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From the Fringe

Germany in top-model fever as the "Yes-She-Can" girl wins hit TV show

In what seemed like an evening of never-ending commercials occasionally broken by bits of a TV program, 19-year-old Sara Nuru, the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, won the coveted title of "Germany's next top model."

Germany's next Topmodel 2009

Over 4.6 million Germans tuned in on Thursday to watch the season finale of the popular casting show, hosted by international fashion icon and super-mom Heidi Klum.

Fashion is a multicultural business. Heidi Klum herself is married to pop singer Seal, who was born to Nigerian parents in London. Another jury member, fashion agent Peyman Amin was born in Teheran, while casting director Rolf Scheider, also a juror, likes to present himself as a citizen of the world: A native of Cologne, he speaks German with an accent that is an impossible - and often parodied - mixture of local, carnivalesque dialect and twittering French.

It should, therefore, not come as a surprise that Germany got its first black top model. Sara Nuru - whose fans proudly carried a large "Yes She Can" banner - won an advertising campaign with a German fashion brand, a car and a chance to appear on the cover of German Cosmopolitan.

"I hope that - especially in Germany - people will come to me when they need a dark-skinned model," she said in an interview on Friday. "It's just a skin color. It's the same with black or blond hair, it's a question of what type is needed."

A never-ending story

Three finalists posing for photographers

Finalists Sara, Marie and Mandy were all smiles on the show's final evening

Those who expected cat fights and snide remarks on Thursday evening were left wanting. The most risqué moment of the hour-long final, which was aired live from a Cologne arena in front of 15,000 enthusiastic fans, came when Heidi Klum told a strangely hyperactive photographer to talk less and concentrate on shooting the models on a mechanic rodeo bull.

Other than that, the evening unrolled in a spirit of peace, love and understanding. "I don't see you as a competitor anymore, but a good friend," one finalist told another. "I'm proud that we understand each other so well," the other responded. "I'd like to thank you that you've stood by side all along," said the third.

Yet if you think that "Germany's Next Top Model" is all edelweiss in high heels, you'll be wrong. If you take away the attractive travel destinations, incessant commercial breaks, futile make-up tips and the towering presence of Heidi Klum, the show is still no more than a glitzy celebration of the nightmarish world of high-school trauma.

On the verge of a nervous breakdown

Sara performing during the final casting

All's well that ends well


Highlights (or lowlights, depending on your point of view) of this season included Victoria Beckham, formerly Posh Spice and self-proclaimed fashion police expert, verbally abusing a 16-year old named Sarina by accusing her of looking "too sexy" and even "bitchy."

Outspoken Austrian contestant Larissa Marolt - who won the Austrian version of the format earlier this year - was bullied by fellow competitors who refused to share a room with her. She was told by one particularly rude rival "to go back to Austria."

Early in the season, one contestant broke into tears while telling the jury that "a copy of her was running around." Sensing the approach of an unforgettable emotional outburst, the jury pressed her for more information. The contestant said she was convinced that a girl who had attended the same club as her several weeks earlier had been imitating her ever since.

But all the madness and social dysfunction of the previous three months were forgotten on Thursday evening, when Heidi Klum announced Sara's triumph to the world.

In the end, there were tears and confetti, and Klum's high-pitched voice screeching in the viewers' memory like an axe-murderer scene in a horror film.

Author: Toma Tasovac
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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