Australia's Next Top Model host Sarah Murdoch with judges Alex Perry and Charlotte Dawson.
Australia's Next Top Model host Sarah Murdoch with judges Alex Perry and Charlotte Dawson.

Still live and kicking

THE new season of Australia’s Next Top Model breaks with tradition this year.

The series is lifting the lid on its audition process, giving viewers a front row seat for the culling of its top100 beauties in a two-hour series premiere.

It’s a first for the franchise, launched in the US eight years ago.

“We thought this was an opportunity for the girls to have a second chance to audition, and for us to make sure we’ve chosen the best of the best,” said host Sarah Murdoch.

“There are girls who made it to the top 20 that I wouldn’t have put through in the usual way of casting.

“It’s a great episode that ends in a big surprise. It’s going to shock everyone.”

The three-day selection begins with a bikini challenge, which Murdoch says weeds out the girls with the wrong proportions and “looks”.

“We’d rather have girls who get through this competition who have a real shot at being a model in the real world,” she said.

“Having the swimwear is great. Of course there are some very shy, self-conscious girls and then there are the ones who would have no problem at all running down the street in their cosies.”

The remaining models are then culled further in a no-make-up photo shoot before the finalists vie for a top 20 spot by modelling in judge Alex

Perry’s runway show at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week.

“Two days before, they were sitting at home or at school or with their parents and the next thing they were wearing Alex Perry gowns in Sydney,” she said.

“They were so excited to be given this opportunity. On the one side they were dreading it and on the other side they were loving it; jumping up and down like kids.”

When I visit the Top Model set in Sydney it’s an emotional day.

It’s the lingerie shoot and many of the models are oozing vulnerability. They hold it together in front of the camera before letting the tears flow during their post-shoot debrief with mentor Jason Flinn.

Despite the waterworks, Flinn reckons this year’s crop of catwalk hopefuls are the strongest yet.

Meeting up with judge and series original Charlotte Dawson for lunch, she’s not surprised by our reports of tears – the lingerie shoot is always a challenge – and correctly guesses which girls break down and why.

As the only remaining original judge on the series, Dawson is a stabilising force on set and offers a wealth of knowledge as one of New Zealand’s most successful fashion exports.

Google “Australia’s Next Top Model” and last year’s bungled series finale, when Murdoch accidentally announced the wrong winner on live television, still ranks near the top of the list.

But Murdoch insists last year’s mix-up has not put her off live TV.

“It will definitely be live,” she said.

“I still haven’t worked out how I’m going to do it. For sure I won’t be given the answer through an earpiece.”

What about an envelope like they do on many awards shows such as The Oscars?

“Now I know why they do that,” she laughed.

Australia’s Next Top Model debuts on Fox8 on Monday at 7.30pm