Friday, July 16, 2010

Australia's next top Photoshop job?

foxtel via sassi sam

As frockwriter’s Twitter flock may have spotted, last night we headed to the Australia’s Next Top Model Cycle 6 launch at the heritage-listed Inglis Stables in Randwick. The season begins on Tuesday 20th July at 7.30pm on Fox 8. Although we weren't exactly invited (we tagged along with a friend), co-hosts Alex Perry and Charlotte Dawson don't appear to hold a grudge over this blog's coverage of last year's Cassi van den Dungen fracas - which was ignited by incendiary Facebook comments made by Perry and Dawson and resulted in quite some publicity, not to mention the threat of a defamation suit against Foxtel by van den Dungen’s agent. The duo ran over to crash one model shot we were setting up, mugging for frockwriter's camera, with Dawson noting, “We thought you’d like to include us as well!”.

Presumably everyone at the launch connected to the show already knew the names of the final two, but was contractually obliged not to talk. According to Perry, the entire series, save for the live finale, is already in the can.

We did make some discreet enquiries and our money is on Amanda Ware (below) for at the very least a spot in the final three.

Best of luck to all the contestants. Win or lose, just being on the show is great exposure in itself. And remember, an ANTM rejection can in fact be a great career move. Here are some shots (below) of the runway show, staged to, amusingly, Jaydee's 1992 house classic Plastic Dreams.

With the tabloids looking for news angles beyond the runway, two controversies have already erupted: that over Facebook comments and a sexy Ralph shoot by Gold Coast meter maid Kimberly Thrupp – and claims that Ashlea Monigatti was told she was too big for the runway.

Host Sarah Murdoch has been at pains to point out the latter story was a beatup.

She told the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday:

"I was involved with the government last year on (a national strategy on body image) and at the time I thought it could seem like a contradiction to be hosting a modelling competition show, but I thought maybe it was a good way to send out some positive messages. For me, it was the journalist sending dangerous messages because (Ashlea’s weight) was never once mentioned in the show, and I find it really upsetting that it’s the same old argument every time and no one’s taking any notice of the fact that we’re not even talking about that."

Just on Murdoch, last night was the first time in over a year that many had seen her in person. She looked beautiful, in a yellow, Fifties-look Alex Perry sundress.

Solely for the purposes of a discussion about body image and the portrayal of women in the Australian media - because otherwise, it would be irrelevant - it should be noted that Murdoch also appeared to be discernibly heavier than when she appeared on the Cycle 5 show last year. Considering that she gave birth to her third child Aerin in mid April, of course this is hardly surprising. Some might well argue that she was on the very slim side before her pregnancy, so this could be seen as a return to a far more "average" Australian dress size.

What does come as a surprise, however, is when you compare images of Murdoch from last night to the promo image that is being used by Foxtel for this series (above), the top part of which is prominently displayed on the ANTM website.

Compare the Getty red carpet arrivals image below from last night - in which Murdoch is posed in more or less exactly the same pose as the promo shot and in a very similarly-constructed dress with a corset bodice - and a screen grab from the website.

Murdoch’s arms in the promo shot appear finer than her arms in real life. Her waist, moreover, according to frockwriter's measurements, is a full three millimetres smaller. We double-checked this using images of exactly the same size and there was definitely a difference. You could argue other parts of her image have also been retouched.

When was the promo image taken?

According to a Foxtel spokeswoman, with whom frockwriter spoke this afternoon, either at the end of May or early June, she could not recall the exact date. But most definitely this year - and not before Murdoch's pregnancy.

Are the ANTM promo images retouched? Yes they are. According to the spokeswoman, "All our images are retouched". Frockwriter is waiting to hear back on just which precisely parts of Murdoch's image were doctored (even if it seems fairly obvious).

Media outlets like Foxtel retouch images all the time of course. What's interesting here is the fact that Murdoch has taken such a stand on the body image debate in Australia, sitting on the federal government’s National Body Image Advisory Board and consulting on the government's Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image that was released earlier this month.

One of the key points of the code concerns the fashion media, which is urged to (among other things):

- disclose when images have been retouched and refrain from enhancing photographs in a way that changes a person's body shape, for example, lengthening their legs or trimming their waist, or removing freckles, lines and other distinguishing marks.

- disclose images that have been retouched.

There is no disclosure on the Foxtel website that its ANTM images are retouched.

Murdoch is not only the host of the show, she is billed as its executive producer. If indeed the image was heavily retouched, how exactly would that send "positive messages" about body image, when she's considered "too fat" to appear on the ANTM website as is?

More than one party has called Murdoch out over a conflict of interest in even just sitting on the government’s Body Image Advisory Board while anchoring a reality tv show in which women compete against each other based on suitability for an industry which idolizes size 0.

So far noone appears to have mentioned that the Body Image Advisory Board is not the only board with which Murdoch is involved. Murdoch also sits on the board of the Australian Ballet. Last year, she even took a couple of ANTM contestants to the ballet as a special treat.

It’s worth noting that before she went on to modelling success, Murdoch studied ballet, a field governed by an aesthetic code arguably far more draconian than that which dictates the morphologies of runway models. She gave it up because she grew too tall to be a ballerina. It's an arena from which other ballerinas have been banished for being "too fat".

Murdoch told the SMH in 2006:
“If you have one minor thing against you, it could stop your career" .
Like many little girls, Murdoch took up ballet from a young age – by at least seven, reportedly. Unlike most girls who take up ballet, however, she was extremely competitive at it, entering her first eisteddford at the age of 12. From years 9-12 she boarded at McDonald College, a performing arts school in Strathfield. After academic studies all day, she danced every night, "often until 9 or 10" she told the SMH.

The Australian government's Voluntary Industry Code on Body Image makes zero mention of the worlds of ballet and sport - or the impacts that arguably the far more widely circulated images of superfit elite athletes could have on ordinary consumers.

And yet research indicates that eating disorders are rife in both ballet and sport. A study from the University of Minnesota, moreover, indicates that regardless of whether or not they pursue professional dancing careers, those who dance as children are at a far greater risk of suffering eating disorders such as anorexia once they become adults.


Anonymous said...

Patti - the photo is heavily retouched, as you say, but it's not just that - I'm also wondering why anyone who is an advisor on Body Image would wear a dress like the low cut one, with boobs pushed up.
Wondering if she actually has a real tattoo on her right upper arm & lastly - why no wedding ring on?

SachaStrebe said...

My money's on Amanda too, she is so divine...and was the star of the line up at the Sydney launch... perfectly proportioned and the ideal height too, Alex would approve... she's a smart cookie too...

Laura said...

I can't believe that all of the girls are white. Not only is that a total PC faux pas, but they all look the same.

Anonymous said...

Excellent writing. Bravo.

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