It had all started so glamorously. The Dutch version of Next Top Model was in its fourth season in 2008, and the judges named gorgeous, blonde, 21-year-old Ananda Marchildon the winner. Tears rolled down her cheeks and what looked like golden snowflakes fell from above as the show’s host handed Marchildon an oversize piece of paper—“a big fat check,” as the host put it. It was supposed to be worth €75,000, or almost $100,000 at the time. In fact, it was less a check than a promise of a three-year modeling contract with Modelmasters The Agency (MTA), which was later absorbed into Elite Model Management.
Then, after only one year—and after Marchildon had received only €10,000—Elite canceled her contract. Nor was she alone. Much the same thing happened to Rosalinde Kikstra, Holland’s Next Top Model in 2009. The ostensible reason: thanks to their bone structure, these almost six-foot women had hips ever so slightly bigger than the 35½ inches, or 90 centimeters, required. Top designers supposedly make only one size for the runway, and much like the ancient guests of the mythical Procrustes, the models' bodies are supposed to be fashioned to fit the clothes.
This is hardly the first controversy that’s been attached to the television programs in dozens of countries around the world that are based on the formula developed in the United States by erstwhile supermodel Tyra Banks. (There was even, very briefly, an Afghanistan’s Next Top Model in 2007.) But Marchildon, who has now given up modeling to become a cabinetmaker, recently decided to fight back in court. Kikstra is thinking about taking similar action, according to Dutch news reports.
And both are all over the media in the Netherlands, whose people are on average the tallest in the world, but whose women may not have the narrowest hips. When Marchildon’s lawyer quoted her critics saying she had “a nice head but a fat ass,” those rang out as fighting words in the Dutch tabloids.
In person, the down-to-earth Marchildon says she saw enough of modeling to be philosophical. “When I had just won, I thought this could give my modeling career an extra boost,” she told The Daily Beast this week. “I don’t believe in pie in the sky, but the door was open and I was over the threshold. It is all very disappointing, but, hey, it’s a tough world and there are plenty of people wanting to take advantage of young girls.”
In Marchildon’s case, as with many others, the glamour quickly gave way to a rigorous regime of dieting and training. At first, a slim but attainable 94 centimeters (37 inches) was all that MTA required in preparation for the launch of Marchildon’s career. But then Elite reportedly took over MTA, and Elite—the best-known agency in the business—declared that Marchildon’s hips, at 92 centimeters, were still two centimeters (three quarters of an inch) too big. “Elite is, well, Elite,” Marchildon says with a sigh.
“Around the time Elite took over,” she says, “I was put on a so-called keto diet.” (She had to pay for a personal trainer and a dietician out of her own pocket, she says.) “It is a protein regime: eggs without the yolk, steamed veggies, steamed meat, protein shakes, unsalted nuts, training three to four times a week for two hours.” But Elite’s program for downsizing to 90 centimeters proved to be an impossible task for the statuesque beauty. “I really tried to meet their demands, but it didn’t go fast enough for them, so they fired me. My butt’s too big, they said.”
In a letter to Tyra Banks, who owns the license to the syndicated brand of The Next Top Model, Marchildon’s lawyer, Dieuwke Levinson-Arps, asked her to support their cause. But Levinson-Arps says the letter came back unopened. Banks’s spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.
Banks, on her website at least, supports women’s hip issues. Just this week a homepage video proclaimed “The best style dresses for wide hips,” and in it a stylist elaborates on this sensitive topic. She confidently advises: “If it turns out you are bottom-curvy, don’t panic!” But that credo obviously does not apply to Marchildon and Kikstra.
Whether Kikstra will follow Marchildon’s lead is not yet clear. “Kikstra still wants to pursue a modeling career and is careful if it comes to taking legal measures,” Levinson-Arps supposes. “If you take on a company like Elite, you can’t expect an easy career in modeling after that.”