From blackface to treadmill runways: A review of America’s Next Top Model

March 03rd, 2021

There was a period when an entire generation of young girls turned to ‘America’s Next Top Model’ as the standard of beauty.

The reality television series was our gateway to the fashion world in the early 2000’s. Whether you wanted to be the next Tyra Banks, or you were just in it for the drama, ANTM kept us hooked on the TV screen every week. While the show has become an iconic part of pop culture, many of us may have overlooked the insane things contestants had to go through. Besides the Survivor-esque challenges, the competition put girls in risky conditions like contracting hypothermia and even subjecting them to blackface. Yes, blackface.

First of all, the purpose of ANTM is supposedly to prepare these aspiring models for the “real thing.” But a lot of these challenges are quite unrealistic if you think about it. In Cycle 15, contestants were tasked to walk on a speeding conveyor belt in 4-inch stilettos. Does that not seem like a safety hazard? In what scenario would a designer or a brand ask people to model on a runway they can barely walk on?

Now onto probably the most problematic thing that went over our heads–the blackface episode. In Cycle 4 of America’s Next Top Model, one challenge called for them to imitate different cultures — ethnicities that were opposite of their skin color. The concept of the photoshoot was apparently to depict “diverse” portrayals of motherhood. For some reason producers thought that the best execution was to paint Caucasian girls black, and colored girls white. As if there was no other way to be less insensitive.

The series is also found guilty of perpetuating the toxic ideals of the modeling industry. There’s an outdated notion according to societal standards that beauty is synonymous to your figure. Many people still believe that in order to be attractive you need to be a size zero. The clip above shows one of the judges commenting on a contestant’s body, claiming that if she could “slim down 150 pounds, that would be good.”

It’s common knowledge that the industry is criticized for their unhealthy and unattainable standards. In a study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, researchers found that 54% of models were told to lose weight, and that they wouldn’t be able to find more jobs if they didn’t.

Apparently previous ANTM contestants are beginning to speak up against the exploitative nature of the competition. Alum Lisa D’Amato accused Tyra Banks last month for using D’Amato’s childhood trauma to mistreat her.

So here’s a salute to the girls who had to put up with all that BS.

 

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