America's Next Top Model: Smizing at Every Size

The first season of America’s Next Top Model premiered in 2003. As a little girl, I watched beautiful women stand before a panel of judges. I cat-walked back and forth in my living room and smized every time I saw my reflection in the mirror. I tried to envision myself on the show––being praised by Tyra Banks each week until I was crowned America’s Next Top Model.

But I soon realized I would never be one of those girls. Each contestant had the same body type: tall and slender. I have never in my life been either of those things.

Watching these women caused me to question my own beauty. One of the competitors on the first episode of season one said, “I was hoping that all the girls were going to be really short and fat and ugly, but everyone’s tall and thin and beautiful.” Later in the episode, judge Janice Dickinson told a woman, “You have to work on those thighs. Watch the diet and exercise.” When the next model came forward to be evaluated, Janice called her “rail thin” and acknowledged the visibility of the girl’s rib cage, but dismissed it and said she looked great.

 

It was evident. Only skinny women are beautiful.

Still, I watched every season. I continued to dream that someday I would look like one of them, and I would be good enough to become a model. I wanted girls to admire me the way I did these contestants.

Flash forward 15 years and 23 seasons later. The current season of America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 24, began on January 9th. With a new year came new perspectives from the judges. The age limit, which capped at 27-years-old, was removed to allow any woman 18 or older to apply. For many seasons, Tyra and her crew said that all shapes and sizes are welcome, but this season is the first time that every woman’s body truly varies from each other. There are several girls with cellulite and stretch marks, girls covered in tattoos, and girls as short as 5’5."

When 32-year-old, plus-sized contestant Khrystyana Kazakova’s photo was shown on the screen in the first episode, the first thing that came out of Tyra’s mouth was, “Those hips are gorgeous!” Judge Drew Elliott also commented that her body is beautiful.

This season of America’s Next Top Model is unbelievably important. Women need to see models that have bodies similar to their own. As a curvy woman, I am thrilled to finally see contestants that represent me. Every body deserves to be celebrated. Though there are many women––and men––who are still underrepresented in media, this cycle of ANTM is a huge breakthrough into normalizing and accepting all body shapes, sizes, and colors.

 

Cycle 24 of America’s Next Top Model airs Tuesdays 8/7C on VH1.