With Catherine McNeil, Abbey Lee Kershaw and Miranda Kerr among its most high-profile winners, the Girlfriend Model Search competition has more than proven itself as a new model incubator. But with a number of 2008 finalists already signed with agencies, and even some, like Tahnee Atkinson (above) already boasting professional experience - which is in breach of the competition's own rules - the question has been asked, is the competition fair?
Featured here are shots of 16 year-old Perth finalist Tahnee Atkinson.
They don't come from the Girlfriend website but in fact from the website of Scene Models, which reps Atkinson.
According to Scene Models' Perth-based general manager Anthony Harden, most of Atkinson's online portfolio shots are test shots done with various photographers.
Harden did however confirm that Atkinson has done "several professional jobs" - but declined to disclose what they were.
This DPS tear sheet looks to be one of them:
As it emerges, Atkinson is not the only 2008 finalist with an agency affiliation.
Of the 19 Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide finalists, four girls appear to already be listed with Australian agencies. The others are:
Jerrah Smith (Dally's, Brisbane)
Jessica Green (Dally’s, Brisbane)
Claire Venema (Finesse/IMG)
According to the competition's stated terms and conditions:
2.3 You cannot enter the Competition if you are currently represented by a modelling agency or have ever performed in any professional modelling capacity OR if you sign a contract with a modelling agency or start to perform in any professional modelling capacity during the Competition.
e) they are or become represented by a modelling agency or have performed in any professional modelling capacity or start to perform in any professional modelling capacity during the Competition;
i) they have, in the opinion of Pacific, engaged in conduct in entering the Competition which is fraudulent, misleading, deceptive or generally damaging to the goodwill or reputation of the Pacific;
The rules also state that you can only enter the competition once. But does this mean you can only enter once a year? Here is Jessica Green featured in a newspaper as a 2007 finalist.
With the Sydney finals of the 2008 comp taking place this coming Saturday, at Westfield Liverpool, some are feeling despondent.
Notes one vogue.com.au poster:
"i was hoping to enter in sydney but now feel like i don't have any luck with all these signed models!"
What's going on?
That's what some have been asking on forums such as vogue.com.au and reportedly, Girlfriend's own online discussion forum. Until - at least according to those who say they took part in it - the latter was mysteriously taken down.
Pacific Magazines’ youth titles division publisher Michelle Vanderburg said that although this was the first she had heard of any GMS web forum censorship, the issue of professionals slipping into the competition had been brought to her attention yesterday.
State heat judging takes place over a period of five hours and in consultation with Sydney's Chic Management, which offers a two-year exclusive contract with its own model division and also New York affiliate agency Next, to the competition winner.
Judges take the information provided by entrants in good faith, Vanderburg added.
“If there are any girls in the five state finalists who are represented, working or signed with agency, they will be disqualified” said Vanderburg. “We write the terms and conditions with our legal team, in the best interest of our readers”.
But some feel those terms and conditions aren't being terribly rigorously enforced.
And the question remains of course, how many pro models might have previously entered the competition?
“Girlfriend needs to clarify the rules a little more so that there is very clear understanding before the kids enter - that they’re not to be with agencies or not to have done any professional work” noted Scene Models' Anthony Harden - who added that Tahnee Atkinson is not currently under contract to Scene.
“That opens up a question maybe for all competitions" said Harden. "It comes down to what the magazine is looking at. Are they wanting to find a fresh face that nobody else has worked with in the past? I’m surprised that this issue is still surfacing, because obviously it’s been going for a long time”.
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