“My whole body is filled with happiness,” said Dunedin identical twin Elza at the end of the first episode of cycle two of New Zealand’s Next Top Model, and she neatly summed up both my own feelings at the return of this incredible spectacle, and (in all likelihood) the sensation felt by Elle as Chris “all hands” Sisarich gave his pretty, empty love to her. And just as Elle (hypothetically) learned the pitfalls of giving it up too swiftly, so the first episode of this new series mirrored Navjot Sidhu’s thoughts on statistics being like bikinis: what they reveal is tantalising, but what they hide is vital.
Which is by way of saying that while it’s fantastic to have the crew back on screen, I feel pretty mystified about what to make of the new batch. There are a few standouts (Dakota, Aafreen, DANIELLE, Michaela, Holly) and a lot of MOR kids who need to pick up their game – assuming they have some. But it takes a while to figure out where the gems lie, and for the most part it was the hosts who provided the most noteworthy performances.
They played to type something chronic: Colin’s zingers burned brighter than ever (the first, regarding their coastal heel-stroll – “don’t worry if you fall over, it’ll be better than your walk” felt like home, ‘Like a Prayer’-style); Tetro’s emotional void was a bottomless chasm and Sisarich was the same banal lech we yawned through last season – only more so. But we have a fresh crop, and even with definitive statements a few episodes away they must be powerfully ranked. So that’s what I’ll do…
From the moment she breezed onto our screens Dakota (“It’s like living in a fairytale”) looked like a contender. Couple that to a backstory that made Teryl-Leigh look like Christobelle and you have a formidable competitor in the making. You got the sense that the stylists knew which way the wind was blowing with the ‘old Hollywood’ (bo-oring) shoot, and she looked like a million bucks whereas Daisy’s shot had a pile of rubbish in the background (seriously). But she really nailed it, and couple that to her tearful confession that she was “actually considering adult entertainment and stuff” – which silenced the room full of semi-drunk girls I watched it with – and Dakota is in the box seat right now. The first round might be meaningless, but it’s still the best in the house.
She didn’t quite have me at hello like Dakota, but the South African emigre has this quiet force to her look which reminded our whole room of Rihanna, and her photo was outrageously good. “Those eyes are very beautiful,” sez Sisarich, which is both true and UTTERLY MEANINGLESS. I would buy stock in this woman, she has a steeliness about her that has late-rounds written all over it.
For most of the show I had her in pole. So to speak. She just had a poise, and delicacy to her features, and flawless skin, and a way of penetrating the camera, and that delightfully enunciated Indian accent (the kind with heavy old colonial consonants) – she seemed to speak to a desire for this country to embrace a citizen that broke from the Pakeha/Maori/Pacific Island oliglopoly. Then she started crying for no good reason, looked giddily flustered (versus last season’s winner Chrsitobelle’s icy calm) when selected, and had truly awful hair for the shoot (dried in the wind, by the looks of things, said my flatmate), and a centre part which reminded me of my own circa 1994. Which dropped her a couple of places. That being said, she seems smart (not book-smart though – “I’ve got to be my bestest now.” on Tetro – “she’s an amazing person she’s so beautiful”), and Colin dropped the best line of the night (“she’s the hottest curry in the land” – you can get away with that when you’re beautiful and part Indian) on her fine-boned shoulders. So she’ll run a long way.
The first ‘white’ on the rankings has a big time Kirsten Dunst vibe. Her eyes aren’t quite as blissfully sleepy, but the hair and the cheeks… Anyway, that meant the shoot (which was pretty much diabolical – obviously shooting 21 girls in one day is tough, but there was a lot of awful work on display) played directly to her strengths. I still feel like she’s going deep, regardless. Plus big time points for her casually delivered repetition of the “I don’t look like I’ve got a carrot up my bum” burn. Well played.
At first glance she seemed cute, but just middle-of-the-pack, fun-to-have-around cute, not Ruby-you-are-melting-my-eyes cute. But she got a lucky break with the shoot, and played that coquettish ’30s thing very well, and she looks like she has a versatility which will be extremely important over the coming weeks.
This is the point when they start to blend into one another. The nature of reality television is that on the first ep they have to select a few gals who give good lines early on and follow them. You can’t tell 14 stories in the first episode, and you have to tell at least one which doesn’t make it (Elle’s “Chris is so hot. He gives me butterflies.” got her screentime and a few more shots than normal, but they cut her cold even though she was easily top ten). Eva was fine, her photo was pretty neat, and she’ll shuffle in the mid pack for a few weeks.
7. (tie) Nellie & Elza
Amongst a bumper crop of solid-as model names (Aafreen, Michaela, Elle, Daisy) the twins had a ‘nice pair’ as they say in lad’s mags. But they also had some real TV magnetism – long, striking hair, a (possibly scripted, but I’ll allow it for now) habit of speaking in unison and faces which, while not hurricane-force amazing, had structure and magnetism together. Particularly when placed side-by-side. Much of a gimmick as that might be, it also keeps them on the show for a good while. Plus they have a good few golden gumby lines: “she’s clumsy like me”; “our challenge is quite nervous”. Their photos were whatever; Elza had a huge fail at a Clara Bow, and Nellie’s hair just fell about like an old Remuera mansion in a protracted estate dispute.
So somehow I missed Danielle’s confession that her “greatest achievement is that [she’s] not pregnant or in jail” which had been spinning on the ads. I’m glad I did, because it nearly knocked me out of my seat. And while the rest of her screen time didn’t quite live up to that glorious aside (though her confession to never having walked in heels was pretty gangzz too) she retained a terrfiying edginess when on-screen. You just expect her to explode at any point in time, and with her two-packs-a-day-since-14 voice I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more from her, even if her face/shots don’t quite measure up to the myth. (Also LOVED the ‘fresh as’ call from one of the judges.)
The light shone early on Holly, but then faded to the point where they pretended to extinguish it altogether. She’s transparently being set up as Hosanna: Part II, but I’m not biting just yet. For one, she has a vaguely Jerry Hall/Blake Lively quality which gives her a jump on Hosanna’s Rip Curl-ad vibe in the early eps. To survive the full-blown Body Shots* image they got of her, along with the needlessly mean ‘you’re dead… PSYCH’ revival means that she’s got some stones on her. Plus this girl I know says she didn’t go to daycare with her kid for ages, so she probably survives a good while. [I don’t actually want spoilers if ‘connected’ people know, FYI]
First impressions count, but not for all that much. She strolled that smokin’ bod into the studio and was second only to Lower Hutt’s finest Sophie (who I am certain will be back in future cycles, and should never have missed out) in the wow-in-a-bikini comp. And that line “I love my body. I love showing it off” was almost Monroe-esque in this context. But then she got saddled with that nightmareish tiger-pattern Den-suit, and the photographer caught her at her most trannie-ish (totally unfair, because her moving image is great) and suddenly she dropped like a stone. All this being said, I see precipitous rising for this one. She’ll hit it out of the park on one commercial-as shoot, no doubt.
We’re getting pretty sketchy here. I remember thinking that Lauren had something, and wasn’t disastrous, but really didn’t blow me away either. Not even being able to picture a model, with skimpy notes (to wit: “Lauren Ok-ish 5.5”) doesn’t suggest stardom for me. But then last year we had those Lucy types who kinda coasted through by never sticking their head up too high, when the Ajohs of this world flew too close to the sun. So who the hell knows? It’s episode one, people! Which is AWESOME.
She shouldn’t really be here. Strolling out with terrible posture then not even lasting a sentence before bursting into tears? What would Helen Reddy** say? Actually despite looking kinda pubescent and awkward on the moving image she pulled out a semi-OK shot, and could yet surprise us. But something tells me the house will eat her alive when it turns feral. Something else tells me I may have this name, and maybe more wrong, but there was a lot to take on, you know?
Someone has to come last. This time it’s Amelia, who just seems a perfect storm of old (in model years near-obsolete), unconfident, broad and slightly malproportioned. She’s still very pretty – this is NZNTM we’re talking about – but I just can’t see that point of difference, split ethnicity aside, emerging with this one.
PS – My fave ‘model’ to miss out, if anyone’s interested, was Sunny. Dreads, stonerbuzz, cute as face… I could’ve watched her on screen for sure. RIP.
PPS – Didn’t have time to get many super-amateur cam-phone stills, but am quite fond of this frozen (inadvertently by my long-suffering wife Niki) moment with Danielle:
Models are AWESOME!!!
See you next week, I’m off to Tonga!
* when my mate Richard had his last day in NZ before moving to London we got real drunk the night before, then real hungover the day after. I said we were going to McDonalds for Breakfast but actually I’d arranged for this photographer to take Body Shots-style tasteful near-nudes of him done the next day. Moral – don’t be friends with me. It’s shit.
** Sorta joking on this, rubbish song, probably well-intentioned, but y’know…