Asia’s Next Top Model: Much ado about ‘eye roll’

by - 16:11

What is the one thing that’s hotter than the current heatwave enveloping our country?

Last week’s episode of Asia’s Next Top Model (AsNTM), that’s what. I have been following the reality competition series since its 2012 debut, and nothing comes close to matching the explosive drama in The Girl Who Crashed And Burned.

Before we get to that, let’s backtrack a bit.

The Asian version of America’s Next Top Model (ANTM), AsNTM is now into its fourth season and is as popular as ever; its last cycle was viewed by 30 million viewers in the region. (It is aired at 9pm, Wednesday on Star World HD/Astro Ch 722.)

AsNTM returned last month with a brand new host and head judge, Cindy Bishop. The Thai-American model – who took over from Georgina Wilson – is joined by newcomers Kelly Tandiono (as model mentor) and Yu Tsai of ANTM (as creative consultant).

Days before the premiere, a controversy erupted over Malaysian contestant Tuti who received backlash on social media. Some took offense because they thought it was inappropriate for a Muslim woman to expose her body in a modelling competition.

Four episodes in, I’m glad to report that Tuti is carrying herself well; she even won best picture in the first episode. (Last week, scenes of Tuti in a balancing challenge where contestants wore swimsuits were “missing” on Malaysian screens, perhaps to avoid further disapproval from her detractors.)

But any talk of Tuti has been overshadowed by the unfolding of events in the latest episode. The photo shoot – which saw contestants posing in long gowns as a car sped towards them – was challenging but the tension reached its peak in the judging room.

A guest judge took offense to South Korean participant Sang-in’s demeanour during the afore-mentioned shoot.

Contestants of this seasons Asia's Next Top Model. Photo: Asia's Next Top Model

Contestants of this seasons Asia’s Next Top Model. Photo: Asia’s Next Top Model

Glenn Tan, executive director of a car distribution company, hollered: “Who the f*** do you think you are to roll your eyes at me? If I were your client, I would never ever have hired you!”

Yikes. Granted, Tan – whose Subaru brand is one of the sponsors – was upset but I doubt it warranted the four letter word. After all, I follow the golden rule that one should always praise in public and reprimand in private.

As for the purported “eye roll”? I watched and re-watched the scene and to me, Sang-in’s reaction was more of a surprise at the challenging photo shoot, rather than disrespect towards the judge.

To her credit, Sang-in handled herself with grace, apologising immediately and even bowed to Tan.

Many fans took to AsNTM’s official Facebook page to show their support. “Good on Sang-in for being unfazed and taking the higher ground with a humble Korean bow,” wrote Jedd Rommel.

Concurred Nirmal Mann: “I honestly think Sang-in deserves an apology. I don’t think she rolled her eyes in a bad way; she was just shocked from what she heard. No one should ever use such language on someone else.”

Media outlets overseas (such as the BBC and Daily Mail UK) also covered the heated moment.

According to the BBC: “A snippet of the incident, uploaded on to the show’s Facebook page, has drawn more than 1,000 angry reactions from fans.”

It also quoted Sam Gollestani, the show’s executive producer, as saying the incident highlighted the “emotions and tensions that occur during the competition.”

“Glenn provides the perspective of a client when choosing a model to front campaigns for products, which is why he was invited to be a guest judge this season,” he said.

“This scene is reflective of what considerations go into making these decisions when working in the fashion and modelling industry.”

South Korean participant and fan favourite Sang-in.Photo: Asia's Next Top Model

South Korean participant and fan favourite Sang-in.Photo: Asia’s Next Top Model

Another tense moment occurred when Alaiza (of the Philippines) faced the judges.

Visibly emotional after witnessing Sang-in’s “scolding”, Alaiza was teary and unsure. When Bishop questioned Alaiza about her passion for modelling, she was hesitant with her answer.

With everyone already on edge, Bishop then dropped a bombshell: it was to be a double elimination week!

Ultimately, Sang-in, Gwen (of the Philippines) and Aldilla (of Indonesia) ended up as the bottom three. Gwen was the first to be sent home, with Aldilla following shortly after. However, Bishop announced that she couldn’t eliminate Aldilla as she saw her determination. She proceeded to ask Alaiza whether or not she wanted to remain in the show.

After a tense pause, Alaiza replied no and bowed out of the competition, allowing Aldilla to remain in the running.

Bishop’s actions proved unpopular with Filipino fans, well-known to be zealous supporters of their Pinoy counterparts in AsNTM. Feeling that Bishop pressured Alaiza into quitting, they took to social media in droves to air their grievances.

It’s only episode 4, and already there’s so much drama. Tonight’s episode sees the appearance of Sex And The City costume designer Patricia Field.

Obviously, I am rooting for our Malaysian girl Tuti to win the whole shebang. But she faces fierce competition from Tawan (of Thailand), Julian (of the Philippines) and yes, Sang-in (you go, girl!).

William has been the giver and receiver of many eye rolls in his lifetime. Send feedback to

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