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Models Try for Contract and $150,000 Prize Money

By: Stephen Carr

Date Posted: 2000-05-19

Aspiring supermodels will get their chance to have their names in lights on Saturday May 20 on the second floor of the Plaza House, where the Elite Model Look 2000 competition takes place from 5pm to 6 pm.

The event which has been held at Plaza House for the last three years is likely to attract a lot of onlookers. The previous two years’ competitions drew over 800 spectators. The event is free.

Contestants will first be judged in swimsuits. Then they will change into an Elite Model Look uniform, a mini-skirted affair with a single design but of various different colors.

Between each round of judging there will be a fashion show with costumes from Roger’s worn by professional models from Elite’s Fukuoka operation. One of these models was the winner of the first Okinawa contest, who went on to the national finals. Although she did not progress to the international stage, she was offered a contract by Elite and moved to Fukuoka where she now works.

The main judge of the contest will be Ms Okamoto, previously a top fashion model, who is now the Elite Model Agency’s representative in Fukuoka. Ms Okamoto has been involved in the initial stages of the selection process, which took place earlier this month.

Seventy girls responded to Elite’s advertisements in local papers, posters and letters to past applicants. They each applied to the agency with a photo. The ones Ms Okamoto and her team thought worth further investigation were then invited to come for a personal meeting and for a few snapshots to be taken. Of these eight to ten contestants were selected for Saturday’s competition.

The winner of the event will get a free ticket to Tokyo to take part in the next stage of Elite Look 2000, the All-Japan contest in July. The winner of the Tokyo event will go on to the worldwide competition in Geneva September. The contest takes place in over 55 countries and attracts over 200,000 participants.

Of the average 80 or so national winners who make it to the final round in Geneva, the top 15 to 17 will get modeling contracts with Elite, guaranteed for two years and with possibilities of extending, if they do well. This top group will also each get prizes of $50,000 cash.

There are three more categories of prizes which also award minimum two year modeling contracts. The model who comes third in the Geneva round will get a cash prize of $75,000 and the girl who comes second will get $100,000. The overall winner will get $150,000.

Elite has made the careers of supermodels like Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Cambell and Helena Christiansen, who was a 1983 winner. She went on to feature on 15 covers of Vogue.

Another model chosen by Vogue for its cover was an Okinawan girl who entered the competition in its early days. Fifteen years ago there was no local competition but this girl won the national contest and made it into the top 15 in the international event. She won a contract with Elite in France where she worked and settled.

For the last four years the final round of the contest has been held in the glamorous surroundings of the French Riviera, at Nice. Previous finals have taken place in Acapulco, Rio de Janerio, Miami, New York , Mauritius and the Spanish islands of Formentera and Ibiza. Only twice has the competition taken place in the Far East, once in Seoul and once in Atami, Japan.

According to Plaza House’s Development Department Manager Jun Pangilinan, who has helped organize the Okinawa competitions of the past three years, Elite is “looking for a rough diamond, who can be polished into a top model”.

Last year a 14 year old won the Okinawan contest, proving that the agency is not looking for sophisticates or girls wise to the ways of the fashion industry. Pangilinan says the girl was very womanly and that the “romantic look” is the one model agencies are interested in these days.

The fashion world appears to be rejecting the emaciated ‘heroin chic’ look that filled fashion magazines for a few years and the trend is now for fuller, shapelier figures. The change in fashion is dependent on what clothes designers are doing, says Pangilinan.

Elite thinks the natural beauty of Okinawan girls gives them a good chance of becoming international models and is awaiting the outcome of Saturday’s event with interest.

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