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Elle‘s “Stylista” is coming, but will anyone watch?

Colleen Nika October 15, 2008 Comments Off

Stylista, the latest fashion-oriented reality series from the producers of America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway, will debut on October 22nd on the CW. This time, contestants compete for a job at Elle magazine. As assistants to fashion editor Anne Slowey, their limits, sanity, perseverance etc. will be tested and televised. Since March, Stylista has teased us with early promos heavily steeped in The Devil Wears Prada meets “Ugly Betty” audience-baiting, leading us to question the show’s intentions right off the bat.

Watch and judge the promo here.

With Stylista‘s hype machine now on overload, the time has come to ask: Will you watch “Stylista”? And will we? We debate our conscience and reach a verdict below.

WHY WE HAVE OUR DOUBTS:
There really is no need another “stylish” reality show, especially one that so blatantly relies on the sensationalism already exploited by earlier mass-market accounts of fashion culture. The success of franchises like The Devil Wears Prada, Sex & The City, and “Next Top Model” were early augurs of a decade-long obsession with glamorous voyeurism. Soon, it became an emergent reality niche that producers quickly managed to milk to death. Just as the uglier end of the reality programming spectrum became oversaturated, so has the realm of the rich, young, & stylish. We bottomed out with “Fashionista Diaries”. Enough is enough.

- It is time to beat the millenial “socialite syndrome”: we are sick of chronicling the lives of the bi-coastal social-climbers with media jobs who routinely materialize as heroines of movies, TV shows, and chick-lit novels. Recently, fashion has re-gained its Dynasty-era reputation as an industry of convenience for privileged youth; the mainstream now regards Fashion as the New York-ier, campier version of Hollywood. “Stylista” embraces this angle. We can tell it is the type of show that speaks directly to an audience who identify Heidi Klum and Gisele, but not Sasha, as supermodels, and to whom Lauren Conrad represents a legitimate member of the fashion industry. In other words, “Stylista” offers about as accurate a portrayal of editorial life as “Next Top Model” does of the modeling industry. Looking at the show’s credits, this is apropos. Dumbing down the industry may make entertainment sense, but it does not mean we support its cause. Socialites and editors are not one in the same. Because to us, fashion is hard work — not a game.
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- Do Anne Slowey’s image, reputation, and editorial methods really call to mind those of fictional editrix, Miranda Priestly? If so, we never noticed. In fact, this whole set-up feels rather contrived. Stop trying to make Elle Vogue, erm, Runway.

- Our friends at Jezebel already beat us to the punch in bemoaning the first ugly display of the show’s inevitable vacuity. In the video promo, notice that one contestant says, “If you’re going to work in this industry, then you have to change your body for it.” Footage of plus-sized Danielle looking forlorn immediately follows. She states, “Believe me I want to look different. There are things about me I want to change.” We cringe. Where’s the next generation of fearless, noncomformist editrixes if all they worry about what sized jeans they wear? Diana Vreeland wouldn’t stand for it.

- Instead of slaving away for Slowey, why not let contestants serve as a shadow crew for Elle Style Director (& our leftfield style icon of choice) Kate Lanphear? She’s cool, intelligent, funny, and, dare we say it, worthier of any fashion climber’s awe. We bet she’d administer far more exciting challenges and errands. Who would complain about daily downtown trips to Rick Owens, Stella McCartney, and Maison Martin Margiela?

WHY, DESPITE OUR BETTER JUDGEMENT, WE ARE INTRIGUED:
– Technically, “Stylista” is the first program to exclusively focus on the vagaries of assistanthood at a glossy magazine, so it still isn’t as redundant as, say, another modeling show. “Stylista” is by no means original, but alas, it is not a total retread.

- Sometimes, it is acceptable to watch shows that defy any intelligent cause. This is because observing humans in fierce competition with one another is funny, especially when said humans rather unfashionably fall from grace. We can tell “Stylista” will serve up a heady mixture of vanity and humiliation.

- We want to see televised evidence of Anne Slowey’s notorious eating habits.

- With any luck, it will scare off – NOT ENCOURAGE – viewers from attempting to enter the publishing industry!

VERDICT: We will watch it, skepticism prepared.

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