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    The model-actor turns ‘Tyra Banks’ in a new fashion reality series and talks about what it takes to stay ahead

    With the box office giving her performance in Queen and Shaukeens the thumbs up, Lisa Haydon is back on reality TV. This time,  she is a judge on MTV’s India’s Next Top Model, the Indian adaptation of the American show. With big shoes to fill (she takes on super model and “brutal judge” Tyra Banks’ role in the original), Haydon confirms that the panel of judges have been chosen keeping in mind the format followed by the American series. “We have a fashion photographer, Dabboo Ratnani, the host who is VJ Anusha Dandekar, a mentor and stylist who is Neeraj Gaba and a model personality, who is me. All judges and mentors have been picked keeping in mind their area of expertise, which will evidently reflect in their personality so I guess my job is to become Tyra Banks,” says the model-turned actress who staunchly believes that modelling is not only about “being tall and pretty.” The 29-year-old who has been walking the runway since she was 18 believes that this is one of the hardest yet most prestigious professions one could take up. “It is not always that a model gets to work with top brands and photographers so she has to put her best foot forward in terms of presentation. The job in the end is about understanding people around,” she says.
    Made for India
    Talking about the show, Haydon confirms that has been contextualised keeping the Indian audience in mind. “The tasks that involve a photo shoot, the challenge and weekly elimination has been contemporised to suit young Indian fashionistas in the country, and the prizes will also gear towards Indian fashion magazines,” she says, adding that the 13 contestants who are part of the show are all newbies to the industry and are a mixed bunch, ranging from first-timers hailing from tier-two cities to Mumbai-based models. “They all come with an equal chance and we judge them based on who has transformed the most given that they have limited expertise,” she says. So how does she counter feminist theories on how pageants are all about beauty and nothing else? Hayden brushes them off saying that not every beautiful girl can become a model. “Speaking as someone who endorses women empowerment, I see this as an art that is all about personality and talent and making sacrifices to stay on top of the game. Not everyone is cut out to be a model,” she dismisses, adding that her biggest word of advice to her contestants, besides understanding the world of fashion and keeping up with trends, is to nurture relationships in the industry. ‘‘I always wanted to be on top of my game and I got here because of my relationship with people. I can candidly say that the people who choose me are ones I can genuinely call my friends,” says Haydon who is also the muse of top designers like Tarun Tahilani and is rumoured to be in Housefull 3 opposite Ritiesh Deshmukh. Meanwhile, when she’s not shooting or busy with modeling assignments, the watches shows such as So You Think You Can Dance and Big Bang Theory on the telly. She admits she’s been watching America’s Next Top Model since she was a little girl and reckons Cat Deeley “kills it” as the hottest reality TV star.
    India’s Next Top Model is on July 19 at 7 pm, on MTV.

    Niranjana Hariharanandanan

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