America’s Next Top Model Doesn’t Shame Women

Emma O'Dell

I have watched every cycle of America’s Next Top Model, which is 22 seasons as of 2015; since I was ten I would binge watch it on TV (personally, I am rooting for Nyle, who is deaf and killing it right now). It was something my mother and I did for fun, we would pick our favorites and root against each other till one of our people went home.  I would always pick the blonde girl who was beautiful with the rockin’ body, thinking she would always win, because that was my idealist version of perfect.

My mom, however, always picked the odd ball, the one no one liked and that kind of looked like an alien. She would always go further than my girl and I wondered why that was. It’s because ANTM doesn’t discriminate based on already having a set version of perfect. They pick the talent, whether it’s a curvaceous plus size model or a skinny typical model, they give everyone a chance and judge everyone fairly.

Tyra Banks, who is known world-wide for being an amazing model, hosts the show. America’s Next Top Model is where 10–16 contestants, girls, and now, newly-cycled boys, compete in challenges and photo shoots every week to get the best picture. In the end, the girl or boy who wins gets all these contracts and a modeling career from it.

When I used to watch it as a chubby kid, seeing these beautiful women walk tall and confident down a runway with a perfect body always made me feel so self-conscious. I used to wish I looked like them when I was 18; however, I am now 19, and I don’t look anything close to one of those “dream” girls. Yet, as I watched the show, I realized that body size doesn’t necessarily make you a model.

The model-perfect standards are ages 16-21, height is typically between 5’9″ and 6,’ bust is between 32″ to 36, ″ waist is between 22″ and 26, ″ and hips should be between 33″ and 35.″

Now the average women in America standards today are height 5’4,″ has a waist size of 34 to 35 inches and weighs between 140 to 150 pounds! This just goes to show how different reality is versus the idealistic. Except ANTM doesn’t follow those guidelines.

Casting director Michelle Mock-Falcon states ,“The show is all about opportunity,” and he is not just saying that. Tyra decided that a model should not be just restricted from a height difference, on September 9, 2009 cycle 13 was aired, contestants were all 5’7” or shorter, proving that shorter girls can model too, giving everyone an equal opportunity. Now people might say “yeah height isn’t everything,” what about weight?

America’s Next Top Model also doesn’t discriminate against weight, the first plus size model to be on ANTM was Toccara cycle 3. Cycle 3, which was in 2004, thus proved that even back then, the show was breaking the “norm.” Since then, this opened the doors for more girls who may be considered plus-size to audition because they were not being discriminated based on their body type.

In cycle 10 in 2008, the first-ever plus size model, Whitney Thompson, won the show. Because of that, body image no longer mattered on the show; the show and world were progressing into modern times.

ANTM did not just give opportunities to new perspectives of height and weight, throughout the cycles more and more contestants applied with unique stories and were accepted. Chantelle Brown-Young from Cycle 21 competed with vitiligo, showing that her deformity was not stopping her from trying out her dream of modeling.    Although she got eliminated and placed fourth, she now models professionally for the Desigual campaign. Kim Stolz was another female to be on the show that broke the “norm,” as she was the first ever openly gay contestant on the show that made it to the top 5. She showed people that models can be gay and that’s okay, that sexuality doesn’t take away from their talent. Another twist was in 2008’s cycle 11 was Isis King, who was a transgender. The other contestants first were wary of her, but once they saw that she was only a threat talent-wise, they started viewing her as just another contestant and not a transgender woman.

Tyra saw these models as people, and didn’t care what their sexuality, skin color, or weight was, as long as they had talent.

As Tyra says, “Stop saying these negative things about yourself. Look in the mirror and find something about yourself that’s positive and celebrate that!”