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[03/04/09 - 12:08 AM]
Interview: "Make Me a Supermodel" Mentors Tyson Beckford & Nicole Trunfio
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

"They were buttering us up but behind the scenes, it wasn't all that," said Nicole Trunfio about the brown-nosed model contestants on the new season of Bravo's "Make Me A Supermodel." Along with famed male model Tyson Beckford, the two mentors talked to Jim Halterman about the new season and what it takes to be a successful model.

Beckford said that while the contestants often pretended to be sweet angels to their faces, he knew better and offered up some words of wisdom to the models to help them not only in the competition but in the industry overall. "I warned them. I said, 'Look, whatever you do, don't get yourselves in trouble because you know potential clients will be watching this... but as usual they are kids. They don't listen."

In the second season of the competition, 16 contestants vie for a $100,000 prize, a one-year contact with New York Model management and a Cosmopolitan fashion pictorial. How close is the show to the real modeling world? "I think that we took every single version of modeling and put it in there," Trunfio offered. "There are things that we did on the show that I haven't experienced in the industry before but we tried to give them the [best] taste we could. And definitely, definitely real. We had industry professionals in the show - great people that have credibility in our industry that you know joined us and gave their professional opinion on what we were doing."

While Beckford was one of the judges last season, he now steps into the role of mentor for the guys while Trunfio, new to the show this year, coaches the girls. As compared with last year, Beckford said, "You see us, me and Nicole, are more hands-on than we were last year. And we can also intervene if the judges are beating up on somebody we can jump in. And we have jumped in and saved some of the kids, I have."

Did Beckford and Trunfio have a particular mentoring style that they brought to the show? "I would say my style is basically talking from past experience because there's nothing that they're doing that I haven't done already," Beckford said. "I would build them up and tell [the guys], 'don't worry. These girls are nothing. You can beat them.' If you give someone great confidence, they'll do really well. You know? That's where it just comes from - the confidence factor."

Trunfio also employed her own experiences as a model to guide her charges. "I help the girls out and just was there for them whenever they needed support and all the questions they asked me I gave them the most appropriate answer I could. I am still young. I'm 22 so for me, I actually learn a lot from Tyson as well on the show and the judges there.

The new crop of supermodel wannabes hails from both big cities such as Los Angeles and small cities in rural Tennessee. Does that make a difference with what they bring to the table in the competition? "No, I don't think so," said Beckford. "We just sought after kids that were different and seemed to have a lot more personality than anywhere. It's just random. It wasn't like we went to smaller cities because we wanted to find some more unique kids. It was just random where we picked them from." Trunfio agreed and offered, "I'm from the middle of nowhere in Australia... and it's like it just doesn't really matter. If you have like what it takes, you have what it takes."

Though currently very active in the modeling industry, the young Trunfio talked about her experience in her new role on reality television. "It wasn't something I was pretty interested in in the beginning. I don't watch TV at all. I had no kind of ambitions towards that. But upon hearing about it and being informed about what it was all about and what I could do for the show, I became really interested in it... I'm very passionate about modeling and having a voice as a model and getting that out there and showing what our industry entails and involves."

Trunfio also shared that one of the advantages of a competition reality show is the way that myths about what is beautiful and what isn't get thrown out the window. "I think it's good in the way that people are realizing that they don't have to be perfect, like, movie stars. Reality TV really makes people realize that they have the same problems as everybody else and there is...all kind of the same in a way. It shows kind of a oneness with the world."

Being one of the most popular black models in the world, Beckford shared how he sees race play a part in the modeling industry. "As black models, it's hard already on us because we're in a white industry so we have to fight twice as hard, you know? We'll get called in on the same casting as everyone else but our books got to be twice as good so it's really hard. It takes a lot of heart. It takes a lot of soul and you've also got to have a really good agent or manager or booker, as they say, to really push you to these clients." However, there's more to booking the job than just getting in the room. "The clients have really got to see something different in you that's going to separate you from your white peers. A lot of advertisers would rather go on using someone else before they use a black model so it's hard on us but we're pushing through. I've survived 16 years of it and I think it's only going to get better now."

Beckford also revealed that while the show's producers wanted to see more of a battle of the sexes between the male and female models, he didn't necessarily comply. "I didn't listen," he said. "If I felt like a girl needed my help I would go and help her. But they tried to keep it male versus female, which I thought was stupid. But, you know, I thought if the girl did well and they were just beating up on her I would jump in and try to save her."

"Make Me A Supermodel" returns tonight on Bravo at 10:00/9:00c.





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