New Zealand baffles Top Model contestants

By Alice Neville

They met "May-oris" wearing "butt flaps", posed with "horny beasts", and were confused about their geography.

The latest episode of America's Next Top Model, which just screened in the United States, features the catwalk hopefuls strutting their stuff in New Zealand, which is not above Canada, as one contestant thought.

The Tyra Banks-hosted show is watched by millions, and Kiwi tourism chiefs hope the show will entice big-spending Americans to our shores.

But judging from the stereotypes used by the producers, the only people interested in coming will be those who love sheep, farms and unpredictable weather.

The contestants' arrival at Auckland Airport was marked with a montage of quintessential New Zealand, set to the national anthem. "We in Noo Zeeland y'all," said one.

They were then whisked to the top of Mt Eden on a horrible Auckland day, where they were greeted by "these tribal men with little butt flaps". "It scared the crap out of me," admitted one of the girls.

Colin Mathura-Jeffree, host of New Zealand's Next Top Model, explained the haka to the bemused girls and announced their first challenge - "go-sees".

The models had 4 hours to impress six Kiwi designers, while still "smelling like yesterday".

As they flit from Mt Eden to KRd then High St, there are cutaway shots of a miserable-looking Auckland. The girls are dressed in clothes from some of New Zealand's top designers, including Stolen Girlfriends Club and 27Names.

At the shoot, they are told they will model the same dress and will be posing with a large, woolly, curly-horned ram named Prince, helpfully described by one as a "horny beast".

Then it's over to the North Shore where the girls are taken to their new home, the penthouse pad at the Sentinel in Takapuna, which a confused Angelea reckons is "the tallest building in New Zealand".

The girls then head to an undisclosed location where they're met by judges Jay Manuel and Nigel Barker, who arrive on a tractor.

Kiwi fashionistas who feature signed confidentiality agreements so they are prevented from commenting.

But Jenny Stokes, a senior lecturer in tourism at AUT, said viewers would not be persuaded to visit New Zealand by wheeling out the stereotypes.

"You need to show we are a bit more sophisticated. We can show them our pubs and cafes and nightlife, rather than just the beautiful scenery. I think that would appeal to only a small audience."

Reviews in the US were mixed. Writing for the Baltimore Sun, one fashionista scathingly asked: "The models were jet-setting to the fashion capital of New Zealand? (Seriously Tyra? How much did that country's tourism office pay you to visit this country and put it in the same sentence as haute couture?)"

Another, on tv.com, said: "I'm no fashion expert, and I don't want to make generalisations, but all of New Zealand's fashion is terrible."

The scenes from the 14th series were filmed late last year, and American viewers will see two more episodes from the contestants' visit.

The episodes are due to screen on TV3 later this year or early next.

alice.neville@hos.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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