Volume 92, Issue 28

Friday, October 23, 1998



Undercover - an inside look at the world of modelling contests

©Geoff Robins/Gazette
I'M A MODEL, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. Undercover model Emma Wise shows off her stuff for the Elite Model Search judges.

By Jael Lodge
Gazette Staff

The scene is pandemonium – a suburban mall filled with noisy teenage girls, many with parents in tow, others alone – all hoping to make the big time. Welcome to the Elite Model Look contest, held worldwide every year.

This year, the competition came to London's Masonville Place and present on the scene were two "undercover" contestants, on assignment for The Gazette.

"It was kind of interesting when we went," says Emma Wise, one of The Gazette's models. "It was no big deal because we were doing it for The Gazette and all, but we were so electrified. We got caught up with it."

Modelling contests often raise negative images, but the organizers of the Elite Look Contest try to make their competition as open and accessible as possible, while avoiding negative stereotypes.

"Our contest is a high class one," says Jean Janzen, producer of Elite Model Look and Elite TV.

Janzen points out the goal of the contest is not just to hope to discover the next Cindy Crawford, Stephanie Seymour or Karen Mulder – all former Elite Look winners. "We try to make it a fun experience," she says, describing the competitions as a "gentle introduction" to modelling.

"Everyone gets a prize."

The benefits are not just to the agency in their search for new faces and talent, Janzen emphasizes. The contests give those from smaller communities an opportunity to have exposure to top model scouts, says Janzen, without having to pay $300 or $400 to travel and enter a contest.

"They can land themselves in a lot of strange agencies that way," says Janzen. Instead, she says, Elite offers an "opportunity to get an opinion on the chances of a modelling career from a top scout without risking anything."

Involved for the first time this year as a sponsor was Eaton's, who played a large role in the competition.

"Elite came to us," says Linda Letcher, manager of corporate promotions for Eaton's and a contest judge. "In years past it had always been sponsored by a cosmetics company."

Letcher feels Eaton's is a good sponsor because it is a long-established and reputable company. "It gave us an opportunity to show our stuff to younger people. I think they were blown away that we carry some of the lines that we do," says Letcher, who also notes she has not heard of any problems or complaints associated with the competitions. "I think the communities really like the idea."

Letcher agrees with Janzen's assessment of the contest as a gentle introduction to modelling. "The girls all came away with something," she says, pointing out the idea of the competition was fun and with the exception of a few pushy parents, the girls there were all volunteers.

"Stage fathers are even worse than stage mothers," she notes.

Wise says the competition and judges were "pretty much what you'd expect. They were supportive of everyone, but they knew what they were there for."

Even if participants chosen as finalists don't go further than the regional shows, there is still opportunity in modelling for them. Letcher says she has heard from many former participants who she now sees modelling in advertisements for Eaton's. "I couldn't even tell you how many are modelling for us."

Many of the opportunities are for those who were not the look the contest was looking for, Letcher says. Instead, these are the opportunities for more specialized models, such as hand models.

Letcher does have one hope for the future of the competition. "I would like to see it go to the guys as well."

The future seems assured for the Elite Model Look contest, with enthusiastic sponsors and eager participants. Who knows – maybe there's even a home-grown Cindy Crawford right here in our backyard.

To Contact The Focus Department: gazette.focus@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998