The Face


Recently more and more TV talent shows are pretending to judge their contestants on their merits, rather than by sob stories or looks. This trend was likely started in response to criticisms directed at the X-Factor, which has always been horribly unfair, and also horribly popular largely because of this. Yet to give the general public the illusion of fairness, programmes like The Voice have sprung up, which still feature plenty of nasty dream crushing and ridicule, but also pretend to be about real talent.

Despite sounding like another Voice-type show, Sky Living’s new model reality show The Face is not one of these programmes. Far from giving viewers the illusion of fairness, it is about the ruthless process of getting to the top in the modelling industry. Indeed, it’s not really even about “the face” at all, but rather what sort of petty one-upmanship that the owner of the face is capable of.

Appropriately, the ever-feisty Naomi Campbell is at the core of the show, which focuses around three teams of hopefuls, all of which are competing against each other to sign a deal with Max Factor. Naomi coaches her team with an iron fist, as does the fair-haired Caroline Winberg, while the tall and salient Erin O’Connor assumes the role of the nice coach; she’s the encouraging one, the model who is more likely to make her girls giggle than cry.

To begin with, it might not seem especially original, and that’s because really it isn’t: it’s more or less the same as America’s Next Top Model, which has been going for years now. But The Face is nevertheless strangely compelling, and should be deemed watchable by even the sort of person who fundamentally dislikes fashion — like myself. The reason for this is that The Face, more than any other show like it, has managed to bring together three quite striking personalities, who are entertaining to watch, but not simply because they berate the contestants.

The competition between the three coaches is where much of the show’s tension comes from, and often their fights with one another rival even those between the girls that they’re supposed to be mentoring. During one particularly heated moment in episode 2, Caroline unashamedly admits that she is tactically voting out girls that aren’t on her team, and overhearing this, Naomi explodes with anger, and starts vowing that she will get vengeance on Caroline.

Of course, the absurdity of it all is what makes The Face so amusing, and once you’re suckered into its madness, it’s worth taking a moment to sit back to remember that all this vitriol is happening because of modelling. It’s entirely ridiculous, although embarrassingly entertaining. When all the models stare inertly in awe at Naomi’s ability to put her hands on her hips and look stern, it’s impossible not to at least smirk. But then it’s impossible to believe that such moments weren’t intended to be funny.

If the show had a tagline it would likely be this: “I’m not here to make friends.” It’s a mantra that Naomi says repeatedly throughout the first two episodes, and indeed, likely all the time in real life, wherever she goes, and with whomever she’s speaking. Again, it’s not an especially original line: Alan Sugar must have said it a thousand times this morning alone, and he speaks entirely in clichés. But Naomi Campbell is at least able to say it with true sincerity, which is both terrifying and hilarious, much like her show.


The Face is on Sky Living HD Mondays at 9:00pm