Rosemary Mac Cabe

Hemlines, heels and haute couture – your daily dose

You wanna be on top?

There’s something really compelling about the Next Top Model franchises. This is something that most 15-28 year old women will admit to, and women above that bracket will probably still know what I’m talking about, although they may not like …

Tue, Jun 1, 2010, 12:00


There’s something really compelling about the Next Top Model franchises. This is something that most 15-28 year old women will admit to, and women above that bracket will probably still know what I’m talking about, although they may not like to admit it. Hell, most of the time I don’t like to admit it, and I probably have some viable excuses in that (a) I lead a freelance life and sometimes find myself in front of the television at odd hours and (b) I write about fashion, so could ostensibly stretch the boundaries of the top model thing to convince people that the two were related.

In any case, it’s car-crash viewing, and not just for makeover day (my favourite), when at least one and up to five of the girls at any one time will burst into tears, call their mother and declare, tearfully, that they no longer feel “like a woman”. (The idea, of course, that hair maketh the woman is laughable in itself, but I’ll give them their tears as they are heroes on the reality TV stage.)

It’s the brainchild of Tyra Banks, entrepreneur and, of course, “the next Oprah”, lest we forget the pioneering work she’s been doing on The Tyra Banks Show in getting women, to, eh, learn what their vaginas look like. Banks started in the US with the series, which was quickly picked up all over the world, with varying degrees of success. (It should say something that the varying degrees of success are, by and large, better than Banks’ success with finding any decent models, except for Nicole Fox – pictured below - who won the bizarre title of America’s Next Top Petite Model.)

Obviously linguistic difficulties hinder my ability to compare America’s Next Top Model with, say, Israel’s Next Top Model (although I’ve heard that the Netherlands does particularly well, and Britain’s version is not really worth committing words to type for), but I can give you a neat rundown of why Australia’s Next Top Model is the only reality-TV-model-search-show worth watching, should you be in the market for that sort of thing.

Banks’s problem, from the point of view of one rather disgruntled viewer, is that there’s a little too much emotion going on with her show – something that Glee has been suffering from too, with its moves away from campy humour and towards dull moralising. There’s usually some kind of decent back story to 90% of the contestants, with the other 10% swept away at the first hurdle. So Jane may have been in a terrible car accident where she lost her left pinky, “but camera angles can deal with that; she’s been through so much”, or Nora, whose mother died when she was younger and who had to raise her two brothers all on her own and is now “a strong woman who needs to get over her anger at the world”. They’re hardly unusual back stories, but it brings a little pep to Banks’s step and is, presumably, what the US public needs in order to get behind someone.

Of course, they also champion the underdog: the underprivileged girl whose grandma sold her television to pay for her air fare; the girl who was bullied at school for being overweight, and now may just excel as America’s Next Top Plus-Sized Model (but won’t, because plus-sized models are not going to be widely used for a while, and there are a lot of them vying for a very small amount of work); the girl with Asperger’s Syndrome who is socially awkward but has a stunning face (although eventually she will be ditched for being socially awkward, which seems particularly harsh).

But lo, Australia is a foreign country; they do things differently there. On Australia’s Next Top Model, the panel for which is manned by some seriously bitchy people (yay!), the girls are measured, plucked, preened, weighed (whereas Banks, of course, usually likes to be a little softer about it – “perhaps you could try to improve your body a little bit”) and generally treated to a hardcore exercise in hurt. The aim being, of course, to find a model who will actually work – and work they do, with cycle one winner, Alice, featuring on the cover of Vogue, not to mention in various editorials and on catwalks all over the world. The winner (in my eyes) of the latest season was Caris Eve, who came fourth but had one of the most distinctive looks – and as a testament to the serious work that AusNTM judges make their girls do, while in the house Eve lost a significant amount of weight at their behest and transformed her body, before, em, being kicked out.

Here she is, for Rusty:

Images via The Fashion Spot

Will we see an Irish version to rival it? It seems unlikely; firstly, because Australia is huge, and secondly, because I don’t think we really have the market for a top model. If a girl wants to do photocalls and drape herself over signs for insurance companies, she knows who to call; if she wants to traipse down catwalks and pose for David Bailey, well, she’ll just have to go to Laaaandaaaan where those things belong.