Cindy Crawford,  Stephanie Seymour, Diane Kruger, Gisele Bundchen and Alessandra Ambrosio: they all had to start their modelling journeys somewhere; and that somewhere was with Elite Model Look, an annual modelling competition. It might sound a world away from the streets of Dubai, but don’t toss out that portfolio yet: a leg of the contest — world’s largest model search — will this year be held on our shores.
From the end of March, regional casting calls will be held in malls in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha for men and women aged 14-22. Entrants will be given a chance to walk the catwalk in form-fitting clothes with minimal make up, and candidates should be at least 172cm tall. While the later stages of the competition are limited solely to the fairer sex, male model potentials will be scouted in the preliminary round.
The national casting happens next and will be a closed event with select invitees and parents of the girls. It will feature 60 shortlisted candidates.
“Elite has been the leading modelling agency for the past 40 years and since 1983 the modelling contest attracts over 350,000 participants every year from 800 cities,” said Shana Sebban-Mannarini, the chairwoman of Elite Middle East. “Winners of the contest enjoy such a high success rate in the industry because we understand the seriousness of this career choice as opposed to how people typically view modelling.”
Following the national casting, the Elite model look jury will choose fifteen contestants who will participate in the final. They will be selected based on their photogenic qualities, personality and natural beauty but also their potential to correspond to current fashion trends.
“Girls want to become models because it is a dream job: walking for the most important designers, travelling the world, discovering other cultures and countries. But it is also a real job with a lot of constraints and obligations, so during these steps of the contest we show the contestants the reality of this position and everything that it entails.” says Adriana Usvat, the managing partner of FLC Models – the local talent agency collaborating with Elite Middle East for the competition.
“This competition has offered many young girls a chance to be discovered and literally take the fashion world by storm,” added Usvat. “And it is now coming to the UAE and Qatar offering young girls here a platform to showcase not only their beauty but also their personality and talents. This is important because it does not matter how beautiful you are if you do not have the right personality.”
Physical attributes aside, the group stress that commitment, determination, hard work, good temperament and sound health are necessary factors to becoming a model.
In an industry plagued by the size zero debate, the team assures us that in their books a good model is a healthy one.
“Having a good way of life is very important because being a model is hard work. Even if the girls have to be slim, they have to follow a healthy way of eating,” Usvat said.
“The reason we are targeting people so young is because we are trying to develop a career here. And because they are young we will need the consent of the parents for them to participate,” Usvat said. “It is important that parents understand and support them so we will be transparent as possible and will be on hand to answer any concerns they might have.” The Elite team promises to respect the cultural sensitivities of the region “at every step of the competition”.
The final winner will win a spot in the Elite Model Look world final, to be held in China this year. Girls selected secure a three-year contract with the Elite agency.
“It’s such an amazing experience to take part in the world final. Six years ago the girl from France did not win, but she tried the following year and emerged the winner,” said Sebban-Mannarini. “I think this is so because in that one year you become more confident and understand your self worth. Whoever wins from UAE and Qatar will have this option too.” Interestingly Crawford, Kruger, Seymour and Bundchen all participated in the contest but didn’t win -- while Bundchen placed fourth, Crawford was a runner-up.
Sebban-Mannarini’s advice? “Don’t stress, be yourself and give your best.”
By Yusra Farzan