Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tahnee delivers a body blow to the boganista

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”.


Julie Parker said...

No matter who would have won there would have been criticism such as yours. If Cassi had won, people would have complained it was because she was thinner and that the more 'normal' girl lost out. As it is now that Tahnee has won, it's supposedly because of the 'size zero' police as you have tweeted.

In the end though, if either girl is meant to work in the industry - they will - regardless of whether or not they have won this competition or not.

Congratulations to Tahnee. She seems like a lovely girl and obviously through a combination of both judges votes and popular votes, many others have thought so as well....more so than Cassi.

Stephanie said...

I'm devastated. Poor Cassi could have used that money to get her teeth fixed.

Sure the competition isn't a charity - but, after overwhelming industry support, I feel she was robbed of the prize.

You're right that Tahnee better suits the body image agenda. Sarah Murdoch can't be seen to be reneging on her promises to 'clean up the industry' after she was appointed to the federal government's body image advisory board.

A dissapointing result. It should never have depended on a public vote.

Trudie said...

Even though I believe the Boganista Cassi lacks the class it takes to become a model she should have been the winner last night. Not only does Tahnee have a forgettable face she doesn't have the figure to play with the big girls (pun not intended).
Like you mentioned, two of our best models failed on this types of shows so I guess in the end how much credibility can a show like ANTM have.

Sweetface McGee said...

haha, great title for this post Patty!

I think everyone in the industry would be of the opinion that whilst Tahnee is incredibly beautiful (the episode where she was styled as Elizabeth Taylor was the icing on the cake for me!), Cassi is much more 'european runway' due to her, as you said, long limbs and small boobs...

My prediction is that Tahnee will get alot of commercial/wholesome/healthy-body-image skewed work but perhaps end up like Demelza.

If Cassi had won, she may have been more likely to end as an 'Alice'... and perhaps Clare would have as well.

Just my 2 cents.. i'm certainly no expert, just a fan of the show and a fashion publicist.

And... I guess the show is called 'next top model' and not 'next top supermodel'..

Interested to see how this will pan out. But Tahnee is gorgeous, and no doubt she will achieve some fame out of this. I think she would be a fantastic tv presenter one day!

Great insightful post as always Patty!

TheLibrarian said...

Let's get this sorted out, because it's reminiscent of Whitney Thompson's win of ANTM cycle 10. Tyra was careful to call her "full figured". not plus-sized.

Has Murdoch gone on record - and others followed suit - in calling Atkinson "the first plus sized winner of ANTM"? There are plenty of other size 10s (hello Megan Gale) who are NOT actively marketed as plus-size and who would, I suspect, greatly resent such description because of the fat stigma attached to the term.

I'd tell Atkinson to head straight to NYC if her agents can't kill off the 'plus size' hype from ANTM. The Australian agencies simply don't know how to sell middling-sized girls appropriately - whereas Ford and Wilhelmina do. Hello - Crystal Renn and Kate Dillon, anyone?

Death Wears Diamond Jewellery said...

like julie said, if cassi would have won there would be just as many people crying disappointment. pitting the two girls together seems to me like an invitation to debate about the whole body-image issue. the largest contestant in the show vs. the smallest.
in all honesty, my hopes lie with claire; who had the professionalism and look to book successful gigs both in australia and internationally.

Michelle said...

Sure, anyone with a little knowledge of the fashion world would have chosen Cassie. But in the end, she was her own worst enemy. Who wants to vote for a girl whose ambition is to get married and live in Sunbury? It's likely she'd change her mind, but 'likely' isn't enough of a reason for an emotionally involved viewer to really get behind someone. There are plenty of stunning girls who had the potential for amazing modeling careers yet threw them away. No-one wants to vote for someone who has already indicated that they might.

Personally, I think Cassie's a fantastic model, and I hope she does well. I'm sure she'll end up being rep'ed by Priscilla's anyway (or another, similar agency). I think she has a more interesting look than Claire, and could go further.

It would be nice to see Cassie picked up and nurtured by an agency. If really cared for, I'm sure she'd become an incredible investment.

Modeling is a business, and reality tv is another kind of business. I hope they all make it through the latter relatively unscathed.

Sweetface McGee said...

Wow, check out Pedestrian today - Tahnee has a whole online portfolio with Scene!!

Patty Huntington said...

i'm well aware of that. the "source" to which pedestrian links today got its information from the above-linked july 2008 post on frockwriter about the girlfriend model search. i linked to the scene portfolio and also confirmed with her agent at the time, that atkinson had done work. it is possible that that is merely cached however. if you check scene's current website, there seems to be no record of atkinson.

here is the original frockwriter post in case you missed it:

Anonymous said...

Tahnee has a gorgeous and interesting face, give her a few months under contract with Priscillas and she will most likely go the way of Catherine McNeil and Abbey Lee and lose weight (under instruction from their agency) and end up with a very successful career.

Cox said...

cassie can't walk to save her life. tthat aside, the whole point of being a model is not having a 'normal' body in the first place. as much as i think a size 10 is equally as beautiful but we must be kidding ourselves when we say the industry must and will change.

Anonymous said...

Her bad attitude aside,I hope to see Cassie up on an international fashion scene one day, bogan or not she really has the ideal model look,though she needs to learn how to walk better....
Tahnee is a nice pretty average wholesome girl,she might land her self in the front cover of a men's magazine or a Ferrero Rocher chocolate ad just like Demelza Reveley (cycle 4 winner and as been..thanks to the great public vote aswell)

dnee said...

It's interesting that all the people most closely connected with the modeling industry voted for Cassie, and yet the public, chose differently.
If Tahnee's size was the main reason behind the public's vote for her, then it speaks volumes about just how dissatisfied people are with the current size status quo.

Patty Huntington said...

dnee -

perhaps. but i think some are wondering if the public did in fact push tahnee over the winning line - or if the result was rigged by the organisers to make a political statement.

melissa said...

let me just say i am so relieved.

melissa said...

Cassi want to get her fiancees bricklaying
business up and running before taking up an offer
from elite in NY!

honey make hay while the sun shines for god sake!

Anonymous said...

cassi is sigend with Elite NY now.

Anonymous said...

Cassi's 'low-class' ambitions do nothing to lower her potential to work in Europe, I think it shows her down-to-earth attitude. Hers is the only figure to really have a chance in NY or Europe anyway.
Tahnee is a pretty girl, with a great body for swimsuit/lingerie - but so is Talullah [whose face is more intense], and even she didn't nab any major shows.If the show's aim was to find the next buxom bunny for men's magazines, it shouldn't be called Australia's Next Top Model.

Riley said...

No, Cassi has not signed with Elite NY, she has instead chosen to stay in Sunbury with her boyfriend. Nice one. Entering the competition and robbing other girls of this opportunity. People can talk about her potential until they're blue in the face, but potential means nothing if it doesn't go to use.

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