Over 15 cycles since 2003 (model years are shorter than television years) Tyra Banks has continued on her quest to find America’s Next Top Model. This person has to be a triple threat – to be able walk runway, to do commercial and television and to be strong and edgy enough to do editorial photoshoots. This is a tough challenge she has set, and over the previous cycles she has produced some talented girls, those who have worked consistently as models such as Kim Stoltz, Jaslene Gonzalez, Elyse Sewell and Toccara Jones and others who have bartered their exposure into television and acting careers such as Eva Marcille (née Pigford), Yoanna House and Yaya Dacosta. Sadly the majority of the girls, even winners, slip back into their old lives when the cycle is completed.
Cycle 15 promised high fashion, and in some extent it did deliver. We had photoshoots from photographers like Matthew Rolston and designers such as Diane Von Furstenburg rather than the usual selection of people you’d only be aware of if you read the small print in fashion magazines. The contestants were judged by fashion face Andre Leon Talley, who added some weight to the panel. However, his commentary was not always comprehensible, and his continual refrain of ‘dreckitude’ could hardly be described as insightful and helpful criticism. Andre’s personal fashion choices were also unusual, once wearing a quasi military uniform that made him look like the soldier from the Quality Street tins that had eaten all the chocolates and, in the final episode, a see-through jacket that appeared to have been made from a shower curtain. To be honest, my favourite panellist has always been Janice Dickinson (cycles 1 to 4): she brought the crazy, but her understanding of what made a good photo and her ability to express what made a bad photo compensated for some of her more erratic moments. Some of the gimmicky catwalk challenges in cycle 15 were less influenced by high fashion, and seemed more inspired by “Total Wipeout”. Catwalk suspended four stories over the Hollywood and Highland Center? Catwalk composed of treadmills at high speed in a L.A. road tunnel? Hardly a fair test of the runway walking skills needed for London Fashion Week.
The now-familiar reality show characterisations were present and correct. The girl who demanded the respect from others despite not showing any respect herself. The complainer, whose first thought on landing in Venice was to complain about the heat. The girls who were relying on their genes (‘what momma gave you’) rather than modelling skills. The girl selected to give a message to the audience (‘eating disorders are bad…mmmkay’). The girl with the secret that she hadn’t told anyone until now, when she was going to reveal all on national television. This season was missing the full on-loonies, such as the girl who poured water on someone’s bed and rubbed her soiled panties on another (Monique, cycle 7) and the mean girls pack, which is generally shown to great effect in every season of Britain’s Next Top Model. At the end we had the winner who had been on the all important reality show “journey” from lacking-in-confidence geek to America’s Next Top Model.
That winner was Ann Ward, who did deliver good photos, as she had a power and vulnerability in her eyes that led her to be called first a record 6 times. However, she did have a terrible walk, which improved greatly throughout the series, although she still had one shoulder hunched and a strange way of carrying her body on the final catwalk.
Perhaps her model agency is giving her additional training; they have invested some time in her, and shot new photos for her portfolio. The additional difficulty she will face is her body shape. She isn’t sample size due to her hip and waist measurements and could be too tall (at six foot two), so will find getting catwalk work more difficult. (“America’s Next Top Model” walks a fine line between caring about the girls’ body shapes but not going to the extremes that seem to be the norm in the fashion industry. For example, anyone watching Channel 4’s recent “The Model Agency” would have been horrified by Anthony, the agency’s director of scouting, trying to persuade a girl to have a breast reduction, as anything over a B cup would lead to backache, and other members of the team referring to a girl as fat as she had gone above sample size.)
Tyra tried hard to make her competition more relevant, but still chose a winner who will probably not become America’s next top model. Indeed, the biggest success story here is not the contestants, but the growth of the franchise from a cheap reality show, to a format with so many international versions, from Canada to China, making big money for the franchise owners using the dreams of so many girls world-wide.
“America’s Next Top Model” is broadcast on Sky Living
Kittykarate usually blogs on technology subjects