Models can be discovered in the most mundane places. Take supermodel Claudia Schiffer. At 17, she was dancing the night away at a disco in her hometown of Dusseldorf, Germany, when she was spotted by an agent. Elle 'The Body' MacPherson's girl-next-door looks impressed a talent scout on the ski slopes of Aspen, Colorado, while a 14-year-old Kate Moss was discovered as she was boarding a plane in New York with her father. However, Linda 'I won't get out of bed for less than US$10,000 a day' Evangelista took a more predictable route, voluntarily entering the Miss Teen Niagara contest when she was 15.
Despite the bitching and backbiting associated with the industry, there are millions of girls the world over who dream of being plucked from obscurity and transformed into the next 'It' model. And that's where supermodel Tyra Banks enters the picture. America's Next Top Model (Sundays on TVB Pearl at 8.30pm), which is in its fourth season in Hong Kong, is a Big Brother-type show that pits 14 late teen and twentysomething aspiring models against each other as they vie for a raft of prizes: representation with Ford Models, a fashion shoot with Elle magazine and a US$100,000 contract
with Cover Girl cosmetics.
The judges include the hilarious, self-proclaimed world's first supermodel Janice Dickinson, British photographer Nigel Barker, 'noted' fashion stylist Nole Marin and an industry-expert guest, who changes every week. The series is hosted by Banks, who attempts to steer her girls in the right direction and teach them everything there is to know about the cut-throat world of modelling. While her heart's in the right place, what she doesn't bank on is the drama-queen behaviour each girl displays every week. But what can you expect from 14 young women sharing a loft in Los Angeles?
This week's episode sees Michelle finally recovering from a bout of impetigo, a contagious skin infection that had the rest of the house in embarrassing hysterics the week before. And we discover that Brittney loves a drink or three, and fails to impress her housemates with her antics while under the influence: mooning passing cars from the back of their van on the way home after a big night out. Charming, but at least she wasn't trying to drive at the same time.
From glitzy LA, we head to kitschy Las Vegas, where a different reality TV competition is taking place in the form of Race to the Altar (beginning Saturday on ATV at 8pm). It's amazing what eight engaged couples (bottom) will do for a free wedding, especially since enlightened parents these days don't cough up the goods for their offspring (as opposed to the days of yore, when the bride's father would pay for the wedding and the groom's father would pay for the booze). That incentive means there's more bitching and scheming going on in Race to the Altar than - incredibly - America's Next Top Model.
Each week, couples compete in a physical challenge and a relationship game. If they win either of these challenges, they become a 'power couple' and are responsible for the 'guest list' at the end of the show. However, one couple must be eliminated every week.
The physical challenges are interesting, but if the relationship game is anything to go by (as seen in this week's episode), then prepare yourself for some cringe-worthy moments. One of the gems: 'Would you defer to your husband to make major financial decisions?' While the women's movement would be outraged by this question, what is scary is that some of the women actually agreed they would - and so did their men, leaving one to wonder if we are in 2005 or 1905. So much for burning those bras back in the 1960s, girls.
Meanwhile, keep an eye out for Mark Burnett's latest offering this week. The king of reality TV has taken the genre to new heights with Rock Star (premiering live on Tuesday on Star World at 9.30am, and repeating the same night at 8pm), a cross between Big Brother and American Idol that sees 15 contestants (below) from around the world living in the same house and competing for the ultimate rock 'n' roll dream: being the lead singer of INXS.