updated 19 Jul 2013, 15:36
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Thu, Apr 15, 2010
The Star/ANN
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Elle Macpherson: Power in beauty

WHAT do you wear when you meet a supermodel? Should it be something fashionable, a dressy but tasteful outfit, or perhaps something casual? Forgive me if I come across as too self-conscious but I am, after all, meeting the iconic supermodel Elle “The Body” Macpherson.

I’m being silly, of course, because no one bothers about the journalist as all eyes will be on Macpherson. What little apprehension I had dissipates when I meet her at her Ritz Carlton Residences suite in Kuala Lumpur and am greeted by a sincere, firm and friendly handshake. No time for small talk though as I’ve only 30 precious minutes with her. Macpherson takes charge of the photoshoot almost immediately as she has already visualised which corner of the room shows off her Raoul slim fit silk shirt and skinny white denim pants to their best effect. It’s amazing how she switches on her “professional model smile” so easily and everything’s wrapped up in 10 minutes.

We plunge into a conversation about her latest foray, becoming the host of Britain’s Next Top Model (BNTM) since last February, taking over from model Lisa Snowdon, as well as being executive producer.

“We’re shooting four episodes in Malaysia including the finale, which is really exciting. Being the host and executive producer means there’s a lot of work. But it’s a wonderful, magical experience and I’ve got a wonderful team. I get to use all my skills – modelling, TV-presenting, applying my business senses – like how to get the best people for the least amount of money, produce an expensive-looking show for less cash and get the best ratings I possibly can,” she says.

"I’m looking at things from a different perspective and exploring the creative side. For me, that’s a very fulfilling experience. It’s not all that different from what I used to do, more like all rolled into one.”

Joining her on the revamped show is award-winning fashion designer Julien MacDonald, fashion stylist Grace Woodward and male model Charley Speed.

“The mentoring part is fantastic but the girls are my favourite part. The guest judges and the panel, art director Grace and Charley, our gorgeous male model, have been fantastic. I love Julien and his dresses. I also met up with Jimmy Choo, who’s been so hospitable, and Bernard Chandran, who’s our local guest judge.

“I loved meeting the dignitaries, the local designers and loved the food. People tell me that because Malaysia is an Islamic country, things are more difficult. But I see such harmony and things are efficient. I’ve enjoyed staying at The Ritz immensely. I also loved Pangkor Laut and how the spa’s got a good mix of Western and Eastern medicine,” says Macpherson, who has a holistic view towards health and adopts a Chinese medicine approach, which she believes promotes and maintains wellness rather than treats illness.

To the uninitiated, it might have seemed more logical to have the Australian-born supermodel heading the Australian version of the show. However, Macpherson clarifies that in order to do the show, it has to be filmed in its home country and since London has been her base for the past 15 years, she was the natural choice for BNTM.

“The show is not so much about the fashion industry as it is about people’s journeys. Often, it’s a rags-to-riches story. And, I love anything which allows people to grow, develop and blossom. I love (the whole process) of uncovering and discovering, so whether it’s about fashion, music, business or home life, it’s the concept that people start out with a dream. And then, to have that dream come true – I find that very inspiring,” she adds.

Macpherson is tight-lipped about the details of the set, but lets on that there’s quite a bit of lively sparring going on among the opinionated panellists.

“We also have lots of strong girls in competition so you can look forward to plenty of fun and tears. I see something special in all the girls. I’m looking for someone who has spirit and a heart, and has charm, wit, compassion. Apart from being beautiful, she should be willing to learn and take direction. We’re so used to the fashion industry looking for a certain type of girl and I’d like to think we’re looking for something different,” she explains.

The competition is not just about being a model, it’s about being “a standout girl”, she says. The girls are put through gruelling challenges in six weeks, and experience what most models go through in a three- or four-year career. Certainly, it takes a certain maturity to handle that kind of pressure, which Macpherson says is definitely apparent in the strongest girls.

Typically, there are comparisons with America’s Next Top Model, which Macpherson feels is equally about Tyra (Banks) and the girls, whereas BNTM is purely about the girls. “We’re doing a slick British version – not better or worse – just British, with all the quirkiness and fun that Britain has to offer.”

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