Try to push Jennifer Hawkins to a firm opinion on curly questions and she is one diplomatic step ahead of you.
Question: “America’s Top Model has had male contestants since 2013. Should Australia’s Top Model include them?”
“I‘m not sure to be honest,” she replies. “I’d be happy either way. It depends on a lot of things. It’s a question for Foxtel.”
Question: “Donald Trump was instrumental to your early career. Do you support his run for the Presidency?”
“I haven’t really said either way, because it’s a sensitive subject,” she cautions. “Whatever you say people will blow it up. I obviously knew him 10 years ago when I was so green coming into the industry. He was a businessman but now it’s a completely different area that I’m not familiar with.”
In the years since she has shot to prominence, Hawkins has surely learned a lot, including pesky journo questions and paparazzi. When you are a former Miss Universe media every step -indeed every catwalk slip- has the potential to be a headline. Top Model colleague Megan Gale knows all about it too. Media have run plenty of copy on a perceived rivalry between two successful women.
“They did in the past and we saw it for what it was. But we just laugh at it now. We just did a Marie Claire cover together and we got asked about the ‘apparent’ rivalry,” Hawkins continues.
“But there’s definitely no rivalry.”
“The brand is so respected and iconic”
ANTM marks the first time both have worked together. Together with stalwart Alex Perry, mentors Jordan and Zac Stenmark and Cheyenne Tozzi they are again on the hunt for an unknown to be catapulted to catwalks and magazine covers. Say what you will about Reality talent shows, this is one that has an impressive list of working graduates.
So why does the fashion industry take the brand so seriously when other TV talent shows have mixed fortunes?
“Tyra Banks was the founder but with Australian Top Model all the past contestants have gone on to have very successful careers. So I guess people see that and respect it, and they know if they’re watching the show it’s not just a bit of fluff. These girls actually go out and make a career for themselves, due to the fact they’ve been on the show,” Hawkins suggests.
“All of them at least get more work than they did before the show and / or have massive careers. It depends on how much drive they have.
“The brand is so respected and iconic, so it puts them at another level even before they go out into the real world. They get through thousands of auditions to get to the Top 13.”
“It’s a competition so things do get a bit heated sometimes”
In its 10th year ANTM kicks off with 13 girls aged 16-25, one of whom will win a one-year modelling contract, a trip to New York Fashion Week, a new car and an editorial magazine spread. But first they will have to survive the scrutiny of Reality TV cameras, photo shoots and challenges designed to test them.
And they have to survive the other 12 girls. On that point at least, Hawkins has a firm view.
“It’s a competition so things do get a bit heated sometimes with the girls,” she warns.
“But they know what they’re signing up for.
“There’s a lot of break-downs and anxiety because there’s so much pressure, put upon themselves.”
“The girls are the crux of the show. Fans like to get invested in the girls and their stories, so once they fall in love with our Top 13 that’s what it’s all about. But over and above that our guests are so amazing this year. We have Elle Macpherson, Miranda Kerr and Gemma Ward. They all get to have one or one time with the girls rather than just judging them on the panel.
“The guest judges didn’t really get to do that last season, so now the girls can ask them for advice, so it’s great.”
Australia’s Next Top Model airs 7:30pm Tuesdays on FOX8.