Why America’s Next Top Model is Iconic

You Wanna Be on Top? 

Let’s all sit down and take a second to talk about America’s next top model or ANTM. I remember being a little girl watching the show, and honestly, loving every minute of it! My mom and sister and I, the dynamic trio, would all huddle on the couch completely enthused. I’m sure at times we got wayyyy too into it, and we were definitely sad when some of our favorites got voted off.

In case some don’t know how ANTM works, Tyra Banks, the executive producer and host of the show, selects a small number of girls from various forms of audition tapes and has them travel to one central location, at first. The girls are all competing for a spread in a magazine, a modeling contract, and a chance to kick start their careers in the modeling industry. Then, the girls are put to the test when they are set to compete in photo shoots, runways, and various challenges that all help the judges decide who is going to be America’s Next Top Model. When there are about five or six girls left, they end up flying to another country to complete the last few intense challenges, photoshoots, runways, go-sees and more to determine who will be ANTM.

ANTM Represents Everyone

What I really want to get into is the fact that ANTM for the first probably 5 to 8 years of it’s running was way, and I mean WAY ahead of its time. The LGBTQ+ community has finally in more recent years gotten its voice, but back in 2003 when the show started, the acceptance of diversity was basically nonexistent. Racism was still alive and well and anyone that fell under any kind of category of “different” just wasn’t going to cut it.

The Jays

To extend my point of diversity, two of the main judges/coaches for almost the whole time the show aired, were Mr. Jay and Ms. Jay. 

Mr. Jay, Jay Manual, was a general coach who was also openly gay. Mr. Jay helps the girls on a more day to day basis and reports back to Tyra for performances. Mr. Jay is always looking tiptop shape, with of course the best fits.  Ms. J, J. Alexander, is the runway coach diva extraordinaire. She dabbled in the realm of androgyny, and she was always there to coach the models and give them a brutal reality check when they totally sucked, then again, report back to Tyra. These two really made it a great time to be a viewer and always made the best jokes, they are absolutely legendary.

Speaking of Diversity...

Isis King

I remember most specifically when the first transgender woman appeared on ANTM. This was a bit of a shock to a lot of people, including my family. I was raised pretty conservatively, but always with the kindest heart for every human and creature big and small. We were not shocked by who she was, and what she wanted or what she represented, but by the fact that it was aired on television. This was a time where people were very highly discriminated against, and ANTM stood up for her and was able to shed light. Looking back on it now it must’ve been really, really hard for her to be put under a magnifying glass like that. But I’ve got to say, I think a lot of us are really, really glad she did.

Tyra Banks Deserves More Credit

 Although there were shows similar to ANTM and other fashions or areas of media, this was one really distinct show that I remember from a tiny child. Specifically, not only in it’s insane and sometimes extremely humorous nature but also the people that they included and represented in the show. Tyra Banks spearheaded the show and was essentially the host, and wow, is she a bad bitch. Tyra Banks stands for anything and everything that a girl boss is. Not only is she absolutely beautiful, but she stands up for anyone who needs a hand up. The show always wanted to present the good side of modeling, specifically when they included plus-size models very early on. I remember in just the first few cycles there were multiple plus-size models. On that same note, any model who struggled with eating disorders were encouraged to get help and were asked to leave because Tyra didn’t want that kind of image to be put on models as a whole. Tyra represented a slightly self-obsessed, but totally awesome and confident woman of color who did so much for the modeling industry, and for many others as well. She is a huge role model for many, including me. Her kind attributes rose to the top in everything she did and said.

Although this was a predominantly female based show, cycles 20-22 featured male contestants, and man was that interesting! Pun intended. The moral of the story here is that ANTM is not only a great show filled with plenty of drama, tears, fights, modeling, and much more, it also stood up for those in need of a push towards being who they really wanted to be. If you’re interested in seeing this for yourself, they’ve got all 22 cycles on Hulu, you’re welcome. ANTM was ahead of its time and I think many people should thank them; anyways, Next Episode.