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Throwback Thursday: Before The Bachelor, there was Miss Popularity

Alex Casey revisits clips from Miss Popularity on NZ On Screen, the reality competition where women were called “Boomerang Babes” and left at the mercy of the Australian Outback. 

2005 was a strong year. I met Neville Longbottom at Armageddon whilst wearing a ‘Vote for Pedro’ badge, everyone at my school was either in love with Mario or Omarion, and a big ol’ gorilla tore up the Civic Theatre in King Kong.

2005 also welcomed Miss Popularity to TVNZ, a reality competition that swapped The Bachelor’s French Country House for a snake-filled Outback.


The premise? 10 Kiwi gals are flown to Australia under the guise that they would be competing in a fictional beauty pageant. After arriving in the middle of the Aussie Outback for a photoshoot they are abandoned and left there for the rest of the show. Cut to: a large lizard with a LOT of unnatural hissing foley.

Enter Outback Jack, the man of far too many belts, to inform them that they will be spending nine weeks lodging in Burra, a small outback town of 1000. There would only be one winner: the woman who could impress the town folk the most through a series of challenges.

The women ranged from firefighters to entreprenuers, but all shared one common trait: major hotness. And we all know that people in possession of major hotness cannot fend for themselves, or even lift an old rubbish bag full of chicken. You’ll remember some of these old favourites:

Vicky Lee

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Vicky Lee was the true breakout star of Miss Popularity, going on to appear on Treasure Island: Couples at War with her beau and eyeliner enthusiast Mr Scotty Rocker. Now she’s better known as Vicky Lee Valentino, a glamour model with a MASSIVE Facebook following who graced the cover of Playboy in South Africa last year

Jessie Gurunathan

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The young flight attendant went on to dub the whole world crazy as she took on the stage name Jessie G and paired up with Bulletproof for this unforgettable 2011 banger.

Casey Green

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A bikini model at the time, Casey has since set up a pole fitness studio and married Ali Williams. Her veil at the wedding was so breathtaking it appears that a ghost tried to steal it.


The challenges on Miss Popularity ranged from camel wrangling to pushing a stuck car out of a muddy bog. Challenge winners were the only ones sure to return the next week, and as a result were referred to – in 100% seriousness – as “Boomerang babes.”

In one instance, a woman named Angela headbutted a calf and made all her teeth bleed. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Local Sheilas were not impressed with the fancy ladies invading their small town. I’d be more concerned with their seemingly permanent residence under the hairdresser’s hair dryers.

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Midway through the series, the women were forced to hold a market stall. What a great chance to showcase their respective talents and skills, which ranged from modelling to firefighting to filmmaking. Instead, they were required to make at least:

1 x Pavlova
1 x Cake (iced)
1 x Knitted or Crocheted product

2005 is starting to sound more and more like 1955. Unlike the coveted Boomerang Babe title, I’d be very surprised if Miss Popularity ever comes back. With that said, you never know what can happen in the wild outback of reality television…


Throwback Thursday is brought to you by NZ On Screen, click here to browse their NZ reality TV archive, including many stunning excerpts from Miss Popularity.

 

Please note that the occasionally troublesome opinions expressed above are not those of our wonderful sponsors at NZ On Screen. 

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