NZ's super-sized model contest

By Abby Gillies

New Zealand's Next Top Model is going "plus-size" this year - by which the producers mean, almost as big as a normal, healthy Kiwi woman.

America's Next Top Model was won by a plus-sized model in 2008 - the beautiful Whitney Thompson.

But in the New Zealand show, no model bigger than size 10 has ever made it into the finals.

Even contestant Ruby Higgins, who was told by the judges that she needed to lose weight, wore a size 8 - a mere waif standing next to an average-sized woman her age.

This year, that will change: publicists say they have opened the door to models of size 12 or more.

The only problem is, of the thousands who applied for the show, only five met that criterion.

But it is understood that some of those five will make the top 33, so they will appear in the first televised episode.

Dunedin's Elza Jenkins, 18, who finished in the the top three last year and says she wears a size 8 to 10, said she would like to see bigger models.

"It would have been great if there was a plus-size model [in the show] because you look at magazines and the girls are beautiful but they're not healthy and happy," she said.

However, talkback host and Herald on Sunday columnist Kerre Woodham (size 12 to 14) had no issue with designers using models who were smaller than most Kiwi women.

"The designer wants to show off their clothes," she said. "It's like comparing race horses and pit ponies. You translate it in your head."

New Zealand designers generally used more realistic-sized models than those in other countries, said Woodham.

The manager of Long Island clothing shop in Wellington, Dawn Bassett, said the average Kiwi woman was a "beautiful 14 to 16," she said.

Her store sold from a size 10-30 and "sizes 14-16 always sell out quickest", she said. The next most popular sizes at the store were 18-20s.

Bassett supported having models who represented what she believed was the real Kiwi woman's figure.

"Size 8 to 10, they're not a representation of a majority of our women. I think our models should be maybe 12 to 14 showing people we can have curves and still look good."

The five plus-size models who auditioned for New Zealand's Next Top Model made the top 120, and TV3 acknowledged there was a "strong possibility" some made the top 33.

The identity of the 13 finalists is a closely-guarded secret but TV3 spokeswoman Polly Vickers confirmed they had moved into a luxurious model house.

All were aged between 16 and 23, they were from "all over the country", and the girls were being chauffeured between photo shoots in a yellow 15-seater limousine.

Viewers can also expect to see international guests this cycle, plus some familiar faces.

And while some of the contestants have already formed friendships, Vickers said the knives could come out.

"It will be interesting to see how those friendships play out during the series - to see if they're sacrificed or if they last the distance."

- Herald on Sunday

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