Wednesday, March 01, 2006

America's Next Top Model (Cycle 6) - HYPE: Online Press Conference Edition, Part 1

First in a three-part series

The press conference went down last night, and while there weren't any startlingly ground-breaking revelations -- besides the possibility of future DVD releases, and ANTM producer Ken Mok speculating on the Granola Thief's identity. There were also some technical issues, unsurprisingly, considering the newness of the enterprise. (And at this moment, I'd like mention that two hoes called in twice. I had the urge to call in a second time as well and give them a stern talking to.) Still, the conference had some news items, inter-Canadian one-upmanship, where ANTM fits into the fashion industry, a little bit of dish, and even a few informative details about how the show's narrative is created (i.e. the area of my academic interest).

In this installment, I'll cover news, Canada, and the fashion industry.

Looking over my notes, "news" was actually quite sparse. The most notable item was the response to Rich (of the much-funnier Four Four blog), who asked about DVDs for the other seasons. Ken Mok took the question -- while he was "hopeful," he revealed that sales for the season 1 DVD were disappointing to parent company Viacom's standards. Mok then reminded everyone of the ANTM marathons on VH1.

As for the ever-popular internet query "where are they now," Ken said that there wasn't an official site tracking the careers of former contestants, but that among the unofficial sites, my-arch-nemesis-whose-name-I-refuse-to-mention is the most comprehensive, and furthermore, Ken even hired as ANTM staff writers some of the people who write the recaps on this smug and solipsistic site.

Oh, Canada!
One caller identified herself as Canada's Biggest Top Model Fan, and soon after another Canadienne said she was Canada's Biggest Top Model Fan. The two ladies came to blows and had to be separated by security, which included an out-of-work Nolé Marin.

Top Model and the Biz
A fair number of questions were asked about industry trends and the position of the show therein, implicitly revolving around issues raised by the NY Times article that appeared last November. This article questioned the show's effectiveness in establishing its contestants as big-time models for a variety of reasons, the foremost disadvantage the Top Model contestants suffer from is age.

The article says that real top models are scouted when they're in their mid- and even early-teens, while the contestant on ANTM have to be at least 18. Jay said that he doesn't buy into the notion of "the age thing," and Nigel backed him up by saying that age -- not to mention height and weight -- is not a primary factor in the girls on the show. Rather, he looks for someone who can "break the mold" and buck industry conventions like Kate Moss did. (Either Jay or Nigel said that when Moss first started out, her critics said that she was too short and too thin.)

All three of the panelists (Jay, Nigel, and Ken) also asserted their continued support of plus-size girls. One caller pointed out that there didn't seem to be a plus-size contestant this cycle, to which Jay reiterated that they're not looking for a specific size of girl. Nigel added that there simply weren't as many plus-size girls who made it to the casting calls -- if more of them did show up for casting, more of them would get through, and Ken said that he's told the casting directors to look for plus-size girls.

(The most interesting point that came out of the plus-size discussion was the odds of winning the competition. Nigel said that anywhere from the last 5-7 finalists have an equal shot of winning, plus-size or not. In other words, if a girl makes it past the halfway point, then she's in good shape. (More cynical observers of the show would dispute those odds, claiming that they can spot the two of the top three finalists from the first episode, even though it's much harder to pick them out as the cycle progresses, as I've found out from my Power Rankings.))

The panelists did engage more directly the charge that ANTM doesn't really help girls who hope to become successful models. An ANTM alumna might seem to have fallen off the radar, which Jay said is mere perception. It takes 3-4 months before the results of a photoshoot are seen by the public, for instance, and that a girl might be working busily in another country so that it only seems like she's not getting any work. In fact, said Ken, the show has helped quite a number of its contestants -- not just its winners -- find "strong working careers" (tonight's episode of "Where the Girls Are" supported this assertion).

Even the first Top Model Adrianne Curry wouldn't have achieved her moderate level of notoriety if not success, Ken said when Adrianne came up. A caller asked about Adrianne's anti-Tyra remarks, and Ken immediately jumped on the question in a fairly obvious damage-control effort. First, he conceded the first Top Model would have had a more difficult time finding work than subsequent winners because in its first season ANTM lacked the brand identity that could ensure its winner amazing price packages. Nevertheless, Ken said that everybody bent over backwards to help Adrianne and (in a response to a different question) that a girl had to work for her work, that she couldn't sit around and expect it to come to her.

Coming next: Dish!

Indie rating: Portishead - "All Mine"

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