The finals for the Mr. SE Summer 2010 contest wrapped up yesterday and congratulations to the three guys who took home the prizes. In my own typical fashion, I managed to miss the boat somewhere but it’s worthy of a post.
The theme as presented to the contestants:
Theme : “Dark side of the Moon” – The chaos and the apocalypse reigns over our Earth, Angels and Demons fight for the dominance of this world and restoring the broken order.
(futuristic, dramatic, battle, metallic)
There’s an interesting challenge here. First, they’re looking for something that’s as cliche as it gets when we’re talking about male fashion on the grid–the warrior look. Second, it will need to be something that shows off the modeling skills of styling, posing, presentation, and description. Third, the contestants were only given four days to address the theme. A formidable task!
For me, this rather tired male-as-warrior cliche is a particular challenge. I dislike it almost as much as the “loin clothed muscle-man” and the “gay caballero” themes which seem to be the other common archtypes for males in the metaverse. Overcoming my distaste and coming up with a look which was within the theme, added something to the male aesthetic, and provided sufficient drama to have a chance of winning in a matter of hours was a substantial challenge. That challenge was made even more difficult when the organizers announced the show theme on Wednesday as “Fallen Angels.” Contestants were not notified of any contest theme change so I proceeded to create the look we were assigned.
The difficulty in dealing with warriors is getting out of the cliche in a way that supports the trope. In a fashion and styling contest, there’s also the challenge of not obscuring the model. There are lots of armors, weapons, specialized skins, etc on the grid that do a good job of making a warrior but mis-represent the model underneath — effectively turning the model into a dress-up doll, even hiding the avatar completely.
The key to any styling assignment is finding the inspiration. In many cases, that’s an item of clothing, an accessory, or perhaps a skin. In my case it was the stage. When we saw the stage on Tuesday for the first time, the dark, gritty, apocalyptic landscape started me wondering about how to stand out in the darkness — not only how to stand out against the field of contestants but how to be seen in the first place. I reasoned that the majority of contestants would opt for the “Black Bart” look, and going with an alternate would get me out of the pack. The idea of the White Knight appealed to me in terms of my ability to stand out on the stage.
It didn’t take long for me to select Lapointe’s Archangel Gabriel armor as a basis. It has the advantage of being white, scanty without being skimpy, and falls within the instructional parameters of “futuristic, dramatic, battle” very nicely. It’s not particularly “metallic” but I liked the possibilities provided. The immediate question was one of application — the theme specified an End Times scenario where the battle for good and evil becomes literal rather than spiritual and I needed to decide whether or not to wear the wings and be the Archangel Gabriel or to become an earthly champion of Good. I reasoned that most contestants would opt for wings and I chose the contrarian approach. I liked that because it allowed me to take advantage of literary goodness with an ancient story of a warrior named Roland — Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came — and use that as a foundation for my description. A great skin from Belleza and TTF’s mohawk gave me a fierce foundation. A classic two-handed sword from the White Armory provided the extra weaponry for the “sword and pistol by my side” idea and some very nice jewelry from Rozaregalia and an arm mounted clock for counting down to Doomsday accessorized the outfit. As a final touch, I picked a set of Celtic tattoos from Tat’ash Ink that complemented the knot work designs on the armor itself and tied the whole thing together.
I confess I had reservations about the choices.
The armor was a set piece. As a styling challenge, having so much of the outfit from a single designer was a risk. Frequently, styling competitions focus on the clothes and whether or not the contestant was able to mix-n-match. They sometimes overlook the cohesiveness of the avatar as a whole.
The overall subtlety of the look seemed a risk to me as well. I have a very minimalist aesthetic. It comes from growing bonsai trees where a single leaf represents an entire tree. That aesthetic manifests itself in my styling for maximum effect with minimum artifact. Coco Chanel’s famous quote about fashion being a triumph over vulgarity is one of my guiding principles, so I shoot for an overall look that uses the least amount of busy-ness. Unfortunately, that subtlety is frequently lost on judges who seem to be looking for the model to wear *something* on every mount point, whether it adds to the look or not.
Third, the issue of the theme change weighed on my mind. The contestants were never notified that the theme had shifted from the battle to ‘fallen angels’ and although the original statement of theme referred to the battle of angels and demons, I was left with my original instructions and the uneasy sense that I’d missed a memo.
Finally, I knew going in that I was going against type for SuperELITE. They have a consistent look for their male models that I’ve seen them choose over and over and over. Going against that type was a calculated risk.
In the end, the change of theme turned out to be significant and the three winners were either angels or demons. They had great looks and I congratulate them on their success with the contest. The nature of these contests is that I’ll never find out what it was that cost me. It might have been the theme, might have been the look. It might have been that they didn’t like my answer to their question. Whatever it was, my year of playing the SuperELITE lottery is over. After missing Mr Autumn, being caught by a rules change for Mr. Winter, traveling and being unable to make the mandatory rehearsal schedule for Spring, and now having missed the brass ring for Mr. Summer, I can finally get two group slots back by dropping the two slots taken up by the required SE groups. It’s apparent that SuperELITE isn’t buying what I’m selling and it’s time for me to move along.
Congrats and best wishes all around. It was a heck of a ride.
[Update: The day after the event, I was invited back to become an MSE Top Model which makes me eligible to participate in the finale show later this fall. I’m not exactly sure why and I’ve not had a chance to ask, but I’m looking forward to working as a model instead of a contestant. – RZ]