A new BBC show is ready to challenge the fashion world's notions about marketable beauty. Britain's Missing Top Model, like American's Next Top Model and the ilk, brings together several beauties and puts them through a series of competitions where they have to use real life modeling "skills." The winner is awarded with an exclusive photo spread in Marie Claire, and presumably lasting fame and fortune.
The twist? These models all have some form of disability.
Gah. As much as we hate Heather Mills and would rather stick pins in our eyes than give her credit, perhaps all of her gawking around on Dancing With The Stars did some good.
Whether or not it was because of Heather's rhumba, models with disabilities caught the attention of some producer, and now we will see it play out on tv: can a disabled model be used to create marketable images? Will it sell to someone who is not disabled?
There is a fascinating clip on the BBC site showing some behind the scenes action with the judges and producers, including disabled model Lara Masters who wrote about the show as well as the challenges she's faced as a model in a wheelchair, for BBC News.
It's a tricky proposition. We're sure the show will be excellent, for the drama and human interest factors. But the real test will be after the show ends and we see what happens to the winner.
If she becomes just another model then she's really a winner. And even if she's known as "that disabled model" and gets a few jobs, that's progress because right now we don't see anyone with a disability on the runway or in magazines.
We have to hope that the winner, and all of the girls on the show, manage to convince the public that models come in different shapes and sizes and gaits, as well as colors. We have to hope they don't simply disappear after the series ends.
That's a lot of pressure to put on some pretty girls and a reality tv show, but we have to start somewhere.