"If you think I'm nasty on there, then wait ‘til you get out into the real world"
How did the new scoring system affect your judging of the contestants?
It kind of makes it very democratic. In previous seasons we would always discuss everything and it was almost like if I loved a certain girl and Jen liked someone else we could kind of battle it out and try and make them see your way, but this is very democratic. You put your score down and it's tallied up.
You have some amazing guest judges this year. Who was the best to work with?
Every single one of them brought something incredible to the table. Linda Evangelista was so incredibly generous with the girls in her experience but if I had to pick one of them I'd say Alessandra Ambrosio because she has a generosity of spirit where she would tell the girls things that would happen to them as a model which were really relevant for them to know.
What's your favourite part of filming the show?
There are lots of moments. My favourite parts are always the photo shoots. It's a time we get to see the girls transform and it's the time that we see which ones are photogenic and which ones work in front of the camera.
What do you think it is about Top Model that keeps engaging fans after so many years?
I think people love that Cinderella moment where a regular girl who kind of looks like everyone else gets to transform in to what we see as a top model. I've always thought that that's what makes the whole franchise interesting. Girls look at some girls – they can maybe identify with them in a certain way and then they see them in all these different situations where they're looking like models and there's just something great to watch about.
So it's a lot to do with an underdog type thing?
With modeling it's not always the girl that you see who looks incredibly beautiful in real life that is the one who translates really well in film. There’s a lot of girls that are beautiful in real life but they're not incredibly photogenic and there's other girls who are maybe not so impressive when you look at them in a room and then all of a sudden in front of the camera they photograph brilliantly.
We do love an underdog though. There's a girl in Cycle 9 called Brittany who is a part-time truck driver. She's not from the wrong side of the tracks but she's definitely the underdog. Every time she gets in front of the camera she just looks extraordinary. In Australia we always go for the runt of the litter in a lot of respects.
How important is a model's personality or work ethic? Is it as important as their walk or look?
I think for me the most important thing is how photogenic they are. If I book a model and we're going to be shooting for two days obviously I love that she's got a great personality but so long as they can bring that personality in front of the camera. Same thing on the runway. You know great girls like Coco Rocha and you know the amazing runway girls who have got strong walks but they've got great personalities as well.
What unique insight do you bring as a designer?
I mean the girls want to work for designers so I bring my aesthetic. There’s things I look for when I'm booking a girl, whether it's for a campaign or shoot, and there's certain things designers want in a girl. I'm talking purely from a client perspective and as a designer I want them to inspire me. I want them to walk in and I want to say "I really want to direct this girl. I want her in my show."
How much does social media play a part in the lives of the models?
I think that a lot of girls of that age think that being successful on social media is going to make them a successful model, but I don't believe that. I think it's the other way around. Once you become good at something, then everybody is interested in what you do and you will have like 2, 3, 6 million followers. I don't know how many millions of girls have figured out how to take a good selfie and put a filter on it, smash it up on social media and they think "Oh my god I look like a model." It might sound a bit brutal but when their world's not that exciting well nobody really wants to see it on social media – but when it becomes great then we all want to have a look at it.
What do you think of your ‘Mr Nasty’ persona on the show?
I don't think I'm nasty, I think I'm brutally honest. If you think I'm nasty on there, then wait ‘til you get out into the real world. People are far more brutal, far more honest; not just in fashion but any industry you work in. For all the times I encourage them people don't remember that but they remember the time you said: "That was terrible, you were flat in that, you didn't look great, you weren't trying". If I'm paying that girl $1,000 a day I want to be able to say "That photo is not good" or "You haven't tried hard enough" You have just got to deliver the honest truth because it's far more brutal in real life.
Who are some of the best-dressed celebrities right now?
I always love what Jennifer Lopez does. I think she knows who she is, what suits her, what works for her, and she's consistently great. I think Jennifer Lawrence always looks incredible. I love the way that Rooney Mara always has some different take on what she's doing. It's mainstream but I love that quirky thing she's got going on. It's consistently great – the way that those girls look all the time.
What's one item of clothing that you think every woman should own?
A great pair of nude high heels. Every woman should have a pair of those.
What makes Cycle 9 better than any other?
I think it's because we shot it differently – kind of documentary style. We wanted to make it more real.