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Pop CultureMay 18, 2017

America’s Next Top Model has lost the sparkle in its smize


Longtime America’s Next Top Model fan Kelly Ana Morey tracks the various nips and tucks the series has had in its 23 seasons. 

Ive been watching America’s Next Top Model since it first began screening on New Zealand television in 2004. Pretty girls, combustible personalities, amazing photo shoots and the extraordinary Tyra Banks. What wasnt to like?

The brainchild of ex-super[ish] model Tyra Banks, ANTM was a pretty big deal back in the olden times. The franchise has sold far and wide, with over 150 countries broadcasting the original and 44 international spinoffs from Mongolia to Peru. Hell, it was even a thing in New Zealand for four seasons.

Over the course of the last 13 years, ANTM has evolved to fit with our increasingly social media driven times and stay relevant. And while this probably works a treat with the new generation of watchers, Im not really interested in watching pretty girls becoming Lady Bosses(translation: social media influencers).

I want fashion. I want couture. I want impossibly cool photo shoots. Its with a heavy heart that I have to say this: Im sorry ANTM you are no longer in the running to be my favourite show. Here are the all the ways that you lost the smize.

The judges

Janice Dickinson (the worlds first supermodelapart from all those other ones before her), Nigel Barker (English photographer/ex-model and Tyra boy toy), the two Miss Jays (hugely camp stylists and trainers) and, oddly, Twiggy (who was a supermodel before Janice) were all big draw cards in the early days of the show. Like Tyra, they have all disappeared off the judging panel.

The original judges have since been replaced by… some other people I don’t know because I’m so old, and Rita Ora – who at least Ive heard of even if I did have to Google her exact career specifications – taking over from Tyra as host.

Now Rita is no Tyra. She doesnt have Ms Banks’ overly dramatic style, or extraordinary catchphrases and delivery. In fact, Rita doesnt use any of Tyras best (most hilarious) statements, so the Queen Bee herself may hold copyright on them. Theres no Tyra-style wisdom on smizing’ (smiling with your eyes) or hints on how to model from H to T’ (head to toe) or generally on just being fierce. Even the infamous “you are still in the running to be Americas Next Top Model” has disappeared. Its now: The girl who is one step closer to becoming ANTM is …”

Shame. I always liked the Tyra-wisdoms.

The format

There are fewer episodes – they now only do one casting episode, whereas Tyra used to milk two or three out of that sucker. The runtime has also shortened, with the challenges and photoshoots often being crashed together.  

Theres also been quite a drop in the production values. I guess theres only so many Bravo dollars to go around and a whole lot more trash to mine these days. In the early days, the show was all about becoming a professional model” – on the surface anyway. In its most recent incarnation, theyre not even bothering. Modelling is so last decade.

Now, its less about walking for Dior and more about the brand and how many followers you have on the innumerable social media platforms. To be perfectly honest, maybe four of the 14 taken into the house in the latest cycle (23) would make it through an open casting for a good model agent. But hey, anyone can be a star these days provided theyve got a phone.

The challenges

Rather than doing go-sees to agencies with their books in a really tight time frame, contestants now make dinky Snapchats to send out to their followers. Its not the same as watching a bitchy designer tell a girl shes too fat for his clothes or cant walk. I’m sorry, but it’s true. 

The photoshoots

Okay, they had Ellen Von Unwerth doing the photo shoot in week three this cycle, which was pretty cool. Even Ive heard of her. Obviously, it blew the budget because the next week saw the girls doing a social media challenge that involved them doing their own hair, make-up and photographing heavily branded (free) phones at a free party for the magazine involved as a show sponsor. Total cost of episode: $12.50.

The makeover episodes

Always my favourite episode in any cycle. In Tyras day, the changes were dramatic and even caused one contestant to voluntarily pack her bags and go home after her long brown hair was shorn and bleached white. In the current cycle, with a few exceptions, everyone was given a trim and a few bad dye jobs were fixed. Thats it.

The improbably named Cherish had a bit of a bleat about her virgintitian locks being dyed a punchier red but managed to recover enough to pout her way through a photo shoot. Fat lot of good it did her. Cherish and her hated dye job were sent home.

The model house

What hasnt changed is the very special kind of hormonal combustible soup that is throwing 12-14 young women into a house, with 4+ to a bedroom and piling on a shedload of pressure and competitiveness.

The screaming matches and meltdowns over the last 23 cycles have been truly spectacular and far too numerous to do justice to in anything less than doctoral thesis length. The rule of thumb is one per episode and the girl in question has got to milk it for every available second of screen time. Its never quite erupted into physical violence but this season may prove to be a game-changer in that respect. Fingers crossed.

One thing has changed in the house though. All the photos of Tyra have vanished.

America’s Next Top Model is currently airing on Bravo, Sunday nights at 7.30pm

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