Sunday, August 14, 2011

America's Next Top Model - TV Show Review

Oh Tyra, make me fierce!

America's Next Top Model has been running for 16 seasons and still going strong. As in every reality show (e.g. Survivor, The Amazing Race, etc.) the success of each season relies on the human material, that is the unique combination of 16 (or so) single moms ghetto chicks and Ivy League brats who wants to prove that brains are not all that important... The wonderful cat fights, along with the brave friendships that are bound to occur when putting 16 girls at the same house for a long period of time really make this reality show be, in my opinion, one of the best.

The idea is simple – take a group of girls that desperately wish to model, and let them compete through a series of modeling challenges. They are judges by a panel of experts and eventually, the winner gets to be on the cover of a magazine and get a $100,000 cosmetic and spokesperson contract with "CoverGirl". 
Imagine a somewhat sexier version of the old times' Gladiators…

"sexier version of the old times' Gladiators..."

The producers, led by the former top model Tyra Banks, take these clich├ęd reality rules and make them into a totally enjoyable and addictive guilty pleasure. As a Top Model fanatic, I have seen the series develop and gradually leave all growing pains behind to become a polished, well-oiled reality machine. I have to give kudos to the one and only Tyra, the creator of the show. Her ability to choose the contesters in addition to skillfully change the show in order to keep it fresh is admirable. Recently, I caught some reruns of previous seasons on cable, after watching the latest (16th) season and I couldn't believe how much the show has grown over the years – the first season’s judging room looked more like a school play's cardboard scenery compared to its sleek and luxurious appearance in recent seasons. Heck, the judges' table looked like a teacher's desk, and not in a good way. This also goes for the wannabe-models' apartment that turned into a models' mansion.

Not only has the scenery changed throughout the seasons (going back and forth from NYC to LA) but also did the judges panel – during the first few seasons the panel included some trashier characters such as Janice Dickenson, self-proclaimed "First Supermodel" and Kimora Lee Simmons (former model and founder of the Baby Phat brand). However, the judges’ panel in later seasons became more sophisticated (along with the show's attitude becoming less trashy) and included former classier models such as Paulina Porizkova and the legendary Twiggy. The only panel members who were not replaced for most of the seasons are photographer Nigel Barker, whose knowledgeable critic is worth keeping around for such a long period of time and J. Alexander (Miss J), an extraordinary runway diva coach who stayed up to season 13 and was the perfect match for Tyra's occasional kookiness.

"A more sophisticated judges' panel"

Starting at season 15 the show has become high-fashion oriented, aiming for Vogue and other cutting edge magazine, rather than the likes of Seventeen and Elle. The designers, photographers and stylists and the often breathtaking photo shoots (as always, directed by magnificent Mr. Jay Manual) have all became more high-end, and the winner now gets to be on a spread in the Italian Vogue and on a cover as well as a spread of Beauty in Vogue which sets the trend for all things that are beauty.

The next season will be an all-star cast. Previous winners and runner-ups will return to compete in a fierce modeling race and only time will tell whether or not an all-star version is suitable for the show. I, for once, am very excited about this season which will air September 14th on the CW network.  

The bar has been definitely raised – Tyra Banks, the roaring engine behind this series, is a living lesson on how to be successful even after your modeling career has ended. As the ANTM fanatics among you may know, nobody can smize (Smile with your Eyes) like Tyra.

With Much Respect,



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