America's Next Top Sell-out
Tyra Banks. What comes to mind when you hear that name? For you, maybe a middle-aged woman who has been riding a franchise for too long. However, what comes to mind for me is a strong, African American woman who has had a wildly successful career, first as a model, and more recently as one of the creators and judges on the TV show, America’s Next Top Model. ANTM originally was intended to humanize the modeling career, however, as of recent, it has done nothing but the polar opposite.
Now, I’m not a sucker for reality TV. I don’t secretly love the Bachelor; I haven’t watched an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians since 2011, and I most certainly never consumed content involving borderline child abuse like Toddlers and Tiaras. For some reason I just really love America’s Next Top Model. I couldn’t tell you why, but there’s just something so addictive about watching those perfect young women on screen. I started watching the show as a pre-teen, and the models didn’t look like me at all (I was a chubby little kid). Therefore, my pre-teen brain had its own separate schema for them. They weren’t like me, they didn’t act like me, or sound like me, or dress like me. They would either blossom and rise to the challenge (that is, stay mentally stable while the entirety of America saw them half naked) or just crumble under the pressure, get blasted by Tyra, and get sent home.
There’s not much feminism involved in this show. Maybe, back in the good old days when there was none of this “Guys & Girls” nonsense on the show, there may have been a glimmer of hope. This was a program by girls for girls, after all. And, it gave a lot of young women immediate and widespread access to a large viewership, drawing attention to them and giving them a better chance at pursuing their dream careers. However, there are incredible downfalls, ranging from girls throwing themselves at the cameras to try and attain higher social media ratings, to obviously scripted cat-fights and contestants saying terrible and cruel things about each other.
Then, in a (failed) attempt to increase viewership, the show broke away from its roots and began to include guys. Er, scratch that; began to include sex-fueled, terribly over-dramaticized, embarrassingly scripted, objectifying (for both genders) inclusion of guys. Obviously, not a fan. If I wanted to watch yet another hetero-normative, scripted show based on sex, I’d go and watch the Bachelor!
ANTM: from Cycle 1-16, really on the better side in terms of feminist reality TV. From Cycle 17 forward, when social media involvement began to impact judging, the show moved a couple notches down. But from season 19 forward, the show’s roots of building a close knit, almost matriarchal group of Tyra-obsessed girls were ripped up with the inclusion of men. I am no misandrist, but this show just didn’t need men, and no one asked for them to make an appearance. The male aspect of the show messed with the whole balance and was overall destructive to the content. America’s Next Top Model, my love, you overstayed your welcome in my books the day that you ceased to test modeling, and began to test who could throw the best feigned hissy fit.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Franks, Maya. "America's Next Top Sell-out." 25 March 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 29, 2021) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/americas-next-top-sell-out>.