Criticising a woman's fashion sense to her face is an offensive faux pas most of us avoid. But it is all part of the job for Holly Valance. The ex-Neighbours star's role in new British reality series, Ultimate Shopper, involves candidly judging contestants' outfits as they compete in shopping challenges. Four self-proclaimed fashionistas are set the challenge of selecting outfits for certain occasions under strict time constraints at a high-end department store, with the winner taking the clothes. Valance judges their choices, alongside three other style gurus.
"What was surprising about the show was how psychological everyday dressing is," Valance says. "People getting their outfits attacked sometimes reacted like we'd told them they were a bad person. And I guess your clothes are your armour. So it was very interesting seeing that reaction, and learning about people's stories shaping why they put certain things on in the morning."
Valance recalls numerous fashion disasters throughout the series. Mistakes in the first episode included wearing a see-through white outfit, dressing too young or inappropriately for an event, mismatching colours, and ill-fitting garments. The judges' harsh feedback reduced a couple of the contestants to tears.
"You've got four judges telling you that you look like s , who wants to hear that," Valance says. "Every episode there were a few doozies. And that's OK, too, as long as the contestants could try their hardest to find the balance between our brief and what they loved they'd be OK. If that balance was off it all went wrong.
"It's light-hearted entertainment, with some good tips you can easily follow to dress to impress." Valance, now based in London, was approached by Discovery to take part in the show. It was something new for the Australian actress, singer, and model, who began her career as Felicity "Flick" Scully on Neighbours and went on to have a short-lived music career in the early Noughties, before announcing her retirement from the industry.
Apart from a lavish wedding ceremony to London property developer Nick Candy in September, a racy Fosters beer ad, small film roles and a spot on the UK's Strictly Come Dancing in 2011, Valance has remained behind the scenes since then. She says she's been keeping busy with endorsement deals, photo-shoots and writing, with plans to take on more production roles.
"I write a lot and would like my scripts picked up for TV at some point. I'd love to go into the background and produce small films I believe in," she says.
"I don't really need to be the girl in the poster. I'd rather have my name down bottom as producer these days."