Stylista is the latest television series brought to us by Tyra Banks as she tries to fulfill some sort of quest to document every facet of the world of ‘FASHION’ while injecting the whole proceeding with a little of the freak show element that has been absent in entertainment since its heyday during the time of Victorian circuses.
The concept behind Stylista is simple; participants compete for a position as an assistant to Anne Slowey, the Fashion News Editor at Elle magazine, the lease on an apartment in Manhattan, and a clothing allowance from H&M.
As the prizes add up to $100,000 in total, I have to feel that the largest portion is being used for apartment rental, especially considering the rents in Manhattan and how notoriously underpaid fashion assistants are. However, it builds the fantasy to tally everything up together and wave the amount of $100,000 under the noses of the eleven fashion enthusiasts vying for first place.
And, quite frankly, they’re going to need to keep muttering the mantra of “$100,000” if episode one is anything to go by. As their adventure begins, contestants are told to create individualized breakfast trays for Slowey; and how I would love to have heard the instructions for that “I want you to conceptualize breakfast…and fashion…and a tray. Feel the muffin.” The irony of the situation, of course, being that according to Slowey herself in a fashion week food diary that she kept for the New York Magazine “breakfast” consists of a handful of vitamins. And, as they shakily present trays of food that are destined never to be eaten, Slowey tells them “If you are going to live in my world, you have to express your sense of taste and style in everything you do”. Which is fine, in a Martha Stewart kind of way, until you realize that in this show Slowey’s concept of taste and style doesn’t include manners. At least, not in the over-acted presentation she is giving in Stylista.
Right down to the “I am a fashion editor” wardrobe selection and attitude, everything comes off as contrived. A look at Slowey on Elle’s website shows a smiling woman in a low-cut dress and tasteful accessories, yet in Stylista she combines a power suit with an oversized Yves Saint Laurent necklace, a wide belt, a wrist full of bracelets, a large gold handbag, and heels so high that she apparently has trouble walking in them. The Devil, in this instance, doesn’t wear Prada; although I’m sure she will in a future episode.
Which brings me to the conclusion that, sadly, this show is merely a pastiche. Just another outlet to reinforce the stereotypes that abound surrounding the fashion and publishing world. One more “reality” show where the participants allow themselves to be yelled at and bullied so that they can ‘follow their dream’. Yet one has to assume that the winner of this show will follow in the footsteps of the winners of Banks’ other show, America’s Next Top Model. Brief notoriety will be followed by little or no work in the industry that they wanted to break into. Admittedly we live in a voyeuristic society but at what point do these shows lose their entertainment value and become a depressing look at what our culture prizes? What is more depressing…for people’s dreams to be broken apart and their sense of self-worth deflated in front of millions of viewers…or for us to gleefully tune in and watch?