When 24-year-old Roland Bunce entered Next’s “Make Me the Next Model” competition he couldn’t have known the extent to which the public would embrace his submission.
Amongst hundreds of images of beautiful young things it was Bunce, who is perhaps not what might be considered classically handsome, who stood out. Thanks to his kindly smile – and tens of thousands of social media users on Reddit, The Poke, Twitter and Facebook – he is now the most voted for entrant..
Next’s competition invites modelling hopefuls to submit a picture of themselves online. Visitors to the site can then vote for their favourite, the top 250 will then be shortlisted down to 50 by a panel of “industry experts”, with the eventual winner being treated to £2,000 of Next gift cards, a contract with Storm modelling agency and “the chance to star in a Next photoshoot”.
Well that’s great, but it seems like the public are getting a bit fed up of the exclusive nature of fashion and this social media retaliation should send a warning because, hey, we all wear clothes. So far, Bunce, the partying and wrestling enthusiast, has been “liked” by 34,000 people on Next’s Facebook button, way ahead of the number two favourite, who had an incomparable 97 likes. Michele Hanson wrote for The Guardian:
“It’s John Sergeant and Strictly Come Dancing all over again but better, because this seems to be the public having a pop at the ghastly fashion world, with its blemish-free, pouty, stick models poncing about in odd garments that most of the rest of us wouldn’t dare, or want, to wear. And even if we wanted to, many of us couldn’t, because they wouldn’t be in our size.”
Instead of embracing Bunce, however, some of the media seemed almost angry with the campaign; I imagine that they’re still not over Rage Against The Machine getting to Number One in the Christmas charts. The Daily Mail went so far as to say the competition was sabotaged (although this has now been edited out).
Grazia were quick to respond with the article “Next’s Model Search – HIJACKED” and stated “…we have been excitedly championing this opportunity to find a new talent in the modelling world”. Read “new talent” as, “We want a rehash of what’s already out there as to ensure that Next’s publicity campaign goes to their plan,” and you’re a little bit closer to the truth. They continue with, “So it is with a slightly heavy heart that we ask fashion fans everywhere to redress the balance on Next’s website…Sorry Roland”. Despite the light-hearted manner the message was there, “Stop voting for Roland Bunce”. It was this statement, particularly, that seemed to anger readers who responded with comments such as:
“I’m voting for Roland and others like him because I think it’d be nice for Next to use the type of people who actually spend money in their stores, rather than tall and beautiful 18 year olds who really buy their clothes from H&M and Topshop.”
“So it is with a slightly heavy heart that we ask fashion fans everywhere to redress the balance on Next’s website and help the fashion label promote some genuine future talent for the industry”….. Are you serious?! It`s comments like this that make people feel awful about themselves and leads to disorders like anorexia. You should surely be more responsible in your attitude! Who are you to say that Roland isn’t genuine talent? Ask Next what they sell and I reckon a good percentage of it will be to plus size customers. Stupid, stupid comment.”
“Sorry but we are not all wrong – I personally would rather see Roland than rakes!”
“This article is a complete disgrace. It is these sorts of attitudes that lead to eating disorders, anxiety and other mental health problems. You need to try and write a bit more responsibly. Maybe you should take a leaf out of Rage Models’ book and embrace a concept of beauty that is a bit more inclusive.”
However, for Next it’s all publicity, Storm Model Management said, “’We’re thrilled that this year’s event has captured the public’s imagination. Make Me The Next Model 2011 has become the model competition to enter. Entries are up by 1000% on last year, and there are some great faces to watch out for. We would encourage everybody interested in modelling to send in their pictures.”
Obviously Storm are aware that no matter how many votes Bunce gets he still has the substantial obstacle of getting past the judges at boot camp before he can be considered the winner. What an amazing PR opportunity for Next that would be.
Despite making it to the final 250 contestants, beating more than 5,000 hopefuls Roland Bunce posted the following comment on with Facebook page:
“Just to let you all know I am quitting the next model contest. It was a big honour to win and it’s been fun but the amount of abuse I’ve been getting since Thursday is out of control and I’ve now just been threatened. Thanks to everyone who has supported me but I am now bowing out before this gets any worse.”