L-R: Lilli, Jenny, Jessica and Sophie – some of the contestants in Britain's Missing Top Model
The Beauty Season – Britain's Missing Top Model
Week 27 Unplaced on BBC THREE
BBC Three launches The Beauty Season this week and goes behind the glamour and gloss with a collection of programmes, aired throughout July, designed to challenge conventional notions about beauty.
With young people feeling under increasing social pressure from the images of beauty and perfection they see around them, this thought-provoking season questions what it means to be beautiful – and exposes the truth behind the apparently perfect images we all see on a daily basis.
Leading the season is a ground-breaking, new, six-part series, Britain's Missing Top Model. Eight gorgeous girls have been selected to take part and each has the looks and personality to become a model – but each also has a disability.
For some it is clearly visible, such as an arm or leg amputation, or partial paralysis requiring a wheelchair. For others, their disability is less visible but just as challenging – such as deafness, partial blindness or mobility problems.
With one in six people in the UK registered disabled, this series raises the issue of whether they should be represented in the fashion world or if the industry and society, in general, are just not yet ready to accept something a little different.
Through the assignments the girls are set, Britain's Missing Top Model challenges preconceptions and explores why disabled people appear not to have a role to play in the beauty and fashion industries.
Mentored by modelling guru and agent Jonathan Phang – who was instrumental in launching the careers of top names including Naomi Campbell, Jodie Kidd, Nikki Taylor and Jerry Hall – the models' photo shoots are judged by a panel of industry experts, including Wayne Hemingway, co-founder of fashion label Red Or Dead and Hemingway Design, who was awarded the MBE for services to the fashion industry; Marie O'Riordan, editor of Marie Claire; Lara Masters, disabled actor, TV presenter and writer; and casting director Mark Summers.
Britain's Missing Top Model is not a reality show gimmick – it's a real competition and the judges are seeking out those girls who truly have the attributes successful models need, such as beauty, resilience, personality and attitude.
Disability in the modelling world is an area that most people have never thought about before now, but the judges are adamant that their assessments of the girls must be honest, realistic and certainly not patronising. They each have their own opinions and are not afraid to voice them. Based on their decisions, one girl will be eliminated every week until one is victorious.
The prize for the winner is a photo shoot with renowned fashion photographer Rankin and a spread in top-selling fashion magazine Marie Claire.
Ouch!, the BBC's award-winning disability website, joins forces with BBC Learning to bring the rarely discussed topic of disability within the beauty and fashion industry into the spotlight. The aim is to raise awareness about disability and increase the profile of disabled people in the media. The campaign will introduce Disability Bitch to the wider world. She's already well known to users of the Ouch! website, where she writes a regular column, but here she'll help the public get to grips with this whole subject in her own unique and direct manner.
She'll also be encouraging disabled viewers to send in 15-second clips of themselves introducing their favourite BBC Three programme for Be On TV – BBC Three's unique opportunity for viewers to appear on the channel. Some will be shown on the website, while others will actually make it on to TV. Disability Bitch also interviews the models as they are eliminated and casts her acerbic judgements on what's been happening in the series.
The Beauty Season also features a series of high-profile documentaries presented by well-known young female stars that challenge mainstream notions of beauty and highlight the serious social pressures young people feel under to conform.