It’s Australia’s most-watched non-sporting event on pay TV, creating successful models and headlines across the country. After a year’s hiatus, Australia’s Next Top Model is returning on July 9 on FOX8, bigger and better than ever before.
Jennifer Hawkins joins the show as host, fronting a revamped judging panel. Didier Cohen, a working model and DJ, joins the panel, alongside Charlotte Dawson, the show’s straight-talking veteran, and Alex Perry. I caught up with Charlotte and Didier on their whirlwind press tour of Adelaide, to chat about the new season of ANTM, bullying, what they think of Adelaide, and what’s next for their careers.
So, new season of ANTM starting soon, what’s this season been like so far?
Charlotte: Well it’s been great, because we have a whole new crew: Jen Hawkins is the new host, Didier’s the new judge, so we’ve got a nice couple of new additions to the family. We’ve got a great cast, they’re beautiful girls. It’s just been really fun!
Great! What’s the caliber of girls this season? Are they a higher quality bunch than the others?
Didier: The caliber to me is really unique. These girls, you’ll see them on the first episode and you might not think that girl could really be a model, but over this whole season you really see these girls bloom and take great shots. It really makes you reconsider what a model could actually be and that’s what I loved about this season so much.
Any Adelaide girls? How do you rate them?
C: Yeah, we’ve got a couple of Adelaide girls that have made it in, they’re great.
D: We’ve got some standout Adelaide girls that the agency, IMG, love; that we love, so you guys are represented really well.
I wanted to ask you first, Charlotte, what’s the judging panel been like this season, seeing as you’ve been on a lot of judging panels?
C: Well look, there’s always going to be me and Alex [Perry] as sparring partners; we’ve had a long association. He was my manager when I was a model, and we’ve known each-other for 20 years, so we’re very, very close. And then we’ve got Didier who’s a working model, so he’s taken on the [role of saying] “so this what’s going on in the industry right now, girls, and this is what’s expected of you”.
Were you daunted, Didier, by joining the panel?
D: I gotta tell you, man, the night before my first day of shooting I was nervous. It was like the first day of school, you know? But right when I stepped on set, Alex, Charlotte and Jen just welcomed me with open arms. What’s great about this panel is that we all bring something different.
And what do you both think Jen Hawkins brought to the show as a new host?
C: Jen embodies what’s happening in the industry at the moment. She’s the girl that is relatable to any woman of any age. All the young girls look up to her because she’s managed to create an amazing career from a Newcastle Knights cheerleader, to Miss Universe, to model, to Brand Ambassador, to having a shoe line and a bikini line. It’s just an all-encompassing, brilliant career. She’s like a very successful modern-day barbie girl, if you like, and a really nice and professional girl along with it.
No dramatic moments this season?
C: Well we’ve not witnessed anything dramatic because we sit on the panel and we witness the photos. But when we’ve been out on the road with the girls, we’ve seen a great bunch of camaraderie and support!
There’s the occasional harsh moment in past seasons where girls get a total serving…
C: Yeah, I’ve given some servings in past seasons. I gave some girls a serving because they were bullying a contestant ﹣ 3 girls ganged up against a girl, it was quite a severe case of bullying.
I suppose I made the mistake of disciplining them on air, because now, people remember that clip, but they don’t remember what the girls had been disciplined for, and it looked like I was the bully, even though I was standing up to bullies. So, you need to be really careful. I was so passionate about what they’d done emotionally to hurt that girl. I was angry, I disciplined them, problem solved, they never did it again. That’s how I deal with bullies. Everyone knows, you don’t just stand by, you do something about it. I did something about it, and that clip’s been used against me ever since.
Things get taken out of context, don’t they?
D: Yeah, this year, I had no problems serving the real. If someone’s out of line you gotta show ‘em “hey, you gotta act like this if you wanna do really well” but the best thing about these girls is they took it on really constructively! They got better and better and better.
The last season of ANTM was in 2011 ﹣ what’s it been like to come back after that break?
C: Because the show has such a loyal following, it means we need to cater to our fans and give them what they want plus more. We need to be bigger and better and raise the bar each year. I think we’ve delivered that.
As for Adelaide, what’s your experience been this time around? You got here last night?
D: What I’ve loved is everyone’s been so nice in this city, and everyone’s been so responsive to the show coming back. This is my first press tour ever! Everyone has been super excited and that gives me a buzz!
C: Adelaide’s a great market for us, we have a big fanbase. When we do our promotions and our auditions we always get a great turnout.
Charlotte, you published an autobiography not long ago, ‘Air, Kiss and Tell…,” how’s that fared?
C: I’ve been really proud of it ﹣ it kept me entertained while we weren’t on air! It’s been really challenging but it’s been received really well.
Any more plans to write books?
C: I may write another book. There’s so many irons in the fire at the moment; I have the possibility of going into another job which would take me completely out of everything into a completely different realm ﹣ might be time for a big change!
Are you at liberty to talk about that, or is that under wraps?
C: Well it’s not really under wraps; it’s a normal, boring job ﹣ real estate.
D: I think she should keep writing books. Have you read her book? You’ll freak out. It’s inspirational! It shows you what someone can go through and come out on top.
As for you, Didier, you’re busy with a lot of DJ work and modelling work outside of the show ﹣ what’s next for you?
D: I’m always touring as much as I can for music, for DJing, and last week I launched my clothing line! I’m the male ambassador for Cotton On, doing my own collection, coming out every two months. It’s coming out in Adelaide, in the Rundle Mall Super Store!
Photography by Brent Leideritz from www.twentyfourb.com
Australia’s Next Top Model airs on Tuesday July 9, 8pm, on FOX8.
Charlotte Dawson’s book, “Air, Kiss & Tell, Memoirs of a blow-up doll” is in stores now, and Didier Cohen’s collection, “Didier Cohen for Cotton On”, is due to hit Cotton On stores in July.