America’s Next Top Model finale react: Tyra names one last Top Model

5 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘America’s Next Top Model’: Where Are They Now?.

After 22 seasons cycles, many Tyra-infused music videos, and too many booty tooches to count, it’s all over. Look, it’s not like we didn’t think the supermodel had some serious moves, and we’re not exactly surprised that she knows how to back that thang up, but it’s still quite a sight to see.

Models and model wannabes around the country are giving one last Tyra-approved ‘smize,’ one last perfect booty tooch, in honor of America’s Next Top Model’s final strut down the runway Friday night. After twelve years and 22 seasons (“cycles” to those in the know), the show that brought the elusive modeling industry into living rooms around America is coming to an end, but not without leaving its mark. After 289 episodes, 22 seasons and 12 years; after airing in 100 countries, and inspiring 20 foreign spinoffs from Brazil to Finland to Taiwan; after acquiring 7,903,827 likes for their Facebook page and 254,000 Instagram followers; after providing the Urban Dictionary with assorted new verbs and adjectives, including “smize” (smile with your eyes) and “flawsome” (awesome because of the flaws), after Friday night, “America’s Next Top Model” will be done. Wearing a form-fitting pattern dress (that fittingly had a face on her bum), Tyra turns her back to the camera and starts doing a little booty pop to the beat. Before the Kardashians ruled the airwaves, before Housewives across the U.S. were flipping over tables and competing for the award of who can host the most ridiculously expensive party, supermodel Tyra Banks was Queen Bee of the burgeoning reality TV scene.

See below, where Banks talks about living with the contestants back in the day, the famous supermodel that was almost a judge, and the girl she voted to keep but got sent home anyway. Should we not all celebrate the end of a major chapter in the dehumanizing era of reality TV, and proclaim the triumph of the small-screen oeuvre, as embodied by “Master of None” and “Fargo,” instead of mourn a histrionic competition that showcased the most-base emotions — jealousy, antagonism and insecurity? (Plus, let’s be honest, a lot of bad clothes and makeup.) Those are characteristics of all reality TV shows, to be fair, but the feelings often seemed heightened in “ANTM” because the stakes involved always-tricky judgments of physical beauty.

When the inaugural episode of her new competition show aired in May 2003, it was one of the first of its kind (Survivor and American Idol were two of the rare hits that preceded it). I never thought that we would get such a strong story in the first season — it turned into religious girls versus the kind of anti-religion girls, and it was interesting to watch. Banks says there is hope for “Top Model” to find a new home. “I’m not exactly sure what’s happening on the business side, but based on that the public seems so crazed about it, we’re looking at possibly doing something somewhere else,” she says. “I don’t exactly know, but I know they’re looking into it, based on that response.” Though she says there are no official plans in place at this time, despite other reports, she confirms she would want to be involved, should “Top Model” get picked up elsewhere. “I would definitely produce,” Banks says, adding that she would consider continuing to serve as host, too. “I just have to talk to the new partners about being on camera.

Along with a handful of handpicked experts and fellow judges, Banks gave the prospective models makeovers (often involving extreme haircuts), taught the girls to walk and pose, and set up competitive photo shoots and runway shows with some of the top industry professionals. “I think that [the show] did [bring] an awareness about the business and it did bring a bit of visibility and a bit of know-how to the amount of work it takes, and that’s pretty valuable,” Jason Valenta, Head of Scouting for Next Model Management, tells The Daily Beast. The novel’s protagonist, Tookie, is an awkward “Forgetta-Girl” whose life is forever altered when she finds a coveted SMIZE — a talisman that puts her in the running to attend Modelland, the elite boarding school in the skies where girls become models. I was like, “I cannot believe this is real.” And this was before people would start thinking that they’re going to be the crazy one because they’re going to be on reality television. Valenta acknowledges that the industry is “quite insular and…in it’s own way exclusive.” The show opened up this world, and helped give interested girls a sneak peak that made modeling seem a bit more accessible. “I can remember vividly the massive increase in blind submissions that would pour into the agency after ANTM became a sensation,” Tiffany Press, an agent at New York Model Management, says via email. If they don’t get in, they’re destined to toil in a factory. (There are only two jobs in this dystopian universe.) According to legend, the road to becoming a supermodel is littered with human sacrifice.

It was certainly the longest-running. (“Project Runway,” by comparison, which began the year after, has thus far produced 14 seasons; “Mad Men,” which was itself arguably a fashion moment, seven.) That means that for a generation of viewers, “ANTM” was their conduit to the fashion world, the vehicle that shaped their perception of the industry. The final four contenders of Cycle 22—Mame, Nyle, Lacey and Mikey—will narrow down to two at the beginning of the episode, with only one left standing at the very end.

And over the years lots of people have, pointing out that the show never actually produced any supermodels (much as “Project Runway” has not produced any top designers) and criticizing its propagation of model clichés — the group apartments new girls often share (and which are never as cushy as the houses on “ANTM”), and the pursed-lips-up-from-under-the-eyebrows-stare immortalized by Ben Stiller in “Zoolander” and adopted by many of the show’s contestants. Most of all, Ty Ty would want us to remember where we left off, with four models entering the cycle 22 finale with a Zappos photo shoot and business presentation in tow. (So fair warning: spoilers of the season 22 finale below.) After a stringent evaluation, only two would go on to stomp it out in the final runway.

Starting with the idea that a brief dabble in supermodel-dom could be parlayed into a new and potentially more lucrative career as a reality TV host (if not a talk-show host). Crazy stunts included (but were certainly not limited to) making the contestants strut their stuff in dangerously high heels (one girl had to crawl off the runway); staging a runway show on a constantly moving, tilting runway positioned over a pool of water (a spill was inevitable…yet all the judges seemed shocked when it happened); an Indiana Jones-inspired runway that required models to dodge two swinging, heavy pendulums (a truly horrifying scene in which one girl was swept off the runway); and a shoot in which one model face-planted into Plexiglass, all to capture an artfully beautiful photo. The real winner, after all, was not each season’s winner (most of them went precisely nowhere), but the host, Tyra Banks, who succeeded in branding not only herself but an entire lexicon thanks to her constant use of such phrases as “Tyra mail” and “Ty tips” and “Ty-over.” Her attitude and ability to simultaneously castigate and praise her students/contestants gave her a viral reach far beyond her fashion career. In the end, the terrified model in question inevitably sucked it up, took a killer photo, and was told she had learned the lesson of what it takes to be a true professional.

Banks into a simultaneous, if briefer, five-year run as the host of an eponymous chat show, as well as an even briefer recent talk-show venture, “FABLife,” which she began in September and will leave this month (proving that while model-empowerment has its limits, the hope for another “ANTM” springs eternal). She was our first plus-size — or what I call “fiercely real” — winner, so that was really special to me because we were, in hindsight, way ahead of the curve. Crucial areas like time management and interpersonal skills were trivialized [by] gimmicky stunts and challenges.” Despite the name of the show, Banks-level supermodel-dom wasn’t granted fairy godmother-like to the winning contestants. And it created opportunities to fellow catwalkers like Janice Dickinson, Twiggy and Paulina Porizkova, all of whom spent a few cycles as judges on “ANTM.” Given Tyra as a role model and coach, and the fact that personality (and the story of the ugly duckling turned swan) plays on TV better than, say, the robotic runway strut that characterizes the models of choice for many catwalk shows, it’s probably not a coincidence that the most successful alumnae — like Analeigh Tipton (who came in third during Cycle 11) and Yaya DaCosta (second in Cycle 3) — made their names post-show not in modeling, but in acting. We had a girl named Heather [Kuzmich] who had autism, we had a girl Tahlia [Brookins] that was burned as an infant, and also Mercedes [Scelba-Shorte] from Cycle 2 who had lupus.

Or Yaya DaCosta, a runner up in cycle 3, who modeled in magazines like Interview and Essence before earning a role on Chicago Med. “I’ve worked with several models that have been on the show. So the only real advantage ANTM contestants have had is that [they] came prepared with pretty good portfolios from the show to present.” Participation can end up being a little more of a burden than a boon. My mom was a photographer, and I grew up with a dark room in the back porch of our house on the washer and dryer — she would turn it into a dark room with the red light. We were the first show to have the format that we had with each challenge and elimination, and my partner Ken Mok came up with that format that almost all competition reality shows follow. I tended to strip it down and maybe do a photo shoot that was all about shadows where we hold the lace to the sun and then the lace would be all over the girl’s face in a pattern.

It brought fashion to TV, but it is the only competition reality show that continues to repeat and people continue to watch the repeats even if they have already seen the original. It showcased a transgender model, Isis King (Cycle 11 and All-Star 17) before Andreja Pejic became a runway favorite; has been determinedly diverse before runway diversity became a part of the conversation; and featured buzz-cut Bianca Golden (Cycle 9) before Ruth Bell took the last ready-to-wear season by storm. I created Top Model to expand the definition of beauty and to use the modeling industry as that microcosm of beauty worldwide. “I need to show that you don’t have to be like this cookie-cutter thing where it’s like, ‘oh I look so perfect,’ but this beauty that’s interesting.

A gap in the teeth, lips that are too big or too small, eyes that are on the side of the head where you look like an antelope and prey in the wild, foreheads that are too big. Which simply shows, once again, that in fashion’s case, truth may not be stranger than fiction, but it’s sometimes hard to tell one from the other. Still, it is possible that the show’s single most powerful legacy has to do with the power of the model myth: the dream that a girl (or guy) will be walking down the street, or this in case, stepping onto a set, and will be discovered and propelled to fame.

She did a photo where we had water coming at the girls from the air like a storm, and they had fabric sticking to them, and I remember seeing her picture and it gave me chills up and down my spine. You’d think the experience of constantly being judged for your physical flaws would turn off not only viewers but potential contestants, but for over a decade they came, they were criticized and we watched.

I was shocked that they allowed that — but they were very adamant very early on to have that we really have to have that non-debatable beauty represented. And that is why, if I were a betting woman, I’d bet on this show — like “Friends” and “Modern Family” (send hate mail, I can take it) — having a long afterlife, continuing to inspire drinking games, and becoming a pop culture artifact. They would say, “Okay, we have this, this and this so we’re fine now, and you can go cast your awkward and weird girls.” Over time, awkward, weird and interesting just became beautiful or unique and edgy when the audience understood that beauty is not cookie cutter. Cycle 2, Yoanna [House] had long hair and got it cut, Cycle 3 Eva [Marcille​]’s hair was medium-ish long and we cut it very short, Cycle 4 Naima [Mora]’s hair was long and we cut it short; it goes on and on. There was one country that said, “This is what people think is beautiful, and we have to stick to that,” and I fought and finally, they said, “Tyra, we will let you make the decision for this girl.” It was “Vietnam’s Top Model” and I said this girl will work internationally, and they chose her and she continues to do very well internationally.

If you think about Kendall and Kylie [Jenner] — people think Kylie’s not a model, but I think she’s a model — and Gigi [Hadid] and all of these girls from reality television, I think Top Model knocked the doors down for that to be okay in the high fashion world. Tyra praises Mamé for her walk and even likens the finalist to herself, specifically 2003 Tyra at the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, because unlike us peasants, Tyra remembers every step of every show. It will just be a couple of appearances because I really do want to focus on Tyra Beauty… Like 90% of my time is here, making sure that our company is doing well.

The great thing is we’re past projections and we’re breaking all kinds of records when it comes to start-ups and I want to continue that trajectory so I’m here and it’s so important. In the case of a Nyle victory, which seemed too predictable to actually happen, I anticipated that Tyra would have spent the entire season practicing for how to announce his win in American Sign Language, but instead, she simply signs “congratulations.” And though it wasn’t an Adrienne Curry or a beloved Danielle Evans who finished on top, it was a new version of the ANTM fairy tale — a deaf model with a six pack and icy blue eyes, impossible to root against.

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