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Ashley Paige: Bikini or Bust.
Ashley Paige is a designer of “high end” bikinis. She has an A-list clientele, but can’t afford to pay her bills. As the operator of my own business and owner of at least 100 bikinis the promise of this show sung to me like the sweet call to return to the mother ship.

Of course it’s rare that shows deliver on their promise.

Ashley is a hot mess, visually, mentally, spiritually and financially.
Watching her continual brushes with financial ruin is neither heart-wrenching nor amusing. Seeing her bailed out time and again in the nick of time is irritating rather than relieving. The roller coaster that is her life is not a euphoric ride.

In the first two episodes we see Ashley told by LA Fashion Week director Davis Factor that, to decline to show a collection, would be professional suicide. My instinct is to yell “jump”.

Of course the show goes on. Despite a ridiculously tight deadline, two weeks to make 42 looks, and the absence of a sponsor to provide the $30,000 plus needed to bankroll the event. Tarot cards are consulted daily for inspiration and a money candle is lit to ask the “gods” to finance her latest venture.

The outfits are designed with the help of her assistants and a fellow designer that lives in the back of Ashley’s shop, produced thanks to the hard work of Juan, (Juan is usually the entire manufacturing division of her operation, but various family members have been commandeered for the two-week stint) and paid for by the tourism board of Turks and Caicos.
Yes, Ashley is such an entirely ridiculous individual her show was paid for by the tourism board of the native country of her favourite model.

There must be something about Ashley that forces people to rally round her. Perhaps it’s the southern charm she seems to have unearthed specifically for this show, or the little girl look and voice she’s adopted that compel people to offer help. Neither would have a positive effect on me. But knights on white horses come to Ashley’s aid over and over again.
Perhaps the bit players are finally getting paid thanks to TLC’s dollars.

If she’s late on the rent she offers up post-dated cheques and has the audacity to bitch when the landlord pays them in anyway. When she can’t make rent she hawks her stock around retail stores and fellow designers, who of course buy just enough product to ensure she can meet her $4000 monthly bill.

When Juliette Lewis crashes the shop unannounced and wants a designer looks for an upcoming gig with her band in four days, Juan cuts short his first paid holiday in seven years to knit the granny panties and one-shouldered tube top that constitute a stage costume in the mind of Ashley. Of course Juliette was thrilled with the jumbled creation of feathers and scraps of material, dyed and attached to the aforementioned tube top/granny pant combo. Heaven forbid Juliette balk at the ridiculousness of the outfit.
Things just have to fall into place for Ashley.

Although her collection was hailed as a roaring success, sales of outrageously priced bikinis have slumped to the point where Ashley has to go hell for leather down the road of mass-produced Lycra suits that women might actually buy in sufficient numbers to pay the bills. It would appear there just aren’t enough women with $700 burning a hole in their pockets to splash out on a bathing suit to keep the wolf from the door, even in L.A.
Particularly considering the one thing you cannot do in an Ashley Paige woollen knit suit is splash.

This is not a look designed to flatter.

I might be able to muster up some sympathy for Ashley from the depths of my cold, dark heart if anything about this show had a ring of authenticity. Her down home momma offering donuts to the waifs that turned up to audition for her fashion show is the stuff of second-rate comedy skits.
I am as unimpressed by her ties to Girls Gone Wild chief pervert Joe Francis as I am impressed by her devotion to needy animals. Her constant lament about lack of funding does not inspire pangs of sympathy when the complainant is carrying a Vuitton purse.

Dedicating her time to a good cause.

After appearances on Australia’s Next Top Model, The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, L.A. Ink and Keeping Up With The Kardashians it felt like it was only a matter of time before Ashley was given a show of her own. Indeed her brief yet memorable appearance on The Hills, where she charged fellow designer Lauren Conrad with the task of digging the wick out of her favourite candle and patronized her roundly for coming up successful, seemed to be in itself an audition.

Unfortunately that’s not the Ashley we see on her own show. I see no need to harangue employees to ensure success and productivity is maximized, in fact, in my experience quite the opposite is true.
From a viewing perspective however, bitchy Ashley is far more entertaining than whiny, needy Ashley that this show is centered around.

Even in a tv world where forensic examiners find a single hair in a 50 acre field, crimes are solved within the hour and everything is alright by the end of the show, Ashley’s constant escapes from failure seem entirely scripted.
Some of us like a little more ‘real’ in our reality.

TLC Fridays @ 10pm.