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Fashion Victims and Victors: An Advance Look at CW's "Stylista"

I wasn't going to write about Stylista today but I couldn't resist. After all, it's Monday morning so it's likely than many of us are undercaffeinated and in dire need of cheering up.

I'll admit that my expectations for Stylista, the CW's new fashion-focused reality competition series from executive producers Tyra Banks, Ken Mok, Jane Cha, Desiree Gruber, and Eli Holzman, were slightly low. While I thought that, if done right the series could be a fun popcorn diversion from the stress of Amazing Race and the high-stakes runway risk of Project Runway, it could also turn out to be nothing more than a hastily clothed reality remake of The Devil Wears Prada.

It's turns out that I was kind of right on both counts. While Stylista definitely takes the majority of its cues from The Devil Wears Prada (hell, Anne Slowey breezes in with nary a smile or greeting for the receptionist at Elle as she tosses her her coat), I do have to say that it is pretty damn fun to watch, as long as you don't take your reality TV very seriously.

The premise? Eleven fashionista wannabes compete for a one-year junior editor gig at Elle magazine, a luxurious Manhattan apartment, and a clothing allowance from H&M (though, given that this is Elle, I would have expected something more along the lines of an LVMH high-end brand than high street flagship H&M), all worth about $100,000. Of course, like Top Model before it, the contestants must live together in fabulous but confined spaces, where they will once again clash over such tantalizing subjects as who ate my ice cream and (in this case) who is forced to share a room with a contestant nicknamed "Boobs." (No one said maturity was a required attribute for participating in this series.)

As for the contestants themselves, they are a mix of fashion victims, divas, and publicity whores. Some of them do seem genuinely talented or at least have a natural affinity for both fashion and editorial work and many were cast for the drama they would bring to the mix. (If you couldn't guess within minutes that Megan and Ashlie would be at each other's throats almost instantly, you don't watch enough television.) While Megan instantly rubs every single contestant the wrong way (setting her bullying sights on ample-chested Kate from minute one), she's the perfect reality show villain: self-aware, preening, and completely ego-centric. Within the first two episodes provided for review, she manages to reduce Kate to tears on more than one occasion, make an enemy out of Ashlie, and set herself up as the devil-in-training herself.

While I have to say that Ashlie seems like she has the goods to win this thing (if she can think slightly more like a magazine editor and stay out of Megan's way), I am secretly rooting for Danielle to come out the winner. A fashion-savvy but overweight girl, Danielle has more to prove than anyone else in this competition (she's ignored by the other contestants as they wait for Anne Slowey to arrive in the first episode) and I am hoping that she rises to the occasion and shows these Skinny Minnies how it's done.

Challenges in Stylista take one of two tacks: either an assistant challenge (preparing breakfast for Anne) or an editorial one (working in teams to prepare a contributor's page that summarizes their individual styles and uses photos from their fashion show). The assistant challenges seem designed to put the contestants in their place... and feel the most forced, as if they were culled by producers who had read and seen Devil Wears Prada one too many times.

Yes, we get that Anne is demanding and particular, that style can be embodied by everything from the way you dress to the way you lay out a breakfast platter, that these are things that assistants are expected to do, but I couldn't help but want a little more of an intellectual challenge here than just run-of-the-mill grunt work. (The second episode offers a better assistant challenge when it tasks the kids to pull together outfits with specific requirements and dress them on mannequins.)

As for Anne herself, she comes off a little bit like Anna Wintour-lite (or, well, Miranda Priestly), all iciness, grimaces, and style but her lines feel a little overscripted to me. Still, she provides some of the series' most humorous moments, such as when she drifts her hands in the air around contestant William's Clockwork Orange-inspired ensemble and asks "What do we have here?" and then motions around his entire look and says, "No, I mean here."

It's rare that a reality series host/judge actually makes the contestants shake in their stylish boots (what in the age of Kenley, who lashes right out the judges themselves each week), but Anne Slowey manages to do that just by walking in the room.

Stylista might be a little too Prada-inspired but for those of you looking for a reality series that's fun, fashionable, and fierce, it's hard to go wrong with this stylish format.

Stylista premieres October 22nd at 9 pm ET/PT on CW.


Definitely a guilty pleasure. The contestants are pretty ridiculous but that just makes it more fun. And while there's nothing original about the Devil Wears Prada concept, it kinda works for this show.
Anonymous said…
"Boobs" orr "ample chested Kate" deserves every negative response from the other contestants and the viewing public that she will get. She is dreadful.

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