Fond Farewell to America's Next Top Model

The end of America's Next Top Model is not just the end of a TV show.  It's the end of an era.  I feels like it has been on forever and I've watched every single episode of every single cycle since it started in 2003.  All 22 of them.  2003!! Twelve years ago.  I didn't have DVR until 2010.  That was a lifetime ago for me.  So much has changed since then, but through it all twice a year for the last 12 years there was ANTM.  I used to stop at Golden Spoon on my way home from work so I could eat it while I watched.  It was my routine.  I even got MJ to eat yogurt and watch it with me for a few seasons.  Cycle 13 was 5'7" and under, Cycle 22 removed the 5'8" height restriction.  I guess this means the over 30 5'7" and under season that I've been waiting for is never coming. 

When I heard in October that Cycle 22 would be the last season of America's Next Top Model ever I had mixed feelings.  In the beginning it really was all about modeling and I loved it!  What it takes to be a model, what photo shoots are like, and the journey.  First they got rid of Nigel Barker (photographer), J. Manuel (Creative director for photo shoots) and J. Alexander (runway coach), after 17 cycles.  I think the ratings were down and they needed to do something to shake things up.  I get that the show needed to change and evolve to keep people interested and attract new viewers, but I liked it just the way it was.  They were trying to make things new and fresh, but for me, that was really the beginning of the end.  Cycle 17 was All-Stars.  Cycle 18 was British Invasion.  For Cycle 19 College Edition, Bryan Boy was the social media correspondent and they added a social media score that gave the viewers a say in who moves forward.  They eventually brought J. Alexander back and added dark force Kelly Cutrone.  She was to America's Next Top Model what Simon Cowell was to American Idol.  Mean, but good for ratings.  Maybe ratings went up, but in my opinion they compromised the integrity of the show to do it.  I know, I know.  How much integrity can reality TV have anyway? By this time, I wasn't even sure if I liked the show anymore, but I'd never quit the show as long as it was on the air.  Things were already going downhill and then in Cycle 20 it went from bad to worse when they brought in the guys.

I wasn't interested in watching guys model or the additional drama it would create on the show.  The show was about making it in the modeling industry, not whether or not so and so had a threesome in the hot tub.  The shoots and the cat fights were already way out of control and with the addition of men it started to look like a MTV Reality TV show.  Specifically, The Real World.  I aged out of that show long before it went off the air and really, I was aging out of ANTM.  I was most definitely not their target demographic, but my interest in modeling kept me watching.  Unlike shows like The Real Housewives of whatever, at least there was a point, even if was buried under the bizarre photo shoots and  over the top Tyovers.  That is a Tyra Banks make over for those who don't know.  On Cycle 21 one of the guys got a beard weave.  Yes, a beard weave.  It was a rug for his face and it was ridiculous.  Another model was given half white half black hair dye job with opposite eyebrows colored to match.  That was bad enough, but the half shaved head in Cycle 22 nearly pushed me over the edge. 
"ANTM Cycle 22 Cast" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.
America's Next Top Model brought us awesome words like smize and booty-tooch, but it did a lot more than that.  For Tyra, it was a platform for her to revive her career and a launch pad for numerous business ventures.  She certainly helped herself, but in the process helped a lot of other people too.  There is always talk about, well where are ANTM winners?  Are they even famous?  Eva Pigford (Cycle 3 winner) has 27 credits on IMBD.  The runner up for that cycle Yaya DaCosta has 31. I follow Reina Hein runner-up from Cycle 14 on Instagram.  She is definitely working and was recently hired by Tyra for the Tyra Beauty cosmetics line.  I see them in adds all the time.  You may not know their names or remember their faces, but a lot ANTM contestants are working in the industry.  Only a few have walked in the much sought after couture runways and maybe they aren't on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, but that is rare air many working models never see.  Some have found that being on the show was a burden.  Rene Alway (Cycle 7) is in jail.  Jael Strauss (Cycle 8) found herself in an intervention on Dr. Phil and Lisa D'Amato (Cycle 5) ended up on Dr. Drew's celebrity rehab.  I still don't know what happened to her spread for Express.  I never saw it.  Being a finalist on the show does not automatically lead to success.  That is not realistic anyway, but doors were opened for a lot of people.

Cycle 7 winner CariDee English posted an interesting comment here 

Tyra won't do anything. She provided a wonderful platform for girls to have a chance at their dream, but, after there is no "Tyra Mail". I had to guide myself, and even though I won a model competition I still had no idea what the modeling BUSINESS was like.  The fashion industry had NO idea how to market us. Our agents, our managers..... because we become a instant celeb.... but had a portfolio of a rookie model. Even though we just were named "TOP" our place in line at Fashion World was at the bottom.  The industry many times didn't care about our name, but did turn a snobby cheek to the name ANTM. 

She struggled after the show but made this list of 15 Most Successful ANTM contestants.

I like Tyra Banks.  She will be the first to tell you she looks totally different without make and that this modeling thing is all smoke and mirrors.  She runs modeling contests on Instagram and seems to genuinely enjoy helping models get started.  I like it that she encourages contestants to follow in her footsteps by being business minded and thinking beyond modeling.  I raised my eyebrows at many contestants over the years wondering why they got picked, but Tyra was looking for unconventional.  She pushed the industry to recognize that beauty and model material comes in many shapes, sizes and colors that don't fit industry standard. 

A reality show is a reality show these days no matter how cloaked in a greater purpose it tries to be, but if you can look past the cliche casting and situations that catered to ratings America's Next Top Model had a lot of heart.  It appealed to that side of me loves a rags to riches fairy tale story and reminded me of what reality shows used to be, before they evolved into the not scripted but scripted train wrecks that most of them are today.  I got excited for how far they came and all the exciting things they get to do.  Dreams did come true on that show.  Everyone has a back story and it's always interesting to see how it all plays out on the show.  One episode invited the mom's of the finalist to do photo shoots with their kids and had her mom be the photographer.  It was so sweet.  I was in tears for half of it.  The last cycle did not include an international trip for the first time in a long time...or ever?  There was a Vegas jaunt to shoot for Zappos and then the show finished off with the final runway show in Los Angeles.  Nyle DiMarco was the very last winner of America's Next Top Model ever.  He also just so happens to be deaf.  There is no way that anyone could argue that this show isn't doing something for him or his platform to make American Sign Language more mainstream.  The show definitely went out with a bang.

I formed a great attachment to this show over the years.  I will miss it, but I think it ran it's course and this was a good time for it to go.


Anonymous said...

You did a wonderful tribute to a show that did do some great things by making folks aware of social issues involving modeling. I aged out early on and I do not even remember which cycle I stopped on, but I was just done.

Faith said...

I loved the show too but like you I watched it for the modeling part. When they started to change things I lost interest & half the things you mentioned I had no idea about! I do think the show opened the doors for a few as I've seen some of the earlier models on television shoes, etc, but I'm sure the doors were also closed for many. In the end, I love that Tyra did try to present a different side of modeling by showing us real people. I think it would always be considered one of the shows that was unique & exciting. Awesome tribute to the show :)

Pegster said...

This used to be one of my favorite shows too. I was sad to hear it was coming to an end. Tyra did an amazing job with it and created other brands all over the world just from this. I am sure we'll continue to see model stuff everywhere.

jackie jade said...

I used to love this show but I stopped watching a few years ago since it really lost steam. I think it first went downhill after Janice Dickinson left. She was mean and crazy, but I felt like her comments were always so spot on.

Katie said...

I haven't followed any of the cycles past 12 or 13 but I will forever remember the "smize," Andre Leon Talley perpetually owning it in one of his many fabulous capes, and the inevitable haircut meltdown on makeover day. Great blog post!

Catherine Gacad said...

i love tyra. she is fierce! and i love how she was so dedicated to her craft. i haven't watched many episodes, but what struck me about tyra was how she said she was always on-time and professional for all of her meetings, photoshoots, whatever. she is not a diva. she is a cool, smart woman. love her!

modeonlineblog said...

Love this show:)