact that Season 7 didn’t include:

Girl forced to repeat the phrase “I am a power pussy” down the phone to her mum
Model shagging member of the crew, who had to be escorted off-set
Batshit-crazy constestant having meltdown over someone speaking too loudly in a taxi
Massive bullying scandal and the host not turning up for the finale
Punching of walls, swearing on catwalks and stealing of lines in a commercial
The wrong winner being announced

It was substantially less good than any of the seasons of AusNTM that preceded it. Hell, there weren’t even any proper meltdowns at makeover. Is that not the main reason for makeovers?

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The Beauty of Lillian Bassman

I hadn’t previously heard of a fashion photographer called Lillian Bassman, yet when I came across some of her images in a Saturday Times Magazine a few months back, I wondered – why the hell not?! (Shown above: Anne Saint-Marie, Chanel advert, 1958)

Her work is simply exquisite. When I think of the golden age of fashion photography, I think of names like Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton and Lord Snowdon. Now I’ll also think of Lillian Bassman.

More Fashion Mileage Per Dress, Barbara Vaughn, 1956

Her photographs manage to feel both of their period, yet timelessly classic, yet also startlingly modern; it’s almost impossible to distinguish some of her earliest work from some of her latest. Working mostly in black and white, some have a noir-ish feel to them, others feel like they could be stills from an old movie or as if you’re intruding on an (immaculately-attired) personal moment.

It’s A Cinch,  Carmen, 1951

The underwear series is breathtakingly erotic, and you can barely even see the models’ faces; there’s something unbelievably wraith-like, ethereal and sensual about how the lines have been softened and blurred. And all this without distracting from the stunning beauty of the couture outfits photographed in her work, especially from the 50s (cue obligatory Mad Men reference), which are simply stunning.

Barbara Mullen, 1950

Bassman achieved many of the effects in her photographs by post-procesing manipulation in the dark room, blurring, burning and bleaching them, adding some details by hand later on (as in the photo above, hand-painting all the polka dots back in!). The use of shade and light is just phenomenal – after all, it has to be to get noticed and raved about by an art novice like me!

‘There are things that I think are marvellous and there are also pictures where I look at a particular crop and think “How awful. I couldn’t have done that. It’s mediocre”. But are you ever completely happy? No, thank goodness, or you’d stop. I think I’ll go on for ever’.

Incredibly, Bassman trashed many of her negatives in bin bags in the 1970s; they re-surfaced in the 90s, along with a greater appreciation of Bassman’s art. Even now, in her 90s, she continues to work, using digital technology and Photoshop to manipulate and make something new out of her old photographs.

Fantasy On The Dance Floor, Barbara Mullen, 1949

I love how she combines art with fashion – ‘For me, it was about the gesture, the neck, the throat, the arch of the back’. Here are just a few of my favourites (remember to click for enlargements) and hopefully now a few more of you will discover the beauty of Lillian Bassman!

Lingerie, 1951

Olga

The Line Lengthens, 1955

The Dressing Room

Wonders of Water, 1959

Paris: Dinner At Nine, Barbara Mullen, 1949

Barbara Mullen wearing Jean Patou, 1949

Across The Restaurant, Barbara Mullen wearing Jacques Fath, 1949

Barbara Mullen Blowing A Kiss, c.1950

The V-Back Evenings, Suzy Parker, 1955

Black And White, Mary Jane Russell, 1950

Golden Fox, Blue Fox, Marilyn Ambrose, 1954

Eve L Tripp Las Vegas, 1948

Dovima, 1954

Night Bloom, Annaliese Seubert, top gown Givenchy by Galliano, bottom by Christian Dior, 1996 (can’t believe these are so new, they’d fit right in with the rest, right?)

Silk Organdie, Embroidered And Printed, Barbara Mullen, gown by Irene, 1955

Untitled, Model in Gloves and Pearl Earrings, 1950

Betty Threat, 1957

Mary Jane Russell, 1950

Outtake, Harper’s Bazaar, November 1948

Polka Dots On The Run, 1960 (love the expression in the model’s eyes)

Back, Barbara Mullen, 1950

Touch Of Dew, Lisa Fonssagrives, 1961

Chanel advert, 1963 (despite the manipulation, there’s no mistaking that jacket!)

Untitled, 2008

And ending with one of my favourites… just captures a mood and movement so perfectly…Untitled, Model with Raincoat and Umbrella, 1950

For more of Bassman’s work, check out: http://f56.net/kuenstler/lillian-bassman/lillian-bassman/, http://blog.daum.net/sooy0098/7706383 (which makes my Antivirus have a fit but doesn’t seem to do any harm), this Lillian Bassman Flickr album and this Lillian Bassman Facebook fan page, from where many of these photos were taken from.

Quotes taken from Saturday Times Magazine, 17 May 2011.

Sweet Valley High just got sweeter!

What’s this – photographs not taken during a season of Next Top Model making the pages of my Pretty Things section?! Yes, you read right, but this summer ad campaign for American brand Wildfox is too delish not to drool over.

It’s based on 90s teen book and tv series Sweet Valley High – I know, awesome already, right?! It’s all sleepovers, crushes, sunshine and secrets, basically an all-American summer encapsulated in one photoshoot by Henrik Purienne. Rather than delivering the typical ‘buying these clothes might make me as pretty as the models’ aspirational campaigns that many brands go for (cough Abercrombie & Fitch cough), there’s a sense of ease and fun to these images that means the models look like genuine BFFs.

I particularly love the sun-bleached look these photos have – you can practically feel the heat radiating off them! – and it all adds to a slightly vintage feel (check out that retro Pepsi can!) that makes you feel like you’re flicking through an old family album. Admittedly, one in which the girls seem particularly ill-disposed to wearing anything over their underpants (it’s a shoot for tees, who can blame them?!).

My favourite photos are the ones with the phone (above), which instantly make me think of racking up my parents’ phone bill on late night calls to my bessies It also reminds me of this amazing 90s board game called Dream Phone where you had a giant pink phone that played voice recordings of boys, so you could work out who had a crush on you (‘You’re right! I really like you!) – very apt, given the slogan on the tee!

I also love the pizza ones above, which call back to all those sleepovers where you all end up in hysterical laughter about nothing in particular, and the models perfectly capture that conspiratorial sense of fun in a way that just looks effortless.

So grab your sunnies, shorts and SPF – summer is here! [Wildfox tee optional]

Photos from Wildfox’s blog via Rock N Rose HK blog

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.

Britain’s Next Top Model, Cycle 6: Susan Loughnane Interview

Since I reviewed Britain’s Next Top Model, Season 6 EXTENSIVELY for Teentoday (sadly, now lost to some Internet dark hole), rather than talking about the whole cycle, I thought I’d just bring you my favourite contestant from the series instead – flame-haired Oirish actress Susan Loughnane.

Given that she lasted all of two weeks, she’s a bit of a strange choice for favourite, right? What I liked about Susan was that, apart from being exceptionally pretty, she proved you didn’t have to be some raging drama queen to make for good viewing on a Next Top Model show. She came across as funny and likeable – a fact proved even more by an amazing interview she gave me a long time after her exit. Honestly, I just wanted to sit down over a cuppa tea and have an off-the-record natter with her!

Some self-portraits about the comfort of tea. The lighting, the mood, the expression – so evocative. Love it!

As usual with BNTM, most of the photos were a bit rubbish. Every year I have high hopes they’ll up their game and every year they disappoint, with cheap-looking shoots, crappy sponsorship deals and dull concepts. So Susan can feel smug about the fact that, although she doesn’t even want to model anymore, she already has a body of work from her pre-show days that is actually quite stunning – the ‘pretty things’ that are scattered around this post (some taken by herself, multi-talented girl!). Red hair just looks so amazing, doesn’t it?!

Susan’s interview is a must-read for any Next Top Model fans; it blows the lid on the whole series! Since Teentoday has been scrobbed from the Internet (and with it, about five years of my life and work *sad face*), I’ve reproduced it here in its entirety – enjoy!

So… the big question… who are you rooting for in the final?
Do you know what, I’m rooting for Tiff. She is the real underdog here because she’s not 100% British. I can empathise with that. She won’t get the same level of support the other girls will get. I think all the girls deserve it though, I would be over the moon for Alisha or Joy to win. I would have loved to see Amelia win as well : (

You’re going to be at the final with the rest of the girls… do you have any idea what’s gonna happen during the show? Will you be wearing one of your impressive jumpers?
Yes I can’t wait!! I have no idea what’s going to happen! All I know is that they have booked for me to get my hair done at Daniel Galvin before the show and all the girls will be staying in a hotel together! I’m super excited. I don’t think it will be an appropriate time for me to whip out one of my amazing jumpers unfortunately, however I do have a lovely dress which will have to suffice.

You’re also going to be at BNTM Live along with the other girls. Any idea what you’ll be doing there? Excited?
Actually I don’t think I’ll be doing BNTM Live. The models aren’t being paid. The show will undoubtedly make a huge amount of money. I don’t do unpaid work anymore. I’m not demanding a lot but if I don’t value myself, who will?

I guess it must seem a long time ago since you left the competition; did you keep up with watching the show? Were you OMGing at stuff along with the rest of us?
I don’t actually have a telly here! I do watch all my favourite shows online though, god bless 4OD! However I’ve had to wait to watch BNTM on youtube. But mostly I knew how things went, because we all found each other on facebook and got the gossip there. It’s funny to watch how it’s all edited though!

sue loughnane swimwearYou may have gathered by now that I’m a sucker for 50s styling. The colours here are so vibrant and Susan looks like Rita Hayworth. Hot!

I wanna talk a bit about your time on the show… as you know I was a big fan and really sad to see you leave so early : ( Were you upset/shocked about how you were eliminated?
Aw that’s nice, I love hearing that. Honestly, I couldn’t believe I’d even gotten onto the show. I don’t really see myself as a model and have trouble understanding how anyone else sees it. I think I made it on there mostly as a result of my personality! I really clicked with all the producers and I think they really liked me. I think they wanted me there more than Elle and the judges. I thought the way I was eliminated was great, very dramatic, just how I like it! I loved how fans were outraged and really got behind me! That was brilliant, I was so unbelievably grateful for that. It could have been far worse. Delita got a very hard time from the fans for being in it as long as she was. And the photographers on the show didn’t seem to like her either. I think that would be much harder to deal with. I felt quite sorry for her. I was lucky that the photographers on the show really liked me, I came across well and a lot of people were disgusted when I left. You couldn’t ask for a better exit than an unfair one! I’m quite ‘glass half full’ about the whole thing.

It seemed strange as you hadn’t received as much criticism as some of the other girls for either your walk or your photos. Do you think if you’d been given more constructive criticism, you could have improved and stayed longer?
They want the girls to have a character arc. It is the same with acting. There has to be a story. You have to start somewhere, preferably a fairly rocky start, or where they show your potential but how you might falter, and then there has to be hurdles, breakdowns, obstacles, triumphs… Me, I was always quite stable and happy. This was my flaw. I think I was too grown-up for the tantrums and the breakdowns, and I knew enough that I wasn’t starting from a disadvantage, so the story wasn’t there in the long run. So they got rid of me. It was never about how I performed as a model. Am I ruining it for you?? Sorry.

 

The people at the go-sees didn’t seem encouraging at all and looked like they were sucking lemons when they saw you! Did you already get the vibe that they weren’t interested? Were you angry (I was and I wasn’t even there!)?
I know that they were told to criticize me, because it was my time to go, but man they were total assholes! They weren’t nice people, they had no scruples, no shame, no empathy, nothing. The majority of the horrible things they said were actually edited out because it was just too mean and completely unjustified. It took all my strength not to tear them to pieces for being horrible human beings. But karma will get them, they will come back in the next life as a warthog and a stinky hyena. [Guess they won’t be getting a Christmas card this year…!]

I read in one interview that you wanted to deck them! Models 1 will also be at the BNTM Live event… have you been working on your right hook?!
Haha I have better things to do than take them out. But in fact I have been working out a lot lately. I do want to be able to throw a good punch in case the need ever arises. It’s actually quite empowering as a woman to work on your physical strength.

Were you upset that you didn’t get a proper goodbye – seeing Elle, writing a farewell letter etc? What were the other girls’ reactions to your departure?
Oh no, as I said I was very happy with how I went. I didn’t have to go through another elimination, those are the most horrible nerve-wrecking things! And all the girls were there to help me pack and make me feel better. They even tried to bake a potato for me to bring with me, they knew how much I loved my spuds, and Tiffany gave me her last energy bar, which meant a lot in a house where food was scarce and you couldn’t just pop out to the shop and buy more. And they were just so lovely and supportive. They were really a great group of girls! Afterwards, Tiff and Amelia went into the diary room and said some really sweet things about how much they were going to miss me. I cried watching that.

Did it frustrate you that, whilst some judges complained that your acting detracted from your modelling, loads of stuff after you’d gone revolved around acting? You’d probably have rocked the bullying campaign, the horror shoot and the Hollyoaks challenge!
Yeah, well I couldn’t have stayed on really, could I? That would have been my chance to shine. So they had to find some way to get rid of me. So they found two callous assholes with no scruples who would be quite happy to shamelessly put me down and bully me. And that was followed by an anti bullying campaign…

Do you think you had a different experience to the rest of the girls as, with your acting, you’re more savvy to being in front of the cameras and dealing with criticism? What do you prefer – reality tv or having a script?
I honestly prefer having a script, however I am quite comfortable just being myself. But I was completely sure of who I was and what I would and wouldn’t do. I think that comes with age. At my age, I know who I am and cannot be pushed around by producers and convinced to do something I would be ashamed of later. The younger girls were more malleable which makes for better TV.

Give us the inside scoop on filming a reality tv show – were the cameras really on you 24/7? Did you feel pressured to come up with good soundbites? Do you feel the producers deliberately amped up the drama for better tv? Did you feel the judges were being honest at panel or just trying to be controversial?
The cameras weren’t there 24/7, there was a lot that the cameras did not see! We weren’t allowed to play music in the house because it would interfere with filming and they might not be able to hear what we were saying. But one night, Kirsty found a stereo system in the bedroom and after they had all gone to bed we used to put it on and have a bit of a boogie. They found us at it one night and decided to film it because it would show us bonding or some shit like that. But there was a lot that they didn’t see. They did deliberately amp up the drama, but I wasn’t really involved in that kind of thing, I tried to mostly stay away from drama. I wasn’t a very good contestant really was I? I would never make it onto Big Brother!! I’m a bit too chilled.

None of the judges were honest really, except maybe Charley. Grace was quite honest at times but always exaggerated what she really thought to make it sound more extreme, because she wanted to be the Simon Cowell one. Julian was always just being controversial, he didn’t seem to have a filter in his brain to sieve out the ridiculous comments. It was like he had Tourettes. The producers obviously loved that.

It sounded like you entered BNTM on a bit of a whim (especially as, you admit, you’re not even technically British!). Were you happy you just got as far as you did? What was the feeling like when Elle called your name last at Model Academy? (Only for her to kick you out without a goodbye a few weeks on – bloody cheek etc!)
I couldn’t believe I actually made it in. It was mad. I went over on a whim. If it hadn’t been for a Ryanair sale and £10 flights, I wouldn’t have gone because I really thought they were highly likely to turn me away the minute they saw my Irish passport. So I just thought, well it would be nice to see Glasgow and it will be a funny experience either way, and sure the flights were practically free. I actually laughed when I was told I had a call back. I did always have to pinch myself when I was on the show and I never felt I would make it to the next week at any stage, so I was shocked to even get as far as I did, and I was really honoured to be there. So I was fine about leaving. I felt a bit abused by their manner of doing it, but I didn’t expect to stay, and I knew there was an elimination that day, it was completely pre-planned in advance, so I was not shocked. It was not a shock elimination like they made out. It was totally scripted. That’s a Fact.

A few unkind people have suggested you only entered to get exposure for your acting – what’s your response to them?
It’s the truth; I have no real interest in being a model. I completely used BNTM for my profile and it worked. So there.

susan loughnaneSusan’s gorgeous 2012 Irish Tatler cover; photo by Barry McCall Photographer

What have you been up to since you left?
Thankfully, I’ve been doing quite a lot of acting. I shot an Irish TV series called Single-Handed down in beautiful Galway. I’m told it will be on ITV over here in the New Year. I’ve just been cast in a play here, I have a fantastic new London agent and he is getting me lots of auditions here so things are great. I love living in London. [NOTE: Since BNTM, Susan has actually become a quite well-known actress, with roles in acclaimed Irish drama Love/Hate and Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, plus has also written her first book!]

You can model, act and have a nifty taste in jumpers. Let’s assess your true triple-threat potential! Any other talents hiding under there?
Haha, that’s really sweet. I do love my jumpers all right. Actually I am also an artist and dabble in photography. I’ve been a professional portrait artist since I was about 17, and still take the odd commission to supplement my income. I find painting a very relaxing and therapeutic thing to do; however, I have taken a break from it since coming to London because I couldn’t bring over all my easels and oil paints and canvases, and it would be a big investment to buy new stuff. Also I am focusing solely on acting for the time being, I think to be truly successful at something you have to be single-minded, and now I am totally focused. I do still carry around my SLR from time to time and snap casual pictures of friends and London life in general.

I just noticed on your CV that you trained for a year at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York (most famous student: Marilyn Monroe!) – how was that experience?
I loved New York. It felt like home straight away and whenever I think about it my heart actually aches a little. I think it is homesickness. I do feel the same way about Ireland though. The Lee Strasberg Institute was an incredible experience. Not only did I get fantastic training but I met truly brilliant people. It was like the UN, I now have friends from literally all over the world and all walks of life! It was a true all-round life experience.

My boyfriend thinks you look like Amy Adams – have you had that before?
All the time, I used to get called Nicole Kidman too, but I think my personality is closer to Amy Adams… now if I could only have her career…!

How do you think being part of BNTM has changed you?
It has made me very determined. And I have a lot more belief in myself. The fans were very supportive I’ve gotten some wonderfully positive fan mail. It is fantastic and invaluable to have the support of your family and friends, but when complete strangers have a strong faith in you it has an interesting effect. I throw away every negative comment, they are irrelevant to me unless they are constructive. But the really positive ones are like little badges I sew onto my sleeve, like when I was in a kid in girl guides, and they add to my confidence and sense of purpose and self-belief. I really am grateful for that.

And finally, what’s your top style/beauty tip for Teentoday readers?
I believe in rewards. When I have worked really hard I like to reward myself with something I don’t need but really want. Like that jumper I wore on the show, for example. I was shooting a TV series up in Belfast last November, and one day I had two big emotional scenes that were very hard work and emotionally exhausting, but I got a few hours off after so I went shopping in Belfast and bought myself that jumper. I returned to set that day with a huge smile on my face. And now I have a jumper that always makes me happy and reminds me of the great work I did that day. Love yourself, take care of yourself and reward yourself when you deserve it.

All photos from Susan’s website and Flickr. As ever, click on the photos for enlargements.

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens: Green there, done that

It’s a nice day, you’re unemployed and at a loose end. What to do that’s cheap, interesting and actually involves leaving the house? How about a trip to Hong Kong’s Zoological and Botanical Gardens?

Admittedly, now probably isn’t the best time of year to visit as most of the 1000 plus species of plants are no longer flowering. Yet given it was an absolutely beautiful summer’s day and I wasn’t sure if we’d be having any more of those this year, my boyfriend and I decided to make the trip to Central and have a calm and gentle stroll around.

Trek not helped by The Stairs To Nowhere. HK Planning Department Fail.

Of course, we forgot that beautiful summer’s day = getting hot and sweaty. Especially as it’s a bit of a trek to get there, much of it uphill, and one problem of an open-air park is that there isn’t a blast of cool air-conditioning to welcome you there! (I still think the LCSD is missing a trick by not making its museums and parks have proper restaurants and cafes. It’s something many places in England have done, making them destinations in their own right. But most places I’ve visited in HK make do with an amateur-run eaterie, akin to the school cafeteria, with plastic chairs, dishing up instant noodles – and that’s on a good day! HKZBG was no exception, sporting a few fast food kiosks. Given the number of young families and yummy mummies visiting, I think a beautiful café could make a killing here). However, it’s still a lovely place, especially since this spot of lush verdant greenery is nestled right in the heart of Central’s towering skyscrapers.

The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens is one of the oldest of its kind around the world, with construction starting in 1860, opening to the public in 1864. The pagoda inside is the oldest structure in the garden and there are a few other historical statues, like a bronze one of King George erected to commemorate the 100th anniversary of British colonial rule in HK and a memorial arch as you walk in dedicated to British and Chinese soldiers who died in the war. I was also surprised by how many animals there were, an eclectic bunch of simians, reptiles and around 400 exotically-plumaged birds.

But I was here because I missed green stuff. I missed plants. I missed grass. I missed trees and shrubs and my garden. I missed walking around in green spaces, breathing in fresh air and being a bit removed from the rumble of pollution and the smog of concrete. So most of my pictures are of that. Enjoy. (As ever, click to enlarge). And yes, I will be going back in Spring.

This plant was called mother-in-law’s tongue! *Insert mother-in-law joke here*

Some form of Heliconia, also known as ‘false bird-of-paradise’. You can see why! Birds-of-paradise were always my favourite house plant in Sims!

Another hibiscus – not HK’s national flower, but it might as well be.

I want to call these catkins. They might not be but whatever, it still reminded me of my Flower Fairies books.

The Education and Exhibition Centre currently houses a display of orchids. Most were fairly standard (or as standard as orchids ever can be!), like those at CWB’s Flower Market but these were unusually beautiful.

I thought these tree roots were amazing – like a labyrinth or a witch’s hand! Better than any modern art sculpture!

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Albany Road, Central, 2530 0154. Free admission. Fountain Terrace Garden (the fountain was closed when I visited!), open 6am to 10pm. Green House and Exhibition Centre, 6am-4pm. All other areas, 6am-7pm.

Get a bus or get the MTR to Pacific Place, Admiralty. Go up the escalators at the side by Grappas and Lane Crawford to Hong Kong Park and follow the signs to the HK Zoological and Botanical Gardens.

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!