Longtime America’s Next Top Model fan Kelly Ana Morey tracks the various nips and tucks the series has had in its 23 seasons.
I’ve 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 wasn’t 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, I’m 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. It’s with a heavy heart that I have to say this: I’m 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.
Janice Dickinson (‘the world’s first supermodel’ apart 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The original judges have since been replaced by… some other people I don’t know because I’m so old, and Rita Ora – who at least I’ve heard of even if I did have to Google her exact career specifications –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 doesn’t have Ms Banks’ overly dramatic style, or extraordinary catchphrases and delivery. In fact, Rita doesn’t use any of Tyra’s best (most hilarious) statements, so the Queen Bee herself may hold copyright on them. There’s 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 America’s Next Top Model” has disappeared. It’s now: “The girl who is one step closer to becoming ANTM is …”
Shame. I always liked the Tyra-wisdoms.
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.
There’s also been quite a drop in the production values. I guess there’s 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, they’re not even bothering. Modelling is so last decade.
Now, it’s 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 they’ve got a phone.
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. It’s not the same as watching a bitchy designer tell a girl she’s too fat for his clothes or can’t walk. I’m sorry, but it’s true.
Okay, they had Ellen Von Unwerth doing the photo shoot in week three this cycle, which was pretty cool. Even I’ve 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 Tyra’s 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. That’s it.
The improbably named Cherish had a bit of a bleat about her “virgin” titian 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 hasn’t 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. It’s 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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