Lights, camera, action. Three little words that have changed lives, made careers, and given aspiring stars a rush unlike any other. These are the words ten Omani men are poised and ready to hear as they compete for their own slice of stardom in Oman’s first modelling competition.
odelling is a profession that has historically raised eyebrows and turned heads, especially in Eastern countries. The various elements of modelling that require a man or woman to do unconventional things and put themselves, quite literally, on display, makes it a harder-sell as a profession in comparatively conservative Middle Eastern society. Or so I thought.
Turns out that Oman has a huge number of aspiring models, all of whom were looking for a platform to showcase their skills and be recognised and appreciated for their work. At the same time, the Omani market lacked local faces to represent the country, its culture, and its people on national and global media platforms. So there was demand, there was supply, but absent was the bridge between the two. Thus Oman’s Next Top Model (ONTM) was conceived.
After a successful first season of ONTM, the series is back with an even more developed second season featuring experts from the industry such as Lamees Al Kaabi, a well known Sharjah TV personality who is also the President of the ONTM committee; Kamil Al Hinai, a top model based in London; Abdullah Yahya, a Kuwait-based TV host; and Ibrahim Al Mandhari, music composer and filmmaker judging the dream-paving competition.
Being a Tyra Banks fan, I’d managed to catch a few seasons of America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) during my teenage years, and although I could never see myself as a model (considering my dominant tomboy traits), I was always interested in the experiences of the aspiring models — how they felt, the stress they went through, and, of course, how important the competition really was for their careers. ANTM offered talented individuals the chance to develop their posing skills while putting them through a serious pressure test as they were exposed to rigid work environments, enjoyed opportunities to shoot with renowned industry photographers, and deal with the intensity of neck-to-neck competition, which mirrored the competitive nature of the industry at large. For me, as a viewer, it was an hour of drama and emotion-filled entertainment. So, when I heard about Oman’s Next Top Model, I was ecstatic. Omani models were finally going to have a public platform to showcase their passion and talent. I was also just plain curious about how the show would translate here in the Sultanate.
Out of over 150 Omani applicants, the judges had to go through the strenuous task of narrowing the list down to the double digits for the first stage of the competition: An interview. See, the judges weren’t just looking for a pretty face, they wanted models with personality who could boldly, and effectively represent Oman.
The contestants were asked questions about themselves, their cities, their culture, their talents, and passions. The judges again deliberated and finally selected twenty finalists.
Then the real competition began. The aspiring models had photo and video shoot to build portfolios which were uploaded onto the official ONTM Instagram page, where it was the public who decided their fates. Contestants were eliminated and shortlisted further on the basis of the number of likes their photos received, pairing down the group to the final ten.
The reality show element of ONTM kicked off with the relocation of the ten competitors to the luxurious Anantara Jebel Akhdar, where cameras followed them through their three day long stay, during which their behaviour was judged and evaluated, both during photo shoots, ramp walks and during their down-time. And by the way, the fashion show that was held while they were at Anantara holds the record of being the highest fashion show at 2,000 metres above the ground. Catch a glimpse of it on their YouTube channel ‘ONTM Model’.
The grand finale of this life-changing competition will be held on November 22 at Al Bustan Palace-a Ritz Carlton Hotel, where the finalists will catwalk-to-the-death, or at least to stardom, as the winner will receive an elegant Mazeej trophy and nation-wide recognition. At least four of the contestants have already started booking paying modelling jobs with outlets like Al Shabiba and Oman TV, and while I don’t know who will be crowned Oman’s Next Top Model, it is clear that ONTM’s dream of bringing together talented models, and the agencies who seek to hire them, is already well on the way to being fulfilled. A big win for all those in Oman who dream of careers in the gritty, glamorous, beautiful world of models. —[email protected]
Stay up-to-date on the competition with live update on Instagram: @ont.model