The modeling industry is known for choosing models based on their faces, their weight, their complexions.
But for one television series, “Local Ambition,” the criteria are different. Kevin Edwards, director of the series at St. Louis-based Always Late TV, does not judge models in typical industry fashion. For him and his judges, it’s all about the models’ character.
The show’s concept is simple — women are put into a five-round modeling competition of themed photo shoots. Contestants must devise their own costumes and looks.
“The only thing that matters on this show is your ambition and your talent; that’s it,” Edwards says. “The larger industries like ‘America’s Next Top Model’ are just about looking pretty, but there is a lot more to it and a lot of skill that goes into being a model.”
Edwards began the show when his station manager for an Internet radio show wanted them to do a modeling contest.
“I watched way too much reality television at the time, so I figured; let’s make it a reality show,” he said.
The first season aired in the spring of 2013 but did not do as well as Edwards had hoped. Season two aired later within the same year and did slightly better, but it still was not up to Edwards’ expectations. He then decided if season three, which was aired last year, did not pick up as he hoped, he would drop the project to move on to something else. Luckily, season three received approximately 1.3 million viewers, which Edwards says gave him “the shot in the arm” he needed to keep the show going.
The show’s fourth season has the largest age range, from 18 to 43 — significantly different from the larger industries.
“Once you hit 30, those are your twilight years because people don’t want that age in the modeling industry,” Edwards says.
But that isn’t what his show is about; it’s the complete opposite.
“We wanted to do something positive and give women a shot, whereas others may turn them down with small things like ‘you have too many tattoos’ or ‘you’re too short.’ Industries don’t care. They want the size zero. They don’t care about the girl they turn down.”
“Local Ambition” takes women who have as many tattoos as they want, plus-size women — women who aren’t “perfect.” The women are chosen based solely on their character.
“We also have a plus-size model that is a size 16, a single mother of three kids and from Jefferson City,” Edwards says. “Every one of our models has the same chance. We never tell them they need to lose weight or they need to change something about themselves.”
Ashlyn Boelke of Glen Carbon took part in the show’s fourth season.
“It was a very eye-opening experience,” Boelke says. “I had done modeling before, but this was something completely different; seeing not only what happens on camera, but off of it as well in the production of the show. I loved my experience.”
While Boelke has done modeling jobs in the past, auditioning for “Local Ambition” was something she did on a whim.
“I wanted something new to do and I never saw myself being able to do something like ‘Next Top Model’ because of my height,” she says. “This show was an opportunity to do something new and fun, so I seized it.”
During the fourth season’s filming, Boelke was busy finishing her degrees at Lewis and Clark Community College. She finished her associate in arts and her associate in fine arts during the semester the show was filming. She plans to continue her journey into visual effects and animation in hopes of someday working for DreamWorks.
The show has been inspiring in more ways than one.
“My favorite part about the show was being able to show the viewers that you don’t have to be perfect to be considered beautiful,” she says. “We had all kinds of bodies on the show and I think in the end that is what makes this show so fantastic. It’s not just about us, but also about the people who are watching.”
The fourth season of “Local Ambitions” will air at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, on www.alwayslatetv.com.