So Tahnee Atkinson has won Cycle 5 of Australia’s Next Top Model. That’s the terribly pretty, buxom, ANTM contestant who was once snarkily referred to as “fat” by another – long since jettisoned - ANTM contestant. Congratulations are of course due to Atkinson. But frockwriter gets the feeling she may not be the only one a little nonplussed by the result. After all, before the final ad break, Cassi ‘boganista’ van den Dungen was ahead by four votes to three with, significantly, votes from photographer Russell James, model agent Priscilla Leighton-Clarke, designer Alex Perry and Harpers Bazaar Australia fashion director Claudia Navone – the four members of the panel most closely-connected to the fashion business. “The public got you over the line Tahnee” noted host and co-executive producer Sarah Murdoch after making the announcement. It would be interesting to see the vote tally. Because in spite of the purported surge in popularity for Atkinson, heading into the competition those involved made no secret of their aspirations for the series. UPDATE 9/7: According to Murdoch's Twitter feed Atkinson received 82.5percent of the public vote. UPDATE 11/7: However in an opinion piece in The Daily Telegraph, Murdoch claimed Atkinson received 87percent of the vote and added, "in the end I just couldn't trust that Cassi would best represent the show and what I stand for". It should be noted that the Murdoch family-controlled News Corporation owns The Daily Telegraph and has a 25percent stake in Foxtel, which owns the Australian ANTM franchise.
Murdoch sits on the federal government's newly-formed body image advisory board, which has its second meeting, coincidentally, today.
At the ANTM auditions in late 2008, Murdoch told one newspaper:
“I am really pushing for a plus-size model this series because I am a big believer in healthy body types and encouraging girls to be the right body type”.
Oh July 1, Charlotte Dawson told The Daily Telegraph:
“I’d love to see someone like Tahnee win the competition on the body image thing.... size 10 with ample bosom and sexy bottom … if she won it would be sending a nice message out there”.
And look it’s probably just mere coincidence, and not related to ANTM at all, but when one local writer heading to last night’s live broadcast Tweeted mid afternoon yesterday that she was “going to i/v a model” - as distinct from two models - you wondered if the result may have already been in the can, hours before the voting had concluded. (UPDATE 9/7: According to sources, the interview was with Cycle 4 winner Demelza Reveley).
On the show, Atkinson herself made a play for the body image vote when she noted, “I have a body that teenage girls can relate to”.
Well that’s fine, but frockwriter can’t help thinking that the only way an “average” teenage girl would be able to relate to Atkinson's impressive figure would be by way of a boob job.
Teenage girls from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds, who are in need of orthodontics and some emotional stability, on the other hand, like van den Dungen - whose freight worker mother has admitted she was so cash-strapped at one point, her family lived on a staple diet of potatoes for four months – might well better relate to the “boganista” who turned into a butterfly.
While both girls are tall, van den Dungen, unlike Atkinson, has impossibly long, gazelle-like limbs, a long torso and small breasts.
Atkinson’s figure would be better suited to swimwear or lingerie – even if a photographer who actually works for Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated, ie Russell James, did not think to give her his vote.
Already at RAFW, when van den Dungen and Clare Venema booked more shows than Atkinson, it was abundantly clear that even Australian fashion designers, who are known for casting much larger models than their European counterparts, did not think Atkinson was the right look for their shows.
Ah, the fashion industry, that cabal of fascists that is directly – and of course single-handedly - responsible for all the world’s body dismorphia, mental health and obesity issues.
For those who may be disappointed in last night’s ANTM result, it is well worth remembering that two of Australia’s most successful models – Gemma Ward and Myf Shepherd – were both rejects from Australian reality television shows. And that with, moreover, the right management and attitude, van den Dungen could go on to a successful career. It would have been nice to see her win something in her life, for a change - but ultimately she doesn’t need the ANTM crown.
But there remains one other major difference between van den Dungen and Atkinson that may have been overlooked, at least by some.
Unlike Atkinson – and indeed, Venema, who was eliminated from the Cycle 5 competition in the last week - van den Dungen was not a state finalist in the 2008 Girlfriend Model Search competition.
Although both were announced as state finalists in July last year, Atkinson and Venema mysteriously disappeared from the 2008 GMS competition after frockwriter looked into the rules of the competition and discovered that contestants who had already worked professionally, or were repped by agencies, were ineligible to enter.
After being alerted to the fact that both girls were with agencies and that according to her agency Scene, Atkinson, for one, had definitely done professional work, a Pacific Magazines representative told frockwriter that any finalists found to be in breach of the terms and conditions would be disqualified.
A number of parties appear to be asking the same question about Atkinson’s and Venema’s eligibility for ANTM – the rules of which do not, inconveniently, appear to be listed on the ANTM website.
On Monday, one website accused the ANTM producers of “hiding” Atkinson's and Venema's modelling experience.
Frockwriter spoke to Foxtel publicist Jamie Campbell yesterday to attempt to clarify the matter.
Is it against the ANTM rules for contestants to have previously been involved with a national modelling competition?
No, according to Campbell, who added that the rules only stipulate that contestants must not have modelled before. Campbell denied there was any veracity to an Adelaide Advertiser story from January 2008 which reported that Venema had been signed by IMG.
Campbell told frockwriter:
“We don’t allow girls who have been repped by another agency or who have modelled. None of girls have a current contract with any competition or modelling agency. That they’ve done some previous small time modelling isn’t an issue. Clare did not have a contract despite what was written. Tahnee did not have a contract with any agency”.