This is the transcript of Episode 3: Shopping Queen – Bringing Sustainability to Reality TV of the How to Make a Difference podcast.
Dr. Elisabeth Ignasiak: Hey everyone!
If you follow me on social media – and if you don’t, you really should – you will know that I participated in a reality show. I got lots of questions asking me: “What was it like?” So I thought, maybe I can just do an episode about it and tell you what it was like.
So for those who… who don’t know what I’m talking about, I took part in the German version of Shopping Queen and before you switch off, let me explain why I participated. As I’m sure you’re aware, there are a lot of problems with fast fashion. More than 100 million tonnes of textiles are being produced every year and 92 million tonnes of that, so 92% of that, ends up as waste. Also, something that few people are aware is that 20% of global wastewater also stems from the fashion industry. Another interesting statistic is that nearly 10% of microplastics in our oceans come from textiles. And I haven’t even mentioned exploiting garment workers and poor human rights records. The fashion industry is really an industry that has to change and where overconsumption is really a big problem.
If you think about these micro-trends, where people buy clothes to take one picture on Instagram, or just follow the news trend, this is really very troubling. And these numbers they’re not… they’re not going down, they’re going up. More and more textiles are being produced every year.
Now, what does that have to do with reality TV?
The thing is, I actually enjoy watching reality TV simply because it’s very light. Day to day I have to deal with a lot of scientific papers on the latest sustainability study or the news on some floods, some catastrophe resulting from climate change like it can be quite heavy. So I do actually enjoy the silliness and the lightness of reality TV.
At the same time, I am a sustainability professional. So even when I watch reality TV, I do watch it with sustainability in the back of my mind. So for example, there are shows that are about redecorating, which are fun to watch. And it’s amazing what people can do you know with clever design and so on but at the same time, I’m always like, why are they buying everything new? What happens to the old stuff? Are they just throwing it out? Like I feel like, wouldn’t it be cool if they redecorated a house but using secondhand furniture? Wouldn’t that be amazing? Or wouldn’t it be amazing if a cooking show had the challenge of all needing to be climate-friendly foods? Not just delicious food but climate-friendly, delicious food! And the same is for… for shows that revolve around fashion.
Knowing how many people watch reality TV, if it’s normal, that’s what we see on TV, to throw out all your furniture and just buy new furniture, that suggests that this is what you’re supposed to do. This is what’s… what’s cool, what’s… what’s good and so on. And while I watch these shows I would much prefer if they would take sustainability more into account. Because I think the impact these shows have on us and what we feel is normal and acceptable in society is actually really big.
Now, unfortunately, I’m not famous or rich enough to do my own reality show. However, what I can do is participate! Now it turns out that participating is actually not as simple as it sounds. First of all, many of these big famous shows are actually US based so that means you have to be a US citizen to participate and I am not. I live in Germany. That is one hurdle and the other thing that I didn’t expect is: it’s actually surprisingly time-consuming to apply. Like these application processes, I did not expect that but it’s like applying for a job. You need to buy it like a motivation, why you want to participate, what would your strategy be and like all these things and you need pictures and videos and like this was really time-consuming. I had not expected that.
Anyway, so Shopping Queen, as silly as it sounds is actually a really good candidate for trying to bring this sustainable message into the world or into reality TV.
So for those of you who don’t know the show, let me explain what it is about. Five women from the same city meet for a week and then they get a theme for example “style your outfit around your white pants”, or it might be “the perfect beach look”. Something like that, you know. Some theme. And then on day one, the first woman goes on a shopping tour and tries to fulfil the theme. And then on day two, the second woman goes on a shopping tour and on day three, the third one and so on. And then in the evening, the other candidates the other four rate the outfit of the shopper. To make it a little bit more challenging, the person going shopping has four hours, so she has to complete her whole outfit in those four hours and she has a budget of 500 Euro. And when I say outfit, that means everything from the clothes, to shoes, to jewellery, accessories… It also includes makeup… When you watch this show, it’s all about fashion and who has the best style, what’s the best look and so on.
And so I thought: Okay, if I… if I’ve managed to get into the show, I can try to fulfil the theme, but I want to do it sustainably.
So what does sustainable fashion look like?
The first thing when it comes to sustainable fashion is to just buy less. Don’t buy what you don’t need. Of course, in a show like Shopping Queen, this would not be an option because I cannot not buy it. I have to fulfil the theme.
The second thing you can do is to rent clothes rather than buying them. So let’s say you’re invited to a wedding, and you need something fancy. Maybe rather than buying a new dress or a new outfit, maybe try renting an outfit. There are more and more rental services out there and I’m also gonna put a few links in the show notes for you to check out.
Another thing you can do is to shop secondhand because anything you buy secondhand does not need to be produced new it reduces the amount of waste.
And then finally, if it has to be something new buy it from sustainable brands. And buying from sustainable brands is actually increasingly simple because there are tools like Good On You and again, I’ll put a link in the show notes. Good On You rated 1000s of brands according to different criteria and they give them a rating: Are they sustainable or not? Very simply speaking. And most of your big stores, big brands that you know are usually rated rather badly. And it’s more smaller brands that are rated very well.
Yeah, so I thought: Okay, let me do it. And I applied. And then you know, a month passed, two months passed and then I got the message that I’m in! Which was really cool. I was really excited about it. Also a little nervous because of course fulfilling that theme is difficult enough under that time pressure and the money constraints and I knew I was gonna make it even more difficult by restricting myself to just sustainable fashion. But I thought: Let me try.
Yeah, so let me get to what it was actually like to participate.
Now the whole experience started with the home video. And the reason is, so while the woman goes shopping on that day, the other four, they watch a video presenting the shoppers flat and you’re telling a little bit about what she does, showing her wardrobe and so on. And this home video is shot the weekend before the actual Shopping Queen week, where we go shopping.
And so in my case, they came on a Saturday around lunchtime and they stayed for about three hours. And first of all, what I had not expected was that the crew that came so it was one person who kind of hand had the lead, who was telling me: stand there, do this, do that. So who was coordinating anything and was asking the questions. And then there was one camera guy and then another one for the audio. So it was three people, who came. So I was pretty nervous because this was the first interaction with that crew and I was like: Oh, I’m gonna be totally awkward in front of the Camera. I mean, I’ve never… I have never done this before. But they were very light, they were joking around and it was just, you know, a very pleasant atmosphere and was also kind of clever, I thought, is that they started with the shots where I didn’t have to talk.
So for example, in the show they always show something – they call it “style check” – where they show you from the front, then you have to turn, from the side, from the other side, from the back and then on the screen they show your… your size, how tall you are, your shoe size and so on and for this, you know, they need this shot. And so this is one of the things that we did at the beginning. Or they needed another shot, you know, just a picture of me that they will use to display the ratings in the show. And because these are things where I don’t need to talk, of course, I can also not be, you know, ramble, say something stupid, be nervous. And this does take a while. And so because at the beginning, it was these easy things, actually by the time it came to the more interview style part, I already wasn’t that nervous anymore and it was a little bit easier to talk in front of the camera without feeling overly awkward about it.
So I think that’s actually quite clever. And then of course, the other thing that they said: “Oh, you’re doing really well. This is so amazing.” I mean, they kept just giving me compliments, which I’m sure they do with everyone, but even knowing, you know, that… that is just to make me feel good, it still works, because people telling you constantly: “Ah great, amazing…” you know… it… it does actually help and it does take off that nervousness away of talking to a camera.
So it was actually kind of fun, these three hours, in the end. Even… even though I was nervous before I… I actually had a good time with the crew, just because they were very light about how they approached this whole thing.
And then the Monday after the actual you know, filming of the show started. And something that is quite interesting, is how much time like small things can take. So for example, one of the scenes we would have to film every morning when we arrived, first thing, would be the arrival scene.
So the camera guy is filming me from all different angles and so I’m… he tells me: “walk along the wall”, “walk around the corner”, “enter the door” and do this again and again, and… but from different angles. So… so he has all sorts of different shots. And then of course on screen, these shots are put together to like a fluent movement, but it’s always the same camera, which of course means that you have to repeat it and while it looks like just a person walking and different cameras filming, in practice it’s actually always the same camera and you repeat and repeat and repeat. And now, I don’t know if that is because maybe it’s cheaper to just use one camera or maybe it is that if you have multiple cameras you would see it in the shot of the other camera, so maybe it has to be like that. I don’t know why it’s like that, but I actually thought: “Oh, that’s… that’s interesting. I did not expect that this is how it… how it works.
Another thing that I found quite funny is… So… so in the show every day basically starts with the five women meeting in the studio, sitting in like a semicircle of chairs and then chatting to each other. And then one of them says: “Ah, you know, it’s about time I go shopping” and she disappears and the other four chat a little more and then watch the home video and so on. And to this sitting in the semicircle of chairs and chatting to each other – we would film this, but then once, you know, that one woman going shopping says: “Okay, bye! I’m going now.” they would tell her: “Come back, come back” and then we would film the listening scene or listening shots. So that means that they, you know,… a camera points to the face, let’s say to my face and then they tell me: “Look at this person” and then I look at her and “listen” and then so I nod, and I “mhm, mhm” and I pretend to be extremely interested. And then they’ll: “Okay” and then “Next person” so I look at the next person, and then again, I pretend to listen like I nod, I make “mhm, mhm”… I mean, I don’t think about the sound, it’s just about having my head in that certain angle so that they can cut these shots of me listening to whoever’s talking in there, because when they film us chatting they make the shot of everyone together, but then they want to cut these scenes in of… if, you know, one person talks and the other listening, then they have these shots of me looking to that angle. So they need me but with my head turned in four different directions for each person who might be talking. And so they have to do that for every person, and as you can imagine, five people, every… every one of us looking into four directions to every other person – that was a lot of shots. And because every day we sit also in a different order, every day we have to make these shots, again.
So yeah. It’s… it’s interesting to look behind the scenes, how a show like is being filmed and maybe different shows, would work differently, but like this is how it worked in this Shopping Queen Berlin episode.
Now another thing that I did not expect, or that you wouldn’t guess when you watch the show is that these extra shots – and as I explained that takes a lot of time to take these extra shots – are also done when you yourself are shopping. And they do them while the time is still running. So these four hours include all these extra shots. So for example, you go to a store, you see a dress hanging there and you take it out of the rack and you look at the dress and then you’re like: “oh, nah, actually, I don’t like it” and you put it back and you move on. Later, they tell you “wait”, and then you have to take out that dress again and they… they film you taking it out and then you put it back and then they tell you “take it out again” and you take it out again and they film you taking it out. therefore you’re taking it out and then the camera goes in a different angle and you put it back and they tell you: “Okay, now take it out again” and they film it again from a different angle. And then they do a zoom like the dress from top to bottom and so on. So… so everything you touch basically costs time because they have to make these extra shots, extra zoom-ins, these like scans.
Yeah, so something where I might go to a shop and it would take me 15 minutes to look through the shop and try two, three dresses in this show it actually takes an hour because as I said everything you touch or everything the shop owner touches to show you or your… your shopping companion shows you – it takes this extra time to do the shots all the while the clock is ticking. So yeah, that is very time-consuming.
And because all of this takes so much time actually we were in the studio quite a long time and it was really, really exhausting. So every day we would arrive at the studio at around nine and we would stay until seven or eight. It got a bit earlier throughout the week because also we participants got more professional. “Professional” in quotes, of course. And even though maybe it doesn’t even sound that long, you have to be switched on all the time because you’re… you’re constantly kind of performing. I mean, you have to talk in front of the camera, you have to like… maybe if you’re used to standing in front of the camera all the time, maybe then it’s more normal but for someone like me, it is actually really exhausting, because, of course, I keep thinking, you know, I want to come… come across as likeable and I don’t want to say anything silly and you know, like all these things are in your mind. And so it does drain you a little bit.
And even, you know, in the breaks, I mean, you’re chatting to the other woman, you’re talking to like the crew… So it’s just this constant adrenaline, constant action, excitement, performing… Which is… is really cool. Like, I had a lot of fun, but it’s also very, very tiring. Or at least for me it was and to be honest if I dare to speak for the other four candidates, I think it was similar for them.
Yeah, and talking about the other four women. I am really, really glad I got such a nice group of women in my Shopping Queen week. It was just really such a friendly atmosphere. Like I think we really, like enjoyed spending time together and we’re still in touch today, we’ve met a few times since and so I’m actually really glad that I got to meet these amazing women through the show.
And similar actually with a crew. I mean, I’ve already told you that on that weekend. The crew was really nice and made it easy, at least for me to feel at ease and this was the same also during the week.
Let me tell you about the shopping day.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that every shopper brings a shopping companion. And for me, it was my husband. So there’s this pink bus with… with big letters “Shopping Queen” written on it and then when we arrive at the shop it’s not like: We jump out off the bus. We run into the shop. No, no… The, you know, the crew exits the bus and then we get filmed once from the inside “us exiting the bus”. But then we have to back on the bus, they take the camera outside and then they film us again, “us exiting the bus” from the outside. So once we get filmed from the inside once we get filmed from the outside. But of course, the clock is running.
And the same happens with the shop. We can’t just enter the shop. No, no, no… They go into the shop. They first talk to the shopkeeper making sure that they’re ready. And then they tell us: okay, we can enter and then we enter the shop and they film us “entering the shop” and so on. So this, you know, continuous and as I mentioned before, you know, everything you take out of the rack gets filmed again and again.
And so for me the first shop I went to was a secondhand shop and they really didn’t have that much.
So… ah actually! One thing I haven’t mentioned: What our theme was! So our theme was cut-outs. In case you don’t know what a cot-out is, it’s… I…let’s say a top, where there is a piece cut out where you would see the skin. It’s basically what the name says. So that was the theme.
And I went to the secondhand shop and there was nothing. Like, literally nothing. And so I had in the back of my mind a Plan B, you know, if I don’t find anything with a cut-out, I might just find a dress that looks nice, and that fits me well and then do the cut-out just, you know, myself with the scissors. So I put on three dresses just to see: Would this be an option? And this shop was really when it hit me how much time it costs to make these extra shots because I really just went in, did a very quick scan, put on three dresses… The whole thing took maybe 15 minutes, but then all these extra shots needed to be taken. And I think we were in that shop for an hour and a half. Like after that I was starting… before I was like chill, you know, four hours, no problem. It can be done. But after that, I was like “Jesus Christ!” Like every item you touch, costs so much time and so it was really in that first shop where… where it really hit me and then thereafter I was like really short. I was like shutting everyone down. So in the next shop that we went to – and that one was a shop like with lots of sustainable brands – the shopkeeper would show me “Ah… what do you think about this?” and I was like “No! I don’t like it!” because I knew everything I try, everything I touch, would just cost extra time. So so once I had like, you know, a first pair of pants that I liked and a top, I was like “I’m sticking to this! I don’t care about anything else! Everything else costs too much time.” So I was I think I was a little rude because I … you know, in the back of my mind, I was like: If I’m polite and I’m like: “Yeah sure, show me.” But then, you know, the clock keeps ticking. So I was like “No!”, “No!” to everything. And the same to my husband, like he was like: “Ah… Do you want to try these pants? I’m like: “No! I don’t!” So… I’m not sure how that comes across on TV. But this was… was going on in my head. This constantly ticking clock in the back of my mind.
So in that shop, I actually got my outfit I was really relieved that I had something, because after that first shop, the secondhand shop, I was very… I was first of all stressed because of the time but also I thought like “Oh…Jesus Christ”. Like cut-outs is actually not a simple theme, because it’s a very, very specific and you have to find it and if you don’t, like you’re like: “Okay, what do you do now?”
Anyway, I got something and it was from a sustainable brand, so I was like… I was very relieved and I even like it, so I was very glad to have something. And the funny thing is: I went back to that shop on the weekend after, on Saturday, after everything was done, just you know to say “Thank you” to the shopkeepers and they were like: “You were a rough customer!”. And I was like: “Oh no, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I was just…“ I mean, I explained to them. I hope they… yeah, I hope they have some compassion with me. I’m normally not that difficult. Yeah, anyway…
So yeah, I had my outfit and then we had like I think it was like one hour left to do hair and makeup. And I had already in advance researched a beauty parlour that uses only natural cosmetics and clean cosmetics and like things like that because I thought you know if the theme is sustainability… well… my personal theme is sustainability, I did want to have that reflected also the makeup.
And that went relatively smooth. I just told her, you know: “I trust you. Do what you think is right. I give myself to your competent hands” and I think for me the main thing was just to also show the viewers, later then on TV, that even when it comes to cosmetics, sustainability is an option. And there is even you know beauty parlours with that focus.
Yeah… And then we got back to the studio and then it was my turn to run along the runway and get cheered on and run back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. And that time, I was like: “Oh, I should have done some model training before.” Which I haven’t. So it’s not the most professional runway walk. But it is what it is. And yeah, so… So that was the Shopping Queen week.
And on TV, there is a finale that they show on the Friday, however, it actually doesn’t happen on… on that Friday. It’s on a separate day. And for us, the finale was the week after in Hamburg. So in a different city. So we all went there by train. And then the finale was another… I think it was a half day. It wasn’t a full day like I mean, actually, it was a full day because of course we had to take the train, it took a while… But at the studio, I think we had to be by 12. So leave in Berlin, I don’t remember exactly, 9/10-ish, something like that. So we went there a little early. We went to a nice cafe, had a coffee and then arrived in the studio in Hamburg.
And then we had to like prepare ourselves. Everyone has to wear their same outfits again and the same style. This was actually a little bit of a challenge because I usually don’t wear makeup but I have to put on the exact same makeup as I had on my shopping day. But luckily I got a lot of help from the other women so that I was reasonably presentable. Yeah, and so then we get into the same outfit again, and then we get a final rating by Guido Maria Kretschmer. And he is a German fashion designer and so he also on TV if you watch the show, he constantly like comments on, you know, the outfit, the style of the women. So he is like the fashion guru on the show.
And so people often ask, so in person, is he also that nice? And of course, I mean I only met him very briefly for this, you know, occasion. What I do appreciate about Guido is that he might critique your outfit – I mean, he is a fashion designer, so obviously he does have an opinion on various outfits – but he never critiques the person herself. And that is something I do respect about him.
Yeah, so that was my Shopping Queen experience. I have to say, overall, I had a lot of fun. It was really exciting. I mean, to be honest, mostly just to see just behind the scenes how it works. I thought that was really cool. I really enjoyed that part much more than, you know, the actual shopping. That… that one was kind of stressful. But for me, it was a cool experience. Something new to try. I did not make a fool of myself, I think. Other people can be the judge of that. I did have an outfit at the end that was sustainable. Maybe, you know, I got that message across. I hope so. Let’s see.
It was very exhausting. Like it took me a week or two to really recover from all that. I mean, it’s… it’s a lot of adrenaline, like a full week adrenaline, adrenaline, adrenaline… But it was fun. I enjoyed it.
I would be really curious to know what your thoughts are on this. Do you think it is possible to raise awareness for sustainability by participating in such a show? Do you think it’s stupid? Do you think it’s really cool? Like, like, what are your thoughts? Let me know.
As usual, you can reach out to me either via email – it’s hello at elisabeth ignasiak.com – or on social media, and all my social media profiles are in the show notes.
And finally, if you have a friend who likes reality TV, or you think they could use some tips on sustainable fashion, I would really appreciate if you forwarded this episode to them. And maybe this way I can inspire more people to make a difference. Thank you. Bye-bye!