It’s all happening. The New Zealand’s Next Top Model machine is in full motion rolling from town to town in search of contestants to compete in the reality TV show.
I gave judge Colin Mathura-Jeffree a call to see how the auditions are going so far. A little background on Mathura-Jeffree: the first time I ever met the sometimes model/sometimes Bollywood star was at a charity show held in Auckland four of five years ago. I was working for Little Brother at the time and had the distinct pleasure of dressing him for the show. The brief for the Little Brother models was simple – walk strong, walk tall, walk serious. But this was no ordinary catwalk. Interspersed along the runway were thin support columns. Poles if you will. Walking down the runway the grin never left Mathura-Jeffrees’ face, and when he paused at the end to pose, he grabbed the nearest pole and danced. Yes, pole danced. The crowd went wild.
I reminded him of this while on the phone today. His reply? “I remember that, twirling around the pole, and I remember getting the biggest applause!”
What have the girls been like so far?
They’ve been fantastic I’ve loved it. Each area has had a different type of girl, whether it’s been very fashion forward, good teeth, green eyes today, it’s been amazing.
How many areas have you hit so far?
Four towns, they’ve been fantastic. Turn out’s been great, obviously I could always ask for more more more, but I’ve been really happy with the turn out. Lots of people are really enthusiastic to be there, obviously you get the models sprinkled in, pushed in by other people that have the realisation that their friend or their sister can be a model, then you have the ones who aren’t (laughs)!
Are you finding it difficult to let them down gently, the ones who you think are not up to the standard?
No, the best way in this industry is to be straight forward. But we’ve been offering advice as well. Some people have other directions, like ‘I wanna be a singer’, or ‘I wannna work in advertising’, or ‘I wanna work in movies’, and they’re lookng at this as a way in. There’ve been a few who absolutely live the dream of wanting to be a model and they’re a farm girl, a cow milker.
Have you had any incidents like in American Idol, with shocking auditions?
There’ve been a few comical things that have happened, obviously we highly respect the people who come forward and we value their time, but there have been some hilarious moments. Mispronounced names of designers and models, ‘Treelis Cooper‘, and ‘Gazalee is my favourite model‘.
So do you have a set of questions you ask them all?
We question them about them. We just chat to them about themselves, it’s not about them reflecting on what they’d assume we want, we have to know who they are as a person.
So you’re looking for personality as well as looks?
Personality is a very strong aspect of being a model.
Have their been any girls that Andi (Andrea Plowright, head booker at 62 Models) as a booker has looked at and thought ‘damn I would sign that girl straight away’?
I think that all of us collectively have looked at that girl that way and thought ‘yes yes yes’, or ‘she has no idea of her potential’. And sometimes we have to really shake them up with that realisation – ‘oh my god she doesn’t actually realise that she’s beautiful’. It’s just so interesting, it’s quite psychological.
Between the judges, who’s the good cop and who’s the bad cop?
Well Chris [Sisarich, photographer/model] is very diplomatic, I think Andi and I toss between bad and badder, bad cop and terrorist (laughs)! No, it’s good, it’s good. And you know it’s been such a wonderful experience, and I absolutely love the South Island, I want to bring a bunch of friends down there and invade.
You should settle down there!
Well I wouldn’t settle here, but I’d leave bits and pieces (laughs).
What are the prizes for the girl who wins?
Everyone’s asking what are the prizes for the girl that wins, but the most important prize that we could ever offer anyone is an established modelling career, not only locally but internationally, and I actually get the idea that we’re going to get that. We’re going to get a Kiwi girl who’s going to kick ass internationally.
Cool, that’d be good to see!
You can quote me on that Isaac.
I’m going to quote you on all of this Colin.
Is there a round two of auditions?
Yes there will be a round two. We’re going to go over the tapes. There’s a procedure in place, TV3 arranged all of that, it’s very well put together, we’re in good hands…strong hands.
How many are you shortlisting in this process right now?
I’m not sure of the numbers at all at the moment, we’re just going through and grabbing the potential diamonds in the rough.
You know that New Zealanders are known to not be the most confident people on earth, do you think that’s discouraging some girls who could potentially be next top models to come out and audition?
Oh of course, we know that, it’s unfortunate if the right people aren’t around them to say ‘absolutely you can do this’, a lot of great girls came in saying ‘my friends forced me to do this’.
Do you find in New Zealand as well that there are people who are hugely confident who shouldn’t necessarily be so confident?
No no no. People should be confident. Confidence goes a long way. If you don’t ask, you’re last. And that’s it. If people can’t handle that, that’s their issue and not yours. We’ve been reminding a few models that they must stand up and be noticed and put their hands up if they want things. I find that incredibly boring when people are so intimidated by confident people, then there’s a whole lot of back biting and you confront them and they wet themselves. Which I kind of like.