Published: Wednesday April 9, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday April 11, 2014 MYT 4:37:13 PM

Fierce fight to the finish

The finale of Asia’s Next Top Model sees a Malaysian amongst the top three. Our columnist hopes she will sashay to the top.

WITH her bleached locks, skinny frame and pouty lips, Sheena Liam easily stands out in the current crop of contestants on Asia’s Next Top Model (AsNTM).

From the beginning, I had predicted that the 22-year-old Malaysian would go far in the competition, and whaddayaknow, she’s amongst the last three standing.

The 174-cm tall Sheena, who names her legs as her best feature, is up against Jodilly Pendre and Katarina Rodriguez, both from the Philippines. So, who will be the winner?

All will be revealed in the AsNTM finale tonight (9.40pm, on Star World), and I am naturally rooting for Sheena to sashay away with the title. The champ will be given a cash prize, a brand new car, a fashion spread in Harper’s Bazaar Singapore and Malaysia, as well as a modelling contract with Storm Model Management.

Winning smize: Malaysian Sheena Lim (left) is one of the last three standing on Asia's Next Top Model. With her is the other Malaysian contestant Josephine Yee.
Malaysian Sheena Liam (left) is one of the last three standing on Asia’s Next Top Model. With her is the other Malaysian contestant, Josephine Yee.

For the uninitiated, AsNTM is part of the global Top Model franchise, created by Tyra Banks in 2003.

The second cycle of AsNTM featured 16 competing models from 12 Asian countries. As it’s supported by Tourism Malaysia, it is largely set in Malaysia. Hence, you get the leggy girls posing against iconic Malaysian landmarks such as the Twin Towers, and climbing up the Batu Caves staircase with a tray of fruits and being harassed by monkeys. You know, what we mere mortals all go through on a daily basis.

As Malaysia’s representatives, Sheena and Josephine Yee, 23, carried themselves well. The duo were telegenic, articulate and stayed away from unnecessary drama. It’s as if the producers put in extra effort this time round to cast strong girls after the sole Malaysian representative last season was criticised for her appearance and lack of height.

Speaking of the first cycle, it was apparently watched by 39 million viewers in the region. So, AsNTM is a certified ratings success, but how was that translated in terms of profile and jobs for previous winner, Jessica Amornkuldilok from Thailand?

The second cycle of AsNTM featured more or less the same ingredients – there were quirky challenges and catfights aplenty, and Nadya Hutagalung returns as head judge and host.

There’s no denying that Nadya is gorgeous, but she remains strangely detached from the proceedings. I wish she were more emotionally invested in the contestants’ well-being. I’m not saying she should go cray-cray like Tyra, but it’d help if she let her hair down once in a while. At the moment, her presentation is stiff and lifeless.

Also returning from the first season is model mentor Joey Mead King, who helps to coach the girls in various aspects of the modelling industry. She is actually my favourite judge; at least she appears to be interested in the models’ progress. When she’s excited about a contestant’s photo during judging, she gets animated and conveys genuine enthusiasm. (In one instance, Joey confesses that she’s turned on by a model’s sexy picture, although she’s straight.)

Mike Rosenthal is the resident photographer, replacing the oh-so-bland Todd Anthony Tyler. Meanwhile, Adam Williams (with his scarily-Botoxed mien) is the show’s “movement coach”, replacing fashion director Daniel Boey.

Fans of the show would notice a few key differences between this series and its American counterpart. While the height standards are the same as the American version (at least 172cm), they aren’t as heavily enforced, as some girls have been allowed to enter despite not meeting the height requirement.

In AsNTM, the judges are more heavily involved in the challenges and photo shoots, providing constructive criticism to the girls, and also acting as a means of support if needed. The “Best Photo” of each week is projected on the background of the judging panel, instead of being showcased on a TV inside the models’ home.

Tonight, as Sheena goes head-to-head with her Filipino counterparts, it’ll be a fierce fight to the finish. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Sheena triumphs as the queen of the catwalk. I have a feeling she will emit a mighty roar.

William practises his smize every day, without fail. Even if there are no cameras around. Send your feedback to

Tags / Keywords: Opinion, Lifestyle, New Black, columnist, fashion

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