Review: Stylista Is Like Top Model Set At Elle Magazine

Right now, I wish that I watched Ugly Betty, because I have a feeling that the new Tyra Banks-produced fashion contest, Stylista, might be like the reality-show version of it.

In the show, which premieres on Wednesday (9 p.m.) on the CW, eleven contestants compete for a job as a junior editor at Elle magazine. But, that coveted prize will not come without work, some fashion sense, and in some cases, at the expense of contestants' pride and/or feelings. The show's opener offers the following summary of the contest: "To work at a fashion magazine, you have to live and breathe style."

Here's what we can tell you: If working at a fashion magazine involves any of what is revealed in the first two episodes, we'll take a pass. Still, if you're a fan of extreme cattiness, then Stylista might be for you. The same gut-wrenching events that make you cringe might also make you curious enough to keep watching.

"Fashion is this elitist world that's full of gossip and backbiting, and those things are good for reality television," Ken Mok, executive producer for Stylista and America's Next Top Model, told New York magazine. "That whole world is a just never-ending mine for us."

And at the end of the day, contestants do actually have to produce something that requires thought. Besides, what else are you going to do on a Wednesday night now that Project Runway is over?

We've broken down a few general highlights/lowlights from the first few installments, to help you decide if Stylista is for you.

A rude awakening:

One of the contestants' first tasks is to prepare breakfast for Elle fashion news director and accessories editor Anne Slowey. She nitpicks everyone's offerings: "I don't drink coffee, I only drink iced lattes. I don't do wheat. I don't eat almonds unless they're soaked overnight. Melons should never be mixed with any other fruit." Did I mention they're competing to work for this woman?

Catfights galore:

Megan immediately develops into a mean, bully character and designates Kate, a law, student as her "punching bag" and plots to get her kicked off the show. Another girl, Ashlie -- who appears to be Megan's biggest competition -- has the guts to stand up to Megan's witchy ways. Let the fur start flying. "You are the devil's spawn! You are Rosemary's Baby!" (Those are actual quotes.)

Living and breathing fashion isn't easy:

Each contestant receives a personal style critique to prepare for the next challenge: They must make over their personal style using Elle principles. And not many of them pass muster. In the process, viewers learn valuable tips including, All black: good. Scarf and Michael Jackson gloves: bad. Chic and sophisticated: good. Cleavage busting out: bad.

What a "realistic" work environment!

I have a hard time believing, at a magazine the size of Elle, that a junior editor would take their own photos, report, write, edit and copy-edit their own stories, and art-direct and design the magazine pages. Who really knows, though? After watching The Hills, you'd think all magazine employees were paid to rustle about a few clothing items while talking about boys.

Editorial output:

The above being said, it will be cool to see what kind of fashion pages these folks can create. Even with all the drama Stylista promises, there is some substance buried underneath.

An ambulance scene:

Usually, reality TV contestants don't have nervous breakdowns until further along in a program, but you'll see one fellow carted a way in an ambulance for a severe anxiety attack almost right from the get-go.

So, here's the verdict. A lot of conflict unfolds during the first two episodes. Personally, I'm interested enough in the subject matter that I'll probably give it a whirl. I'm just crossing my fingers that that it becomes a little more about work and less mean-spirited. I don't mind a little backbiting to keep things moving along, but Stylista's biggest challenge may be to offer viewers more than they can get on The Real World or Big Brother.