'The judges have reached a decision; one of you is about to be a star in a matter of minutes. Your life is going to change.' With those words, model turned television producer Tyra Banks proclaimed Adrianne Curry, now 22, 'America's Next Top Model'. The audience cheered, the judges beamed, contestants cried and Curry exclaimed, 'I want to have a good life now. My family's going to have a good life. A lot is going to change. And it kicks so much ass!' But does it? 'I have it on good authority that the winner isn't a millionaire [and] Tyra is tooting her own trumpet a bit,' says runner-up and jobbing model Elyse Sewell, also 22. Nobody likes to come second, but anyone who watched the show's Cycle One (as the first series is called) will know Sewell has always spoken her mind. She admits to having been constantly 'chewed out' for having an attitude. Sewell is posing for the Hong Kong press on the balcony of Cafe Costa in Lane Crawford in Central's IFC Mall on a sunny afternoon. She is helping to promote the forthcoming Cycle Three of America's Next Top Model for TVB. Among the other celebrities on show are Sharon Chan Mun-tsi, Mandy Cho Man-lei, Eddie Lee, Charles Szeto Shui-ki, Winnie Shum Wing-ting, Lokyi Lai and Miss Hong Kong 2004 runner-up, Fu Sze-sze. Christina Tse, the station's assistant publicity manager, says Sewell is attending the event because she is based in Hong Kong. Tse admits to having tried but failed to secure Curry to promote the third series. 'Her modelling base is the United States,' she explains of the winner's reluctance to come to Hong Kong. After the celebrity poses, reporters and groupies dive in for personal snapshots using mobile phone cameras, which are immediately sent to friends. Sewell obligingly flicks a V-for-victory sign while posing with one admirer, but accompanies it with a semi-embarrassed smile. 'I thought it was a stereotype before I came here,' she confides a little later, referring to the Asian penchant for making the sign in photographs. It's certainly not something taught at the Tyra Banks school for up-and-coming celebrity models. 'What the show purports to teach us isn't applicable to real life,' says Sewell. The US show takes 12 homegrown girls and attempts to turn them into professional models under the 24-hour gaze of television cameras in their shared New York loft apartment. Described on the official website as a 'highly accelerated modelling boot-camp', the girls are expected to demonstrate both inner and outer beauty as they master complicated catwalk struts, intense physical fitness, fashion photo shoots and publicity skills. It's a gruelling regimen. Included in the multi-faceted prize package for the second series was the opportunity to be managed by IMG Models, appear on the cover of mid-range make-up catalogue Sephora and a spread in Jane magazine - described as a second-tier fashion magazine. Hardly the stuff of dreams for impressionable young models. What about the celebrity-packed parties, the rock star boyfriend, the jetset lifestyle and the millions of dollars? 'The show is an unwieldy means of getting into the industry,' says Sewell, adding '[Banks] picks girls who are much too old to be models.' Of the 10 girls in the first series, only three were under 20 and one was 26. No spring chicken in the competitive world of modelling, the older girl was described by a fan of the show as 'the token big girl'. So why don't the producers pick girls with real model potential for the show? 'Because they're all skinny 14-year-olds from Vladivostok who don't speak a word of English,' says Sewell. Jennifer Lo started her modelling career when she was introduced to local agency, Signal 8, by a friend. She has seen both sides of the industry having promoted cigarettes on the mainland ('definitely NOT the glamorous side') and having appeared in photo shoots for Barney Cheng and a Hong Kong Land promotion of its upmarket Landmark shopping centre. 'At first you do go through a phase of 'what if', but you soon realise it's not as glamorous as you think,' says Lo, who negotiated the fashion circuit alongside Hong Kong model Rosemary Vandenbroucke. She says the local modelling industry is unlikely to produce millionaires and describes the level of pay by using a simple four-letter word. But surely all the top brands are clamouring for endorsement from 'America's Next Top Model'; what about the calls from Vogue, Prada and Chanel? According to Sewell, 'Being on the show means you are stigmatised. Who wants their product associated with a tacky reality TV show?' Sewell may be getting out of bed for considerably less than the fashion face of the 1990s, Linda Evangelista, but she admits to having a good time and is not thinking of returning to her old life as a clinical researcher in Albuquerque soon. 'Most of my jobs have been catalogue work in mainland China,' she admits. So, more Miracle Foot Repair than Moschino? 'It's better than shovelling coal, and [in China] they'll still kiss your ass and you are getting paid for doing next to nothing.' Some might argue this neatly sums up the job description of the model. The bottom line, however, is the programme is another in a long line of reality TV shows, where the defining qualifications for entry are based more on personality than looks or skill. The more confrontational an individual's personality, the more chance they have of making it onto the show because, at the end of the day, all the producers and viewers want is watchable TV. Given the media reports of the personalities and conversation skills of some of the pouty supermodels that have graced the pages of glossy magazines over the years, advertisers are unlikely to want to sponsor a programme as exciting as watching paint dry. Sewell and her TV show contemporaries make a little money, get their five minutes of fame and travel around the world - and that's not a bad life for a twentysomething with youth and beauty on her side. But in the end, there is only one winner of America's Next Top Model and Sewell is quick to acknowledge who that is. 'Tyra Banks of course.'