Re­portage

Twelve hope­ful girls are learn­ing how to pose, pout and strut their stuff on the run­way for to­mor­row’s fi­nal of the Elite Model Look 2013 UAE and Qatar com­pe­ti­tion, where one will be cho­sen to rep­re­sent the Mid­dle East at the world fi­nals in China. Tessy

Friday - - Contents -

Preen. Pout. Pose! Back­stage at ‘boot camp beau­ti­ful’ where 12 young hope­fuls are vy­ing to be­come Elite’s next top model.

Priya D’Silva sits in a swivel chair be­fore a make-up mir­ror with her face frozen. Her eyes are low­ered, and there’s no ex­pres­sion ex­cept for the faintest smile. She has been warned not to move a mus­cle and the 21-year-old In­dian law stu­dent obliges. She’s not the vic­tim of Bo­tox – she is wait­ing for a thin strip of glue spread around her false eye­lashes to dry. Fi­nally set, her lips are painted a bright red, and Priya has what make-up artists term the iconic Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe look.

She’s not alone. There are 11 other Mar­i­lyn clones parad­ing in high heels vy­ing for a slice of su­per­model life on day three of a five-day boot camp at the first Elite Model Look 2013, UAE and Qatar. Se­lected from hun­dreds of hope­fuls in four rounds of na­tion­wide au­di­tions that be­gan ear­lier this year, these 12 con­tes­tants are be­ing groomed to strike per­fect poses in front of the cam­era, walk el­e­gantly on the ramp in ver­tig­i­nous heels and along the way dis­cover the ar­du­ous back­stage life of a model.

“We are not only look­ing for a beau­ti­ful face but also some­one who is dis­ci­plined and a team player,” says Adri­ana Us­vat, man­ag­ing part­ner of FLC Mod­els, co-or­gan­iser of the hunt. “The boot camp will give us an op­por­tu­nity to ob­serve each girl and see who can make it as a model.”

The boot camp kicked off with fit­tings for evening gowns at Si Fash­ion Ga­lerie, Jumeirah, fol­lowed by a makeover at the Elite Beauty Stu­dio. The camp sched­ule in­volves sev­eral photo shoots in­clud­ing one dur­ing a city tour of Dubai as well as on a beach; fit­ness tips from ex­perts, and a spa ses­sion and ramp walk lessons by model coach and chore­og­ra­pher Mar­keta Halamek. All the boot camp train­ing will come down to select­ing one lucky young woman at a fash­ion show to­mor­row, Septem­ber 14, at The Oberoi Ho­tel, Dubai. The win­ner will rep­re­sent the Mid­dle East at theWorld fi­nals of Elite Model Look In­ter­na­tional to be held in Novem­ber in China.

So far the wannabe mod­els have spent two days hav­ing the fit­tings, makeover and photo ses­sions at the chic Light House Stu­dio in Al Quoz, the dusty ware­house jun­gle of Dubai.

It’s now past noon and as soon as the make-up is done, the girls move to hair, where stylists Donnabel and Joan use an as­sort­ment of hair clips, vol­umes of hair spray and deft fin­gers to give the girls what they de­scribe as the lat­est trend in hair­dos – the side up.

“It gets tricky if the girl has thick hair or if it’s too silky,” says The Elite Beauty Stu­dio’s Donnabel, while braid­ing Natalia Siam’s vo­lu­mi­nous blonde hair. Natalia sti­fles a gig­gle as she re­alises that her thick hair is the chal­lenge that Donnabel is re­fer­ring to. All of 14, Natalia from Aus­tralia is trans­formed

in min­utes into a fash­ion diva with her new side-up hair. “I love it,’’ she says, swing­ing her head to ad­mire her hair be­fore the mir­ror. “I en­joy be­ing in front of the cam­era and want to be a model. This con­test has been a great op­por­tu­nity for me. It has taught me how to walk, pose in front of the cam­era and be in shape. It’s been amaz­ing.”

Ready, she trots off for her photo ses­sion – today the girls are to be shot in abayas and evening gowns.

“I’ve al­ways been in ca­sual, sporty clothes and sneak­ers so wear­ing long evening gowns while bal­anc­ing in high heels was a chal­lenge,” con­fides Natalia. “But I am learn­ing. I’m look­ing for­ward to the fi­nal.”

A ca­reer full of chal­lenges

There will be four cat­walk rounds at the fi­nale. “They will first come in the Elite T-shirts, then in ca­sual out­fits fol­lowed by abayas spe­cially cre­ated by de­signer Lamya Abe­din and fi­nally in evening gowns,” Adri­ana ex­plains.

“A ca­reer in mod­el­ling is full of chal­lenges – you could have late nights and then be ex­pected to get up early for photo shoots that can go on all day; you’ve got to take care of your skin and be fit, it’s hard work but a lot of fun as well.”

The girls are be­ing filmed at ev­ery stage of the boot camp – the footage will be flashed be­hind each con­tes­tant at the fi­nal. “As each girl comes on the cat­walk a screen will show­case her pho­to­graphic jour­ney from the cast­ings through the boot camp,” Adri­ana says. “The goal is to show their trans­for­ma­tion through the event, how each girl has im­proved and fit­ted into the role of a su­per­model.”

In stu­dio B, Le­banese school­girl Lia Saad, 17, from Abu Dhabi pre­pares to strike a pose, dressed in a pretty flow­ing abaya that has a panel of grey frills in the front. Be­fore the shoot starts, she pauses for a few sec­onds, then looks into the cam­era with a new con­fi­dence.

“Is this fine?” she asks Adel Rashid, the Light House Stu­dio pho­tog­ra­pher

“Yes, and now give us a cover girl look,” he shouts from be­hind his tri­pod. She places her hands on her hips, thumbs point­ing back, thrusts one leg for­ward and with a prac­tised pout looks straight into the cam­era like she has been shoot­ing magazine cov­ers all her life. Adel clicks away be­fore giv­ing her a ‘brava!’.

Slip­ping out of the abaya, Lia poses for close-up shots in her black Elite T-shirt. In her jeans and chew­ing gum she in­stantly be­comes a teenager again.

Aged be­tween 14 and 22, most fi­nal­ists are not new to the world of fash­ion and photo shoots. Lia has been mod­el­ling for a cou­ple of years and al­ready has shoots for big names such as Chanel and Pizza Hut in her port­fo­lio. “En­ter­ing this con­test will give me more ex­pe­ri­ence,” she says.

For a shot at the glam­orous life many have put stud­ies and even ca­reers on hold. While 18-year-old Is­abella Hay­cock from Qatar has

taken a gap year af­ter high school, 22-year-old Dubai res­i­dent Ni­cole Martin quit her job at a top air­line to con­cen­trate on mod­el­ling.

“I have al­ready wasted years and I can al­ways go back to my job,” she says. Ni­cole re­signed af­ter she was se­lected in the cast­ings held in Dubai in April but is not op­ti­mistic about mak­ing it. “I know I am not go­ing to win this,” she says in a mat­ter-of-fact man­ner, “I am way too old. It’s the 14 and 16-year-olds who will make it. I am here for the ex­po­sure it will hope­fully get me.”

Al­though it’s 1.20pm, none of the girls seems hun­gry. While a few are busy shoot­ing or get­ting their face and hair re­done, some are pre­par­ing for a fit­ting for evening gowns by Taran­num Khanzada from Si Fash­ion Ga­lerie in an ad­join­ing dress­ing room. The make-up style is chang­ing. The black eye­liner has given way to smoky eyes. The braided hair­dos are un­done for stylish evening waves.

Sport­ing 4-inch-plus heels, sud­denly all the girls ap­pear to be tow­er­ing over the make-up crew. At 183cm, Mehrubon Oeva, a 20-year-old as­pir­ing model from Ta­jak­istan, is the tallest con­tes­tant. She set­tles on the black sofa for a change of make-up with artist Naima Ben­nani from Kry­olan Gulf.

“Most gowns were short for me, ex­cept this one,” says Mehrubon, flap­ping the long black gown, and promptly gets a scold­ing from Naima for smear­ing her eye­shadow. Mehrubon air blows a kiss to soothe Naima and goes on to re­count how she had made it to the cast­ings at the last minute.

“It was a lazy Fri­day and I got an SMS late af­ter­noon from a friend about the cast­ings in Fes­ti­val Cen­tre in Dubai. I made it just in time and was se­lected for this round. Apart from mak­ing it here, I also made a friend for a life­time in that queue,” she smiles, point­ing at fel­low con­tes­tant Anita Nay­yar. A stu­dent of Mawakeb School, Dubai, 16-year-old Anita has been mod­el­ling for her mother’s fash­ion store since the age of six.

The leggy beauties are now good friends as teenager Anita shares her years of ex­pe­ri­ence with Mehrubon, a rel­a­tive new­comer to the world of fash­ion. This friend­ship comes as a wel­come sur­prise in the oth­er­wise com­pet­i­tive world of cat­walk queens.

“I don’t see the other girls as com­pe­ti­tion be­cause I know my strengths,” says Anita with a shrug.

Watch and learn

At 3pm it is still chaotic in­side Stu­dio B – the photo shoots in the gowns have fi­nally be­gun. Even though the girls have been stand­ing all day in high heels, pos­ing and smil­ing for hours un­der the harsh lights, no­body seems tired. For Lia it’s her third change of hair­style. “Of course, I have no com­plaints,’’ she says. “Any­one would kill to be in my shoes.”

Ni­cole and Priya hud­dle in a cor­ner to grab a quick lunch of salad and grilled chicken when Adel shouts, “Girls, watch this.” A pro at photo shoots, Anita’s ease in front of the cam­era im­presses Adel and he wants the other girls to take some tips from the way she’s pos­ing. Pout­ing and show­ing off her pur­ple bur­gundy be­jew­elled evening gown, it’s clear she’s done this count­less times be­fore.

Cheer­ing her on is the vis­i­bly preg­nant model coach Mar­keta. With 15 years of ex­pe­ri­ence as a model and chore­og­ra­pher Mar­keta’s job is to teach the girls to pose and walk. “No­body likes a stone beauty, you have to ex­press your­self in front of the cam­era,” she says. In sec­onds she twists her fa­cial mus­cles to pull off the baby face look, the an­gry look, the cover girl look and the wild li­on­ess look. The girls watch and learn.

Then Mar­keta is show­ing them how to strut the run­way in a va­ri­ety of styles, the fast street walk to show off ca­sual clothes, and the Ver­sace walk, a slow grace­ful walk more suited for gowns. “Mod­el­ling is a lot of hard work,” she says, in­struct­ing them to prac­tise again and

‘No­body likes a stone beauty, you have to ex­press your­self in front of the cam­era… Mod­el­ling is a lot of hard­work’

again. By 4pm, some of the girls are ex­hausted but their smiles are plas­tered on their faces. In a cor­ner, Ewa Se­pi­olo bor­rows a pen and does her French home­work. Amanda Berthomier, who was late be­cause she couldn’t miss school, says that stud­ies are im­por­tant. “You have to have a plan B if mod­el­ling doesn’t work out,’’ she says.

At 5pm it’s time for a group photo. The girls gather in front of Adel’s cam­era. One look at the beauties in be­jew­elled silk gowns and coiffed hair and it’s hard to imagine most of them are still in school. They look ready to step out at a red car­pet event – and the next one will de­ter­mine their fu­tures.

Only one will suc­ceed but right now they all think they could be the UAE’s next top model.

p.24 Noth­ing is left to chance for the mod­els, as ev­ery strand of hair is placed per­fectly

Law stu­dent Priya, left, could have been in a sticky sit­u­a­tion… Lia, this pic­ture, Anita, right, and Is­abella, far right, learn the tricks of the mod­el­ling trade Lia, above, has been mod­el­ling for a cou­ple of years but has found new con­fi­dence at the boot camp. Natalia, above right, has beau­ti­ful thick hair, which posed a chal­lenge to the stylist

Mehrubon, left, and Anita met in the queue at the cast­ings. Theirs is a wel­come friend­ship in a com­pet­i­tive busi­ness

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