Glossy Talk: Judgeing girls – a diary of the Girlfriend Model Search
There are certain career moments that come to define the work we'll do in the future or clarify our purposes. The below account, which was written three years before Sarah Murdoch was faced with the excruciating and widely publicised Next Top Model final nightmare, represents one such moment in my media career and, more particularly, the mission of Girl With a Satchel.
This diary entry was written after I emceed the 2007 Girlfriend Model Search Sydney Roadshow in Sydney, in the absence of then editor Sarah Oakes, who wasn't able to attend and may have made – probably would have made – a wiser and more noble attempt to rectify the situation, which took place on July 14, 2007 (looking back on one's diary entries is always cringe-worthy, no?)...
"I have just helped to judge the Girlfriend Schwarzkopf Live Color Model Search competition. I spent the day meeting and greeting girls hoping they'd be the next Gemma Ward, Catherine McNeil, Pania Rose, Sarah Stephens or Amelia Jennings. They were nervous, confident hopeful... most were too short to make it as models by Chic Model Management standards.
Ursula from Chic sat next to me marking up the entry forms of girls who she deemed Chic or Scoop (the agency's TV talent arm) material. I was surprised when she didn't approve of some of the gorgeous faces but quickly learnt why - too short, with no potential for growth (can we see mum?), or too big in the hips and thighs. I wondered how I would have been judged as a 5'3" 15-year-old with my braces and frizzy hair and my muscly dancer's legs (not kindly, I'm sure).
When I surveyed the girls about who they'd like to see on the next cover of Girlfriend, many said Indiana Evans or Jodi Gordon because 'they are pretty'. They want to be the pretty girl. They aspire to be the pretty girl.
Everything was going well until the judging part. In a tiny room towards the back of the stage, our marketing manager, a representative from Schwarzkopff, Ursula and Kathy from Chic and I gathered to look over the photos of about 30 girls from the total of 500 who had entered. We were to choose just six. Some were rejected instantly because of their height; others because of their hair and others because they were too 'girl next door'.
When it came to the nitty gritty, some were ditched because of weight and more because we needed a 'good mix of ethnicity and shapes' in the final six – four potential models and two 'real girls'. The six were chosen.
I was to do the big spiel on stage, thanking all the entrants and sponsors and the Girlfriend team. Then Ursula explained she would be calling lots of entrants but only six could make it through today. The first names were read out – each girl ecstatic at having been chosen. Then the final name, Holly Smith*, was called out.
Two girls approached the stage. Two equally excited girls with the same name. Only one of them had 'made it'. The other had not.
If I could turn back time, I would have stepped up with my microphone and announced that both girls were gorgeous and had made it through – it's a tie! But that's not what happened. I stood dumbfounded. Ursula stepped up and told the girls which one – the taller one – had made it. The other Holly left the stage, blushing, and burst into tears.
On the way out of the carpark that day, the pay booth attendant asked me what I'd been doing that day. I told her about the two girls. She said she would have let them both through and then let the readers decide. It was like a divine intervention – this gracious, lovely woman, rough around the edges to look at but with a compassionate heart, in her booth, was right.
The whole way home I berated myself. Where were my Christian values? Why hadn't I ballsed up and acted? What would that poor girl be feeling? What will it do to her self-esteem? I have to contact her and say I'm sorry and explain that she was gorgeous and the competition's standards were very narrow and she could aspire to be so much more than a model.
This competition, and what happened, flies in the face of what the Girlfriend brand stands for. You don't have to be the prettiest girl; there's more to life than the superficial world of modelling.
I really believe we should judge each day not by how much money we made or food we ate or the compliments we were given, but by how kind we were and how much we loved and laughed. I didn't live today according to those values – there I was, caught up in the way of the world and not empowered or strong or smart enough to do the right thing.
P.S. The Girlfriend of the Year, Alannah, performed an acoustic number today. The voice of an angel and the sweetest, most uplifting lyrics... this is where we should invest more time and money.
P.P.S. Holly's mum emailed me today – no hard feelings – and I'm shooting her for my next Girlfriend Guru page!
Meeting Holly's mum and spending time with Holly was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career at Girlfriend. They were so gracious and encouraging, just thrilled to be a part of the magazine in some way, I was utterly humbled and privileged to have met them. It wound up being a win-win for everyone. Hopefully the Harper's/Next Top Model debacle will be, too.
Voting is open for Girlfriend's 2010 Model Search now.
*I have changed the name.
Girl With a Satchel