Sunday, 12 July 2009


Although not a name well known beyond the immediate fashion circle, Alice Burdeu is one of the rare success stories to come out of the reality TV show franchise, ‘America’s Next Top Model’.
The programme, devised by former supermodel Tyra Banks, has been so hugely successful that a number of countries across the world have adopted the format for themselves.

Alice Burdeu, born in 1988, auditioned for Cycle 3 of ‘Australia’s Next Top Model’ in 2007. At 5’ 11” she towered over her competitors. She looked conspicuously out of place – her (newly-dyed) red hair and alabaster skin marked her out immediately as someone different – and someone worth watching.

Despite her painfully shy demeanour, Burdeu produced a body of work that was in a different league. In person, she appeared awkward and bashful, but on film she became bold, daring and in terms of fashion edge, completely on-target.

Burdeu made it to the final and won – Alice was an obvious winner, but she was given some crucial advice by the judges. Her look would not suffice for Australian companies wanting upbeat, sun kissed girls to promote their products. Alice’s future was in New York. She took the advice and travelled to America. She impressed Elite Model Management so much they signed her up immediately.

Six months later, Alice debuted at New York Fashion Week. Her list of catwalk credits proved she was no slow-burner. Straight out of the gate, Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler and Marchesa all booked Burdeu. For any working model, it would be impressive – but for an absolute beginner, it was an extraordinary coup.

The advice she had been given was absolutely right. Her delicate, editorial look of pale skin and a shock of red hair which looked so out of place on ANTM was a perfect fit for high fashion.

Following New York Fashion Week, the successes began to mount up. Burdeu took part in a D&G campaign shot by Mario Testino, scored 3 Australian Vogue covers and a multi-page editorial spread with British Elle. She became the face of Blumarine Resort, and won another ad campaign (this time with Sonia Rykiel). Getting noticed by the fashion press, Alice was profiled in as a rising star, with capping off the year by naming her one of their Top 10 newcomers to the industry.

This heady whirl of achievement is dazzling, but is all the more surprising considering Burdeu’s background. Eleven seasons in, the original ‘’America’s Next Top Model’ has, to date, failed to produce a model of Burdeu’s calibre.

The reasons for this disparity are not entirely straightforward. The fashion world has seemed reluctant to take on previous winners, with many being forced to branch out into acting or presenting in order to get noticed. Maybe there was an assumption that if someone needed the springboard of a television show, they couldn’t be up to much as a model.

Burdeu wrong-footed this assumption from the get-go: her editorial look propelled her to the top of the industry. However, Burdeu has made it to the top because she is both the exception and exceptional.

Her mournful, Isobel Archer-like quality has made her a favourite in Europe because she embodies that sensibility so completely that it is impossible to resist. Burdeu possesses the ability to seamlessly translate trends with intelligence and insight, and this instinct cannot be taught.
The fact that she has been, so early in her career, accepted into the fashion clan, makes it clear that a good model can be coached, but a great model cannot. Alice’s level of success shows that being a winner in real-life remains very much hit-and-miss. While it can be a rude awakening for some contestants, it is a reminder that the level of success Burdeu has achieved is a rare thing indeed.
ANTM is a television phenomenon, and has done a stellar job in opening up the modelling world to a much wider audience. Once a ‘closed book’, teenage girls know what a ‘go-see’ is, and what constitutes a good portfolio. While this knowledge can only be a good thing, ANTM has also changed the way people view the modelling business.
With a 12-week format, contestants compete against each other in a bid to win a 1-year modelling contract handed out at the end of the series. But while the prize is guaranteed, success is not.
Alice’s meteoric rise proves that the reality show can breed winners, but Burdeu succeeds where so many others have failed because she listened to her instincts. A quick study and willing to not only listen to advice but act on it, Burdeu’s star shines as brightly as it does, because she left the show knowing that a ‘success story’ does not end when the cameras stop rolling. To truly excel takes more than just ticking boxes. Ambition is not nearly enough.
As her demand continues to grow, it is probable that Burdeu’s link with the modelling contest will someday be forgotten. A hit in Paris, she is already working with the biggest names in the fashion world, clocking up runway miles for Lanvin, Alexander McQueen and Louis Vuitton.
The fashion industry‘s welcome to Alice was so immediate because they recognised something special. Burdeu’s awkward stance lends itself perfectly to high-fashion runway, and her bird-like features sit comfortably in what is considered beautiful right now. It is not a face that belongs on a sunscreen commercial, but an intriguing face that inspires more by giving away less. Fashion loves romance, and Alice has that magic – the indefinable something that engenders desire. She tells a story, and we want to know more.
Not resting on her laurels has ensured Burdeu her part in fashion’s future. She has taken the prize and won the game because, quite simply, she is the real deal.


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