Stylista

Beginning on Five this week is the sizzling new style series produced by ‘America’s Next Top Model’ host Tyra Banks. Over eight weeks, 11 wannabe fashionistas compete for an editorial job on trendsetting magazine Elle. The contestants will try to woo the publication’s director, the formidable Anne Slowey, by participating in a series of challenges. In the opening instalment, which will be simulcast on Fiver, the stylistas must assemble the perfect breakfast for Anne; restyle themselves for the office; and mock up a page for the magazine. Immediately after this programme, there will be a chance to catch the next episode over on Fiver.

As well as receiving a coveted year-long contract as Elle’s junior editor and a clothing allowance at H&M, the winner will live in a plush New York apartment for the duration of the job. In the meantime, the contestants are thrown together in a luxury loft. “If you’re going to live in my world, you either get it or you don’t,” warns Anne. These aspiring writers must show they are a good fit for the trade by doing everything expected of an editorial flunkey, including making coffee, designing pages, organising photo shoots and shining at industry parties.

The 11 hopefuls descend on Elle HQ to meet each other – and their potential boss – for the first time. However, instead of an encounter with their icon, the contestants are given instructions by the magazine’s staffers to prepare the director her breakfast. “This task is not just about breakfast,” says one of the employees. “Fashion is all about taste and style, so your presentation is just as important as what you pick to eat.” The competitors have just 40 minutes to go down to the local deli and put together the most important meal of Anne’s day. “How the heck are you supposed to make a first impression with cereal?” wonders Arnaldo, a 23- year-old Ivy League graduate.

When the allotted time is up, the candidates file nervously into Anne’s office with their trays. After ruthlessly scrutinising the offerings, the director chooses to eat fashion buyer Ashlie’s attempt. “I was shocked I was able to go from thinking I was going to get kicked off to actually winning the challenge,” says Ashlie, who managed to get lost on her way to the deli.

As if slating the contestants’ food was not enough, Anne then proceeds to criticise their choice of office attire. Anne calls in Elle’s creative director, Joe Zee, so he can give the group some pointers on how to dress to impress. “In this industry, we judge a book and its cover,” he says. Clothing store manager Danielle is nervous about Joe’s physical appraisal. “I’m someone who can’t dress a certain way because I’m not a certain size,” she says. However, the girl passes the critique with flying colours. Others, such as Londoner William, are not so fortunate…

Later, the contestants are given the chance to put Joe Zee’s advice into action. At H&M’s Fifth Avenue flagship store, they are divided into three teams and given 45 minutes to put together appropriate and stylish office wear. The hopefuls will then model their choices in front of the Elle team. “I’m bunched with the fashion rejects, which is not a good feeling,” complains William when he is teamed up with Devin, Kate and Jason, whose threads were all slammed by the creative director.

Arnaldo, meanwhile, is not thrilled about working with bossy boutique owner Megan. “Megan kind of took the lead, like, ‘I’m a mean bitch – move out of my way’,” he says after the fraught buying trip. Fashion student Devin is just happy to be involved: “I have dreamed my whole life of being on a timed shopping spree,” she gushes.

After modelling their creations in front of photographers and magazine employees, the contestants are given their first editorial challenge. Using the fashion snaps from the catwalk show, each of the teams must design a page for Elle. The results will be judged by a panel including Anne, Joe and a special guest, and one of the budding stylistas will be eliminated. “There is no bigger crime in fashion than being boring,” says Anne before announcing the loser of round one.

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