By Han Sang-hee
The famous opening “You wanna be on top?” signals the start of the hit reality show “America’s Next Top Model,” and local fans can now watch the exciting show with a bit of a twist. A Korean twist, that is.
The popular show produced and hosted by model Tyra Banks has been remade in numerous countries, including Australia, Germany and now Korea.
Korea, infatuated with entertaining television, has already had an array of reality shows searching for young and talented models via both major and cable networks.
Despite the interest, most of the shows failed to captivate viewers and create a stir. Some found fault in the format, which resembled “America’s Next Top Model” but didn’t carry that edgy and nail-biting excitement, while others pointed out the lack of originality and personality of the contestants.
Now, cable channel OnStyle is aiming to bring the best show in the current model-search reality show scene, with some of the best known fashion experts as judges and photographers.
“(This) is not about adding Korean features, but proving to the local audience that we can make a program as good as the ones aired in the U.S. We have worked with some of the top experts in fashion and most of all, we tried to bring a much better version in terms of quality compared to other countries,” Lee Woo-cheol, the producer of Korea’s Next Top Model, said during a press conference at Cine Maru theater, central Seoul, Tuesday.
The concept of the show is simple: aspiring models are given a photo shoot mission every episode and after evaluation by the judges, one contestant is sent home while the others continue in the race in the hope of becoming Korea’s next top model.
This is not the first time the cable network brought in a foreign format. It introduced the Korean version of the highly acclaimed “Project Runway” and received rave reviews from fans.
“The benefit of working on a foreign format is that the audience is already aware of the show. This helps them feel more comfortable with the program and so it’s easier for them to connect with the show faster, which is a big plus for us,” Lee said.
Model Jang Yoon-ju was also a smart choice, as the 29-year-old has a fun and likable character, along with the body and soul of a true model.
“(The staff) gave me the nickname ‘warm charisma.’ I think it was because when I judged I become a scary and strict teacher, but then off set, I try to be friendlier and offer them tips and advice just like a big sister,” she told the press.
Helping young and aspiring models rekindled her own memories as a struggling young model looking for a big break, and her experience and know-how will naturally help the contestants find what they are pursuing.
“I realized that I too was in the same position. I was terrified of other people’s glances but learned how to overcome that fear,” she added.
The press got to watch the edited version of the first two episodes, and indeed, it was funny, witty, sometimes heartwarming, but mostly entertaining. The some 1,000 applicants were as colorful as the judges, ranging from students, young moms, photographers to even transgenders.
Creative directors Woo Jong-wan and Park Hyung-jun, fashion designer Logan, Jang, editor-in-chief of W Korea magazine Lee Hae-ju got together to pick 24 contestants, and just like the original program from the U.S., ruthless and straightforward comments went back and forth.
The most ruthless judge may have been Woo, and after the screening, the fashion director explained with a smile that it was “a piece of advice from an older brother” and that he hopes “both the viewers and contestants will not take anything personally.”
The Korean version of the show had it all: the top model bus, the shiny and colorful judging room, the professional photographers who were open to express their opinions about the girls and even the trendy outfits of the host Jang.
“Showing the exterior is what models do for a living. But in order to move the body, you must move your emotions as well. If you don’t, there is no message or meaning. You have to control your mind and emotions before you try to control your body,” Jang advised.
“The show will help both viewers and contestants understand this theory. You have to know fashion and also realize your talents and potential, not just the body and outfit.”
Will “Korea’s Next Top Model” create a stir like the U.S. original? It looks like it has all the right ingredients, but viewers will have to wait and see if the local staff have managed to bring the edgy and addictive aspect of it as well. The show starts airing Sept. 18 at midnight.