When Sangjune Lee’s name wasn’t among five announced during the final stages of last Wednesday’s NAITSA’s Next Top Model finale, he thought his night might be over.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh wow they called five people already. I guess I’m not the winner,’ ” he recalled.
It wasn’t the only thing dampening Lee’s hopes that evening. The clothing he wore – ripped black jeans, a black and white striped turtleneck underneath a black tee, a brown coat and henna tattoos – wasn’t his “Plan A” outfit. Plan A actually involved a corset and temporary tattoo sleeves but Lee says he wasn’t sure he would move on to Wednesday’s final round and didn’t leave enough time to create the outfit.
“I actually lost quite a bit of hope when I couldn’t find the specific outfit that I wanted,” Lee said. “Yeah, I lost a bit of hope but I was really confident with what I had as Plan B.”
His worries seemed unfounded though, as his “Plan B” didn’t stop the panel of industry judges from crown-ing Lee NAITSA’s sixth Top Model and the competition’s first male winner. Lee beat out nine other models in the competition’s finale which included a catwalk and a Q & A with the judges. Lee’s prizes included a one-year modelling contract with the Phabrik talent agency, two passes for Western Canadian Fashion Week, a $500 Kingsway gift card and a photo shoot, which will be seen on a Kingsway billboard.
“I wanted to ask the judges to judge it again,” he laughed after the show. “I still can not believe it. Is this real?”
The evening’s runners-up were Krysta Neary and Sarah Carty. This year’s edition of the contest saw its highest applicant total yet, with 36 applying and 23 showing up for the first event, an industry workshop. From the workshop, 16 were invited to a series of three photo shoots. After each shoot, candidates were eliminated through online voting until 10 remained. Event co-ordinator Michelle Goulet said about 25,000 online votes were cast, also a record.
Among the panel of judges was last year’s Top Model, Maranda Martiniuk. She said Lee was the “best fit” for all of the judges and complimented his personality, stage presence and confidence..
“My advice is to have fun,” she said. “Be open and interact with everyone because everyone you meet is a networking opportunity.”
Lee says he applied for the competition because his interest in fashion and clothing coincided with a desire to experience something new in his life. The accounting student says he hopes to continue pursuing modelling as a career.
Connor O’Donovan, Assistant Entertainment Editor