‘Cambodia’s Next Top Model’ Starts Shooting

“I hope I win ‘Cambodia’s Next Top Model.’ My life will change forever and I will become a superstar in Cambodia,” said 20-year-old Kim Karona on the first day of filming the Cambodian version of the hit reality TV show “America’s Next Top Model.”

Ms. Karona is one of 35 women aged 18 to 27 shortlisted to appear on the show, franchised by Cambodian Broadcasting Corporation to be aired on MyTV in August. Yesterday and today, the number is being trimmed to 15. The finalists will become roommates as they seek to beat each other to a $20,000 prize and a career in modeling.

The four judges of "Cambodia's Next Top Model" appraise an aspiring model during filming of the show's first episode. (Simon Henderson/The Cambodia Daily)
The four judges of “Cambodia’s Next Top Model” appraise an aspiring model during filming of the show’s first episode. (Simon Henderson/The Cambodia Daily)

Like most of the women at the Cambodiana Hotel on Sunday, Ms. Karona did not lack confidence in her chances of making it through.

“I have a beautiful face, a beautiful body, a beautiful everything, so I hope I can win,” she said.

The reality TV show was created in the U.S. by model-cum-media mogul Tyra Banks and its success has led to more than 20 different international variations in countries such as Australia, Russia, South Africa and now, Cambodia.

In a recent interview, Ms. Banks said the secret of the show’s global appeal is that the audience gets to watch the girl next door unravel the mystery of an enigmatic industry and become a success.

They think: “I can do that, I can try out to be ‘America’s Next Top Model’—and millions have,” she said in a March interview with New Zealand’s Black Magazine.

The reality, of course, is that not everyone really can do that.

On Sunday, the 35 hopefuls nervously showcased their potential to master the catwalk in front of the judges. At 10 p.m. last night, 35 would be slimmed to 25.

Today, they will face the lens of a professional fashion photographer, a test that will end the dreams of a further 10 aspiring young models on the final day of eliminations.

As they take to the catwalk, the poster-perfect sight of Cambodian supermodel and judge Kouy Chandanich must deliver a jolt of recognition at how far they have left to travel. But the journey must start somewhere, she said.

“The show is not about the judges, it is about the girls—we want them to be open and willing to learn and watch them grow within their profession,” said Ms. Chandanich, who will judge alongside Cambodian TV presenter Yok Chenda, fashion photographer Chem Vuth Sovin and Cambodian-American fashion designer Remy Hou.

Although many of the women expressed to the judges their desire to be rich and famous, Mr. Hou said their dreams chime with most of their fellow Cambodians.

“We have heard many sad stories today,” Mr. Hou said. “Many of the girls have expressed the aspiration to be famous, but most of them are still looking for a career and an opportunity to help their families.”

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