He’s a fashionista with a sharp eye and an even sharper tongue. But Australia’s Next Top Model’s (ANTM) new model mentor, Josh Flinn, says he won’t intentionally push the catwalk wannabes to tears.

“I want to build the girls up, not put them down,” Flinn told Southern Star over a cuppa after filming wrapped.

“My job is not to make them famous, but make them into real models; not the carbon copy but the refined version. If I can do that, then my job is done. I want to make them believe in themselves – encouragement is a wonderful thing.”

Now in its sixth season, the reality television show has spawned its fair share of controversy in the past, thanks to some less than pleasant contestants.

And controversy has already struck the latest season, which airs Tuesday nights on Fox8, with some claiming the program’s 16 finalists are too thin and little more than vulnerable teenagers.

It’s a criticism that gets Flinn hot under the collar.

“That old ridiculous chestnut – enough already,” the stylishy dressed man in front of me exclaims.

“Millions of industries have got standards — firemen have to be six feet tall, builders have to have muscles — and if you want to wear clothes, you have to fit them.”

While Flinn may not be a household name — yet — he has all the credentials necessary to join the critical panel that sits in judgment of the trembling catwalk hopefuls.

Originally from Adelaide, the 30-year-old chased his dreams of haute couture to Sydney, where he joined FBI Fashion School before moving to an agency where he was employed “licking envelopes and the like”.

More recently, he worked as client liaison at Sydney Fashion Week, but was contemplating moving home because he couldn’t quite find a job he really loved.

“Then I was called into the (ANTM) studio,” Flinn said. “I knew I was guest styling an episode, but when I walked in and I saw Sarah Murdoch sitting in the room I knew something was going on.

“I don’t know why I’m there. It’s just fate and I’m really lucky.”

The show returns with host Sarah Murdoch, TV personality Charlotte Dawson and fashion designer Alex Perry on the team.

Flinn, however, is clearly a different breed of fashionista.

“I come from a different world than them, I’m younger, I know more of the upcoming designers and trends,” he said.

“I am a stickler for vintage glam and in love with the ‘80s. I have a different aesthetic critique than others. I like gas masks and avant-garde,” and, as he points out, “I get fashion updates three times a day.”

Harsh words are not uncommon in the fast-paced and high glamour modelling industry where that extra centimetre can be the difference between fortune and failure — and Flinn is under no illusions about his own place in the industry.

“I wanted to be a model, but I’m not tall enough and I’m too thin. You have to accept what you’ve got. I’d love to be an action hero earning millions of dollars, but it’s not going happen.”

His own personal ambitions aside, Flinn does promise this new season of ANTM will showcase talent at least as high as the heels.

“This season’s girls are switched on. When I first got the Polaroids I thought, ‘Oh my God, worst season ever’, but when I met them they were beautiful.

“In the past some of the girls thought they had it in the bag. There is a big difference between confidence and arrogance.

This year we had a savvy set, not wet-behind-the-ears schoolgirls.”

With his boyish looks, sophisticated charm, blue eyes and button nose, Flinn is a natural choice for reality TV, but that doesn’t mean he is without his insecurities.

“I forgot I had this mole on my neck, my friend thinks it will have a Facebook page all to itself at some point,” he admitted.

“TV is confronting like that. You see yourself 360 degrees pulling strange facials you would never know about. I watch it and I think, ‘Maybe that’s why I don’t have a boyfriend’.”

But its that self awareness that ensures the male glamazon — as he was described by one of the contestants — feels plenty of empathy for the young models. And that, he insists, is what makes him good at his job.

“While the girls were being judged on everything they did, I went through a boot camp of my own,” Flinn said.

“I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t look nervous but I was packing it.

“There’s a lot you won’t see on camera, my gag reel is huge. I just forgot half the time that the camera was rolling and I’d say what I was thinking.

“But I don’t want to be a polished robot — I’m here to say what I feel.”

info: Australia’s Next Top Model screens Tuesday nights on Fox8 at 8.30pm.


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