The modeling industry in Tunisia is barely existing. It is neglected on so many levels, not acknowledged as a real job nor approved or valued by our society.
The industry is in dire distress as it keeps battling for survival and recognition. We hear of Models making it abroad on an international scale once in a while and we feel proud.
But we know it's not thanks to the support of the industry here. Thanks to their lack of I might say.
In recent months, our TV screens have been exposed to something new and inspiring, a first edition on it's own genre here. THE MODEL SHOW.
The Model is the first Tunisian competitive reality show with International standards to be broadcasted on a very well-known channel, about the modeling industry.
After a national casting call, 20 aspiring Tunisian models, 10 young girls and 10 young boys that fit the criteria of the show, have been selected to compete against each other through a bootcamp and challenges in order to win an exclusive contract with the major agency DG MAJOR in Milan.
Broadcasted on February till late April, we followed the candidates who challenge and surpass themselves on a daily basis to become the new face of the podiums.
The viewers were able to follow the participants journey during the ten episodes broadcasted, showing their life within the bootcamp and a closer look at the profession of modeling.
The contestants were exposed to photoshoots, catwalking, coaching and even a master class by Angela Marcato, the training director within the bootcamp, who's also a representative from Milan.
The show also presented us with a diverse jury combination as well as well known professionals in the domain such as the former international model Samy Azaiez, the stylist Fares Cherait, the designer Chacha Belhaj, the fashion expert Karima Riahi, the media personality Noura Akremi, who had the power and heavy task of deciding on who has to leave and who’s worthy to continue the adventure.
The apprentice models had the chance to count on the support of their godmother Afef Jnifen from Milan, their idols the successful Tunisian models Rym Saidi and Kenza Fourati who assisted them remotely from Dubai and New York throughout their journey within the show.
We were very pleased with the vision of the show as it created an opportunity for models to get recognized, taught and challenged.
It is promoting not only models but even designers as well as we see through each challenge the different outfits and creations made for the show such as Habiba Jewelry, Lyoumm It was inspiring our young audience on a well known channel like that broadcasts to a huge diverse audience which made a bigger impact.
Each challenge, we saw participants working their hardest to evolve and get closer to the finish line. It gave them a sense of importance and value as they grew with each challenge.
But what was happening when the camera’s werent rolling?
We reached out to some of the participants of the show to get you the inside scoop. We received testimonials from the winner Abdallah Laouiti, the runner up Fares Abdeddayem and other participants like Yassin Ouelhezi, Aziz ben Abdalah and Ali Gharieni who didn't make the cut, which helped us to have a look at the whole picture.
Here’s what we learned.
As a first edition, the show did pretty well.
The training and artistic director Angela Marcato did a brilliant job in training the young contestants as she taught them everything about the job of a model, the industry, how to walk and pose, how to attend casting and act with clients. A successful educational boot camp with great insights on the fashion industry, the artistic side of it too that was beneficial not only to the participants but to the audience too as it showed that modeling is not just about your look.
'The show was great, in particular the coaches, It was my first TV show, So I learned a lot about how TV programs work, I learned skills that can help me as a mode. There were no problems. I felt comfortable in front of the camera but I still felt some anxiety induced from the stress to excel.'-Aziz ben Abdallah
The modeling world is competitive by nature. With this show, the competition rose higher and naturally the atmosphere was filled with tension and stress with such talented and passionate individuals put in one casting and one show. But still they were able to form friendships, support and comfort each other in such an environment.
'There was a great atmosphere in the boot camp, I met a lot of beautiful people who are very ambitious and aspire to make it. There was stress of course as it was a competition, we all wanted to win and were doing our best. The challenges were very fun but also very tiring as you were expected to excel in every challenge, to evolve and fix your mistakes or else you will be cut. The filming was a mix between a lot of work, tiredness and many laughs behind the scenes. We shot every day all day but the camera crew were very understanding, especially the director Mohammed Missaoui who's an ex model, so he related to us, and we all formed a family like bond.' -Fares Abdeddayem
Now let's talk about the casting process. After we talked with some models and watched the first episodes, we can conclude that this part of the show was our worst as the judges seemed rigid, not communicative enough or doing enough effort. I myself found their judgement and selection very lacking as agreed by some models.
'I was scared honestly. There were a lot of beautiful models around. I saw so many great models get cut which got me scared and doubting the jury.' -Fares Abdeddayem
We believe that it was almost a catastrophic casting process. It lacked organization, communication and transparency with the models and the audience.
'You see, I made the first screening, then the second then they told me I have been accepted and to pack a bag to begin the boot camp. When I arrive there turns out we are shooting the first episode and there is another 3rd casting. Since the first selection, the jury loved me. They've been complimenting me and reassuring me that I was in for the adventure and that I got the look. Then out of nowhere I am eliminated without feedback or constructive criticism. I tried to get an answer, but they wouldn't give it to me. They just apologized and shut me down. Even my interview didn't get aired. It felt very unfair as I did so much better than some others who got accepted in terms of posing, walk and gaze. I got so angry at the misleading and miscommunication. Don't give people false hope, that's cruel.' -Ali Gharieni
Our other least favorite moment of the judging was when they made the winners of the challenge eliminate 2 of their friends.
How can teens decide who gets to decide a life changing moment for someone else, to decide who deserves to stay? They are not qualified for such a decision.
'I had an amazing experience in the show. I learned so much and evolved as a person and model. I am grateful for the friends I made. However, my exit from the show was my worst experience ever. Not being eliminated but the way it was done, making the girl choose between me and her friend. Of course, she was gonna choose him over me. I felt so wronged. It was a very difficult moment that still haunts me.' -Yassin Oulhazi
As the show showed us the potential our country has from models, juries, designers and such, we still wonder, we still ask ourselves why the industry is still neglected and barely noticed?
Why is the modeling world in Tunisia still suffering for progress and its place in the food chain?
We end this article with hopeful words from the winner of the show Abdallah Laouiti:
'I am super thankful to be where I'm at. I worked very hard, not just for modeling but for myself too as a person. When I look at my past sometimes I wonder how I got here. Alhamdulilah it was a very bad and good journey. As for the future I have a lot of goals inshallah. Modeling is one of my passions. But what helped me in modeling is Acting and theater. And at some point I would like to become an actor. I just love everything about it. It makes me free and it makes me me! We will see what happens. Maybe I go to Milano then straight to Hollywood !' -Abdallah Laouiti
The show has gained an exposure and positive reviews overall that people are already preparing and asking about the next casting call for season 2.
We hope by then, the mistakes and flaws that we saw in the program will be long gone and improved.