Jen’s gold model win

Jen­nifer Hawkins is steer­ing the latest cat­walk re­al­ity show, writes Siob­han Duck

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

MODELLING re­al­ity shows are be­ing slammed for pro­mot­ing un­healthy body images, bul­ly­ing and bitchy cat­fights among con­tes­tants.

But the crit­i­cism has done lit­tle to de­ter view­ers or stop pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies from de­vel­op­ing new con­cepts in the genre.

Al­ready we have Amer­ica’s Next Top Model on Ten, and Aus­tralia’s Next Top Model, The Jan­ice Dick­in­son Modelling Agency and the UK’s Make Me a Su­per­model on Fox­tel.

In its four sea­sons on Fox­tel, the hugely pop­u­lar Aus­tralia’s Next Top Model has con­sis­tently at­tracted con­tro­versy. In the last se­ries alone, judges mocked teenage con­tes­tants for their ‘‘jelly bot­ties’’ and al­lowed one young girl to en­dure phys­i­cal and emo­tional bul­ly­ing for the en­ter­tain­ment of view­ers.

But the Aussie Top Model pales in com­par­i­son with its US coun­ter­part, where con­tes­tants have had all-out brawls, col­lapsed af­ter not eat­ing and been forced to pose naked in or­der to stay in the com­pe­ti­tion.

De­spite the crit­i­cism, Chan­nel 7 tonight launches its own as­sault on the re­al­ity fash­ion world with an Aussie ver­sion of Make Me a Su­per­model.

Host and judge Jen­nifer Hawkins (right) says though Aus­tralia’s Next Top Model had al­ready un­earthed such tal­ents as flame-haired waif and toast of the in­ter­na­tional modelling world, Alice Bur­deau, plenty of fresh faces are still wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered.

And, un­like Top Model, Make Me a Su­per­model opens the com­pe­ti­tion to men as well as women.

Though you would imag­ine some Aussie blokes may be hes­i­tant to sign up for a modelling se­ries for fear of dent­ing their ma­cho im­age, Hawkins says hun­dreds au­di­tioned for the first round of the se­ries.

‘‘A lot of guys turned up be­cause it was their first chance to have a go at any­thing like this,’’ she says.

‘‘They were a pretty con­fi­dent group. Some had po­ten­tial.’’

The se­ries is based on the suc­cess of US and UK for­mats which are fronted, re­spec­tively, by for­mer su­per­model Niki Tay­lor and Rachel Hunter. As with Top Model, Make Me a Su­per­model fol­lows con­tes­tants as they learn the ropes of the in­dus­try and the of­ten catty pol­i­tics of liv­ing in a house with their fel­low con­tes­tants.

Hawkins faces a huge chal­lenge as judge and host. Per­haps she’s naive in think­ing the self-es­teem of con­tes­tants will not be bruised by their ex­pe­ri­ences on the show.

But Hawkins says her aim is to en­sure Make Me a Su­per­model of­fers a pos­i­tive in­tro­duc­tion to the in­dus­try.

‘‘It’s im­por­tant we show them the good side of the modelling world,’’ she says. ‘‘Not ev­ery­thing is as mean in the modelling world as peo­ple say.

‘‘There’s a lot of po­ten­tial there but I can’t tell yet whether any­one will be a su­per­model. ‘‘We’ll need to work on it.’’ About 1000 peo­ple lined up in Collins St on July 6 hop­ing to be one of the show’s 14 fi­nal­ists.

So many ar­rived to au­di­tion that pro­duc­ers were re­port­edly forced to turn some away be­fore they had a chance to strut their stuff for the judges, who in­clude Hawkins, mag­a­zine ed­i­tor Jackie Frank, Chad­wick Mod­els man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Martin Walsh and male model Tyson Beck­ford.

Beck­ford, also judge and modelling men­tor on the US ver­sion of the show, is best known here for his Ralph Lauren cam­paigns and a cameo in the Ben Stiller movie about male mod­els, Zoolan­der. Beck­ford was im­pressed by the level of male tal­ent au­di­tion­ing for the Aussie show, and by Hawkins’ work.

‘‘She is one of the most beau­ti­ful girls I’ve seen, so nat­u­ral and laid-back,’’ he says.

Though she has worked on travel se­ries The Great Out­doors since 2005, Make Me a Su­per­model is Hawkins’ first foray into host­ing an en­tire se­ries. The 25-year-old has been of­fered work on var­i­ous shows over the years, but re­fused be­cause ei­ther the tim­ing or the for­mat wasn’t right. With Make Me a Su­per­model, she feels she’s found the show to show­case her skills.

Hawkins had not seen ei­ther the US or UK ver­sions be­fore be­ing asked to front the new se­ries.

‘‘I watched the DVDs and liked the for­mula,’’ she says.

‘‘I liked that it was a glam­orous show, that it was re­al­ity and that it wasn’t only girls but guys, too.’’

THOUGH she never dreamed that en­ter­ing the Miss Uni­verse pageant in 2004 would lead to a suc­cess­ful TV ca­reer, Hawkins says she couldn’t be hap­pier with the way things have turned out.

‘‘The Great Out­doors has given me a great back­ground for TV work,’’ she says. ‘‘I’m re­ally ex­cited about this.’’ Hawkins isn’t ashamed to ad­mit that she en­joys re­al­ity television.

‘‘I watch a lot of re­al­ity shows when I’m at home,’’ she says.

‘‘I en­joy them. A lot of peo­ple do, but for some rea­son they won’t ad­mit it.’’

Hawkins has made no se­cret of her de­sire to forge an act­ing ca­reer, but says that host­ing Make Me a Su­per­model has put those plans on hold.

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