While every new season brings fresh faces to the catwalk over at TV Land's reality competition series "She's Got The Look," the third season kicked off last week with new faces at the judges' table, too. Returning judges Sean Patterson (President of Wilhelmina Models) and style expert Robert Verdi are now joined by new host Brooke Burke and a new judge in famed model Roshumba Williams as ten over-35 women compete to win a lucrative Wilhelmina contract and a photo spread in Self magazine. Robert Verdi took time out from his judging duties to talk to our Jim Halterman about the changes this season, what the over-35 crowd has to contend with on the show and if the elusive X Factor is something that can be taught.
Jim Halterman: Going into year 3, how has it been having Roshumba and Brooke join you and Sean?
Robert Verdi: It's all been seamless. We all knew each other even if it was sort of casual. I had worked with Roshumba before the program so we had already experienced working together and we have great chemistry together. Brooke was just an incredibly delightful surprise. She's so warm and charming and so earnest and so willing to help. She's not a diva at all. I think for a generation of women, she's a sex symbol and the best kind of sex symbol because she's matured in every way. She now has her big business side of her life, which is all her infomercial work, she has her television work with 'Dancing With The Stars' and 'She's Got A Look' and she's an incredible loving Mom who is always on the phone with her kids. She's got that feeling, which is not what people expect from her. I don't think people expect the sisterly vibe to come out of this bombshell.
JH: From watching the show, Roshumba really knows her stuff and gives great direction to the women.
RV: She does! For me, I'm a generation of fashion reporters and style people that grew up with her on the runway. She was one of 'the girls.' People didn't say Linda [Evangelista], Christie [Brinkley], Roshumba. They said Linda, Christie and Naomi [Campbell] but Roshumba was in the mix with those girls and was one of those top girls at the time. Certainly you combine lots of photographs of her with all those girls and she's an icon on the runway. She was one of those girls who was pure magic. What's great about Roshumba is that she can articulate it and explain and she says it in a way where you go 'Wow! She really gets it!' And she says it in a way that's not intimidating, it's not scary and it's totally supportive. She has a real sweet way of handling each of the contestants that really helps shape their behavior in the competition.
JH: Has the kind of women you seeing come in for the show changed over the past three seasons?
RV: It's fascinating! I think women really love the show and thousands and thousands come out. We all get older and that's just one of those unfortunate things about life. Women have always been taught about life that beauty is arrested once you start college or in your early 20s. You have this barrage of imagery that's constantly faulting you. It's all these beautiful, air-brushed, perfect skin, glowing, perfect lips, bright eyes, perfect hair on magazine covers. It just reminds you even when you're 30, let alone women 35 and older, that you have lines in your face and you're a real person and you have to find something else to define yourself other than your physical self and that's what's great about this show.
We remind women and allow them to tap into a piece of themselves and hold onto a dream that they're still beautiful and being sexy isn't something limited to someone in their 20s. You can tap into a part of yourself and let the dream come through and reawaken it. I love it because these women are totally textured unlike a lot of the young girls who don't have the experience that these contestants have. They've had ups and downs, issues with their families, they've faced a lot of adversity and some have had some loving, long-term relationships and just find themselves undefined in terms of individuals. If you look at the platform of the show it gives women the opportunity to see themselves as sexy and beautiful and possibly a model. The entire thing metaphorically gives women the opportunity to dream again.
JH: Robert, would you say one of the hardest thing the contestants have to get beyond is their own self-esteem?
RV: I don't know if it's self-esteem but it's just a normal insecurity. 'Is she prettier than me?' And then there's the comparisons like 'I'm fatter than her, my boobs are too big, my ass is sagging, my ass is too flat' and they focus on the physical, which is funny because we're looking for a 3-dimensional person. This season, Susan is the oldest contestant at 54 and she's really gorgeous. You know in her hometown she's a MILF and she's totally hot! She was totally insecure amongst these women, which had nothing to do with them. She was just insecure because she felt her age. To everybody else, everyone looks at her and goes 'She's 54 and she looks spectacular!' But she was insecure because she kept seeing the 35-year olds and the 45-year olds and she felt the difference. It had nothing to do with them so it's an interesting Lord of the Rings experiment.
JH: You talk about the X Factor in the first episode. Is that something you can learn or is it either you have it or you don't?
RV: It's the latter. You either have it or you don't. You might have it and be unaware of it. You might not even know. It's not something, though, that you can develop. It can be camouflaged. You can lead people to their big personality and the way they engage you and they have star power and then once you put them in a room with people who all have that same power, is their X Factor as powerful as everyone else's? Somebody is going to be the tallest, someone is going to be the shortest. Somebody is going to be have to be the most charming, most beautiful and have the best cross-section of all that.
JH: How has the market changed for this age group of women? Do we see more over-35 models in the business?
RV: Yeah, I think the watershed moment for a lot of people - even though there has always been that advertising - it was when Dove started their campaign about real women. There were always companies, like cosmetics, who were aware of women aging and women who wanted to maintain their youth and beauty. When you look in the pages of magazines you start to see that women are maturing. They're not just in their 20s anymore. J Crew is a great example of turning the pages of a fashion catalog and finding beauty. I think a lot of leading magazines like Vogue, which is obviously popular, you see Halle Barry on the cover, who is 40+. You're seeing it in advertising and you're absolutely seeing beauty happening in a more mature way. I think we're also living longer lives. People aren't expiring now when they hit 90. When you live longer, you stay younger longer. I asked my Mom, and she's 77, and I asked 'How old is old?' and she said "90. 93." I said, "Really, 77 isn't old?" [Laughs.] There's a collapse across generations, too. We listen to the same music, watch the same TV shows. There isn't this hard line between generations. There's such a commonality now and people are in the same stage and place and that keeps women young.
"She's Got The Look" airs every Wednesday at 10:00/9:00c on TV Land.