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America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) was a reality TV series in which contestants competed to receive a modelling contract with a modelling agency. There are international versions of the series, including Britain and Ireland.

Tyra's speech.

Sometimes when I’m bored, I look at my specially curated YouTube playlist of all my favourite videos. Such including old Vines, vlogs, beautifully directed movie scenes, tutorials, recipes, and pop culture memes.

Ever so often I come across the infamous ANTM Tiffany spat (the one where Tyra states, “I was rooting for you. We were all rooting for you!”).

As much as I find it a good source of inspiration to keep me humble, looking back at the series, especially the earlier cycles, the way the contestants were treated was wrong and humiliating. Plain and simple. Needless to say, this opinion is not new.

However, was this an accurate depiction of the modelling industry over a decade ago? Probably, yes, but with a sprinkling of contrived drama, and a perspective that was once accepted without question at the time.

One thing that has caught most attention lately are the ‘makeover’ episodes whereby contestants are given haircuts or cosmetic procedures to enhance their appearance for modelling, essentially acting as a unique selling point for each contestant.

Looking back at it, I used to think, what would these people change about my appearance? Considering that this series’ target audience was mainly young and impressionable women – it doesn’t sit right. Besides that, don’t get me started on the ridiculous assignments.

Why am I watching a contestant getting knocked over by a pendulum decoration? Don’t get me wrong, the modelling industry is built on critique, but it doesn’t have to be obnoxious critique. Of course being a model in the real world isn’t all sweet but why can’t it be?

Why does it have to be demoralising?

Looking back at it, I used to think, what would these people change about my appearance?

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a reality TV series and a bit of drama needs to take place, but if ANTM was to live another day in today’s world, would it feature arguments, mocking, fights, controversial photoshoots, and tears? What is the limit of a reality TV series?

What is the impact of being on a programme like this on the contestants’ mental health just for the sake of entertainment? Contestants who have supposedly never lived with a group of other people, never lived away from home, never had any experience model-ling, or never coped with criticism and/or damning remarks in a tough, exploitative, and secretive industry? On that note, what support can TV producers offer their contestants who experience large exposure in a matter of days?

According to recent contestants of modern reality TV series, there is simply not enough support before, during, and after appearing on these shows.

The series, first aired in 2003, can be used as a lesson to show what is wrong can be made right… it’s an example that things change over time, that things can change for the better. Things were different back then. If we just open our eyes, a lot has changed. We see all types of models, brands are beginning to promote inclusivity, and excessive retouching of models is called out… just to name a few developments.

Let’s learn from these issues and actually make changes instead of just acknowledging it when it becomes relevant every now and then.

1 Comment

May 08, 2023

Kids these days have a lot of pressure

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