JENNIFER HAWKINS HOSTS A NEW LOOK AUSTRALIA’S NEXT TOP MODEL
JENNIFER Hawkins is the happiest she’s ever been.
This year the 29-year-old has tied the knot to long-time boyfriend Jake Wall, helped him celebrate his 30th birthday, taken on a new TV gig hosting
Australia’s Next Top Model, grown her Cozi swimwear and JLH shoe line, and continued her prosperous relationship as brand ambassador for companies such as Myer and Bioglan.
For the former Miss Universe, it’s been the perfect balance of work and pleasure.
‘‘This has been one of the best years of my life,’’ she says excitedly. ‘‘I’ve really enjoyed it. I can’t even say how much fun I’ve had.
‘‘I’ve really seen the people who love me. They’ve made the effort to come down and stay with me in Sydney and it’s just been amazing. I’ve had such a great time.’’
While the jam-packed schedule may sound exhausting, the breezy, carefree Hawkins insists it ‘‘hasn’t been hard at all’’.
‘‘I’m not really one to stress about anything,’’ she says. ‘‘I sort of just go with the flow but I definitely am a planner. And I think if you plan a little bit and then relax in between you can have fun along the way.’’
And one of the most enjoyable parts of the year has been filming the eighth season of Australia’s
Next Top Model with judges Alex Perry, Charlotte Dawson and newcomer Didier Cohen.
Hawkins was asked to host the show last year, replacing former presenter Sarah Murdoch, but couldn’t fit it in around her existing commitments. It was an opportunity she was devastated about turning down, so when it came up again this year after the show was rested for a year, she was over the moon.
‘‘When I couldn’t do it last year I was devastated and was like, ‘it’s the worst decision ever’. But it came up again and it’s been unreal,’’ she says.
‘‘It’s been lots of fun. To be honest, it’s been a surprise that it has been so much fun.
‘‘I knew it would be an enjoyable time and I knew it would be a challenge stepping into a hosting role as well as being a judge, but they’re a well-oiled machine.
‘‘So for everything to be working really well I’m really grateful.’’
Hawkins says this year’s contestants are also among some of the best the competition has seen.
Chosen from auditions around the country, the oldest competitor is just 19.
‘‘I’m impressed. They’re a really strong group of girls. A lot of the girls have great personalities as well as looks,’’ she says.
‘‘There’s always a mixture and there’s a bit of drama too.’’
Hawkins says she approached the show as a host and sister figure to the wannabe models, rather than as a judge. But the drama in the house has meant she has been shelling out more advice than she thought possible.
‘‘It’s been pretty crazy. I didn’t think there’d be so much drama,’’ she says.
‘‘You sort of go along with what makes great TV, of course, but it’s also their lives so you have to sort of teach them that whatever they’re doing now people are going to remember them for that, so don’t go too crazy.’’
She says it’s all about giving the teenagers ‘‘constructive criticism’’ and hoping they actually listen.
‘‘You can be harsh but you can still be their friend,’’ she says. ‘‘The biggest thing I tell them is that with all the drama you cause, you have to deal with the consequences.
‘‘I think that’s a very important lesson that when they get out into the real world they won’t have us. They have to stand up and do themselves proud.’’ So what kind of chaos are the girls creating? ‘‘You’ll have to wait and see,’’ Hawkins teases. ‘‘It’s not necessarily bitchiness because I’m never a fan of that. I hate that side of the industry.
‘‘But it’s more that these girls are so passionate to win that they’ll just do anything.’’
And with so many contestants willing to claw each other in the back with their perfectly polished manicures and climb over each other in six-inch stilettos, has it made it hard for Hawkins to find a favourite?
‘‘You shouldn’t have favourites and I think the biggest thing is to have a little bit of distance,’’ she says.
‘‘You can’t become so attached that you’re rooting for one girl over another just because of her personality.
‘‘There were a few girls who stood out for me in the auditions and I was just like, ‘Wow, they’ve got so much potential’, and I think you do back them to a certain point. But if they don’t follow through you have to let them go.
‘‘The eliminations are really difficult and I find them emotionally draining because you’ve become attached to the girls.’’
While the eliminations have been a challenge each week, one thing the blonde beauty is far less anxious about is the live finale.
While previous live finales of the show have been plagued by controversy from former host Jodhi Meares simply not showing up, to Sarah Murdoch accidentally reading out the wrong winner’s name, Hawkins says she is prepared for whatever happens.
‘‘I can only do the best that I can do and I wouldn’t be saying yes to it if I wasn’t 100 per cent confident,’’ she says.
‘‘I think it’ll be fun. I think it would be nice to get the energy from the crowd. I’m looking forward to it.’’