The Face: bitchy Britain’s Next Top Model steals all The Voice’s best bits

Naomi Campbell brings her own brand of cattiness to the judging panel but her modelling contest feels all too familiar...

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Naomi Campbell is a famously fiery character so the prospect of seeing her on television is somewhat mouth-watering. Add to that two glamorous supermodel companions and The Face has a ready-made TV audience. But will they be tuning in by the end of this hour-long mash-up of Britain’s and Ireland’s Next Top Model and The Voice?

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Campbell certainly has on-screen presence, as she sashays across camera, glaring icily at her “friends”, Erin O’Connor and Caroline Winburg. But any assertion of kinship is hard to buy into – for everything that’s said between these three, there’s so much left bubbling beneath the surface. 

However, my main gripe is not their relationships – it’s the bitchiness they (well, Naomi) show towards the contestants. There’s one particularly uncomfortable moment during tonight’s episode that had me squirming in my seat. As the aspiring models take to the catwalk, each sporting a floppy black hat to conceal their identity, their “mentors” purr in waiting, ready to pass their judgement. The majority strut – and occasionally stagger – through to the next round but one girl provokes fits of hysterics from the trio. 

I’m not saying they didn’t have good reason to find her funny – her mal-coordinated totter is unintentionally comic – but the ensuing shrieks of laughter soon veer towards uncomfortable viewing. As Naomi wipes tears from her immaculately made-up face, the poor girl continues her attempts to impress, to no avail. Just one example of the dollop of added bitchiness present in this take on a tried-and-tested entertainment format…

The Face feels so cosily familiar. Ever since Tyra Banks first asked, “Wanna be on top?”, countless doe-eyed, glossy-haired, long-legged hopefuls have strolled through her door, prompting endless spin-offs across the globe. Our own Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model has just finished its ninth cycle – so haven’t we had our fill of photoshoots and catwalk challenges? 

Understandably, Campbell has tried to do something different – adding in tweaks and twists as she picks her models in tonight’s opening episode. Except it’s not different, it’s all simply borrowed from another ailing format – The Voice. 

Tonight’s catwalk challenge sees the mentors judging blind. Then in the final round, each has to advertise their skills to the model they want for their team. Said model then picks a mentor with Naomi, Erin and Caroline competing to have their charge named the new face of an international make-up brand. The only thing missing is the spinning chairs and will.i.am’s penchant for “dope”. And while The Voice continues to flourish in America, the BBC are fast discovering it’s just not doing the business over here in Blighty. 

Naomi may have stolen all its better bits, but will she get away with a format where nothing – bar her bitchiness – feels all that fresh? Only time will tell… 


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