“I was in shock! I can’t believe it, I just won NAITSA’s Next Top Model!” Those were the words spoken by a beaming Maranda Martiniuk moments after being crowned the winner of NAITSA’s annual modelling contest last week. Even in the stark fluorescent light filling the hallway outside of the Nest she gave off an aura of elegance and her dancing golden earrings reflected the vibrancy of her personality as she contemplated the implications of her victory. “I’m going to take advantage of the scholarship to be part of the PHABRIK modelling agency,” she said.
The one year contract with the Edmonton based modelling outfit was only part of the grand prize of the contest, which is in its fifth year. She will be the subject of a photo shoot by Ernest DeJesus, who has shot for PHABRIK’s fashion magazine, the Edmonton Journal and is one of the sought after photographers for the Western Canadian Fashion Week. She also won a pair of passes for the Fashion Week, a $500 gift card to Kingsway Mall and will be the face of the 2016 edition of the contest.
“I get to be in a photo shoot for next year’s competition, so I’m very excited for that,” she said of her continued involvement with NAITSA’s Next Top Model. “I’m excited to work with everyone again.” Maranda was one of 16 finalists selected from the pool of applicants in late January after a workshop containing modelling advice and lessons from local industry leaders. The finalists then attended a two day NAITSA photo shoot in February. These photos were the subject of three rounds of online voting that concluded March 15 and narrowed the field to 10. These contestants were given $200 to select an outfit at Kingsway Mall before crossing the catwalk at the Nest in front a judges’ panel of industry heavyweights and previous Next Top Model winners.
The panel judged the models based on things like appearance, personality, poise, creativity and the reactions from the large crowd gathered to watch the event. Sanita Suhovarov was this year’s runner-up. The event has seen a surge in popularity since its inception five years ago. The previous two years, in particular, have seen drastic increases in both the number of applicants and the size of online participation as well as a large expansion in sponsorship. The past two Top Model competitions also saw an increase in the number of men throwing their caps into the ring, and two of the 10 finalists this year were male. Michelle Goulet, NAITSA’s event co-ordinator, estimates that this year’s voting total was in the thousands. “It’s something for students to do on campus that’s different,” she said. “We do lots of variety events but this is probably the most out-there event that we do.”
She also commented on the opportunity Next Top Model gives for its participants to build memories and relationships, a sentiment echoed by Martiniuk. “I had so much fun. I got to meet so many new people,” she said. For now, the first year Business Administration student plans to return her focus to her studies. She has plans to further make her mark on the fashion industry by starting her own clothing business once she graduates.