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Is this the bitchiest show on TV?

FORGET The Apprentice - Britain and Ireland's Next Top Model is turning out to be a more humiliating ride for its wannabe contestants.

The new show is proving to be the cattiest yet, but it's not the models who have their claws out, it's the judges.

And a Welsh agent and former model has criticised the format, telling WM it's "spiteful, cruel, disgusting" and "nothing like the real world of modelling".

On the last series of the model search show, where a winner takes a coveted prize including a major modelling contract and a spread in a glossy magazine, it was Welsh designer panellist Julien Macdonald who was making the girls cry.

But this time around, X Factor stylist Grace Woodward appears to have taken over from the man who last year shocked viewers by telling a popular contestant she needed to lose weight.

The show, fronted by supermodel caricature Elle Macpherson, has changed format to include X Factor-style auditions so we can all watch every knockback.

Grace (left), with her high-fashion high ponytails and even higher platforms, has become queen of the putdown, shocking even the 37-year-old Merthyr boy who caused controversy last year for suggesting in an interview that a plus size girl could never win the show.

He's since calmed down, claiming he's looking for "real women, any shape, any size," and while he hasn't dropped the acerbic comments altogether, it's Grace who's really scaring everyone silly.

While on Sunday, dappy inventor Tom Pellereau proved nice guys rule by winning Alan Sugar's search for a business partner, over on Sky Living TV, mild manners and a smile won't get you far.

On last week's episode, tough-talking Grace gave us one of our (guiltily) funniest lines yet when she mimicked the voice of a shy brunette at the Cardiff auditions by asking her whether she modelled "little mouse clothes".

Keeping the animal theme going she later snapped back at a girl who promised she could work hard, "so can a donkey". Miaow.

And she continued to bark out the insults like, "What are you wearing Miss Cardigan? She's turned up looking worse than my nan."

Funny that there's currently an advert for new life makeover series Chick Fix, where she has apparently been enlisted as a self-esteem mentor for women.

On last night's BINTM, filmed during auditions in Dublin and Manchester and featuring guest judges Ronan and Yvonne Keating, one hopeful failed to take rejection as quietly as the others, returning to the judges demanding answers in a real cringe moment.

It's all great telly, but is it true to life? Kirstie Howells, director of Cardiff-based Kirstie Howells model agency, says she encourages her models not to watch the show.

"It's nasty, it's cruel, it's spiteful and the judges should feel disgusted with themselves," she told WM, adding that never in her 15-year-career as a model was she spoken to like contestants are on the programme.

"These girls are ripped apart for the sake of TV and what happens to them afterwards?" But with fashion's reputation for being bitchy, aren't the judges simply preparing the would-be models for real life? "Not at all, this is nothing like what modelling is really like," said Kirstie.

"Yes, the reality is that not everyone can be a model but there's a way of being honest in a nice way.

"There's no need to be as rude as Grace is - everyone's trying to be Simon Cowell.

"Model etiquette is that you are polite to everybody.

"This show is an embarrassment. I tell my girls not to watch - they won't learn anything about modelling from it."

And all credit to the girl on last night's show who, after being told by Elle "you need to be about five inches taller, your legs need to be longer, the fact you have dark roots and blonde hair at the end doesn't really help you," came out with the classic line: "I'll take my fabulous somewhere else."

Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model is on Mondays, 9pm on Sky Living TV.


* Pictured left to right are Grace Woodward, Elle Macpherson, Julien Macdonald and Charley Speed
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 19, 2011
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