Visions of grandeur
ONE day, last spring, in the city of Seoul, Dong-hee Yang had a vision. He saw a stage crowded with Asian lovelies. He saw an audience of glittering guests, including Jackie Chan. He saw the names of sponsors - big ones, like Benetton and Evian and NorthWest Airlines. He saw a throng of journalists and cameras, beaming his vision all over the known stratosphere. In short, he saw opportunity.
Yang is the president of Creative Management International, an organisation that promotes the Korean section of the Supermodel of the World contest. That event is slickly run by the Eileen Ford Agency in New York. But why not (so Yang mused to himself), have a competition which is even bigger and better, a megamodel contest, and confine it to Asians? And so last week, in Guam, Yang's vision came to pass . . . well, sort of. The Asian lovelies jetted in from Korea, from Thailand, from Vietnam, from Hong Kong. They did not fly in from India (too much last-minute dithering, apparently) or from China (problems with visas), so the two mega-countries in Asia went unrepresented. The glittering guests were also a bit thin on the ground, the locals being reluctant to spend US$50 (HK$385) a head on this beautyfest and Jackie Chan having had an accident in Vancouver. And the world's press comprised two individuals - your reporter and the defence correspondent of The Straits Times in Singapore.
The contest took place over 10 days of swimsuit parades, fittings and rehearsals. The big final was last Wednesday and was filmed by Guam television, which had seized the opportunity to put the island on the map. The theory is that this film will be sold to networks all over Asia. Will we see it in Hong Kong? 'We are negotiating with STAR TV,' said Yang, grandly.
Just in case these talks break down, here is a preview of what you missed. The contest was hosted by Pierre Chan, with more fluffs than an Axminster carpet, and Hanis Hussey, both of Singapore. They were so nervous that the show's producer, Ginger Cruz, was required to dispense tranquillisers. ('Just pop two of these babies, and there'll be no problem - hey, they gave them to rats and they were fine.') Pierre had to intone remarks such as 'And now we come to my favourite part of the show', twice, before supposedly unveiling a video of the swimsuit parade - which no one in the audience actually saw because, this being television, it was going to be mixed in later.
The 33 girls traipsed about the stage and adopted a variety of poses. There were clearly two schools of thought - either to skip, grin and look pert, or smoulder in a sneering fashion at the line of judges. The judges, all male, seemed to like both approaches. On the whole, credentials for assessing female mega-pulchritude were pretty commercial - if you were a sponsor, you got to be a judge. This made for some bizarre juxtapositions: the man from a beer company, for example, trotted on stage to present the award for Shapeliest Legs.
Benetton then organised a fashion show which required much dangerous leaping up and down a narrow staircase. Since the company is famous for the tastelessness of its advertising campaigns, it seemed possible that the next one would feature a pile of models with broken legs, but fortunately even the amateurs survived intact. As if to reinforce the consumerism of proceedings, a woman from Japan called Neon Lee sang a song called I Bought This Shirt For You.
The moment of revelation arrived long after midnight, by which time even the judges appeared comatose. Chan and Hussey clutched a tattered bit of paper which looked as if it had been lying on the floor all night (tearing open envelopes was obviously not part of the Yang vision) and announced that Stephanie Loup from Thailand was the Asian Megamodel of the World. This, it must be said, was a deeply peculiar choice - not because Stephanie lacks loveliness but because she looks about 100 per cent Caucasian. She is half-Swiss, half-Thai, and could pass for a Californian. She was, however, spotted by a talent scout on a street about two months ago, which is always good model copy, and she wants to be a surgeon, which is what they all say these days, so she should go far.
As for the Asian Megamodel Contest, at the moment there are plans to hold it in Guam again next year. 'This has been the toughest 10 days in my whole life so far,' observed Yang with a heartfelt sigh. 'I have had less than three hours sleep every night.' Which, of course, leaves little time for dreams.