I remember being nine and spending the days at my grandma’s house. She had taught me how to knit on the couch that summer. Once it was time to eat, she would leave me (with instructions, of course), and I would change the channel to watch something more fitting to my liking while my hands doze off. “America’s Next Top Model” caught my attention immediately. Something about the premise of it being a competition based on grit was something new to me at the time, especially for something so ‘high end’ in my nine-year-old comprehension.
For me, fashion was always a way of ultimate expression. From denying my mom a side part when doing my hair, to cutting and giving my Bratz dolls’ hair makeovers, I’ve always gravitated towards the art of self-expression in style. After my first watch, I was obviously hooked with both the drama and progression of “ANTM.” The show perfectly catered to my desire of presenting yourself as art, as something you created.
The show showed me that clothes and hair were not the only things that showed individuality. Things such as your own traits can set you apart from the crowd and give you your “look.” For the longest time, I didn’t like my lips as a child because people at school would point out how big they were. Watching this show, I saw many girls struggling with the same thing but with their height, how long their torso was or their teeth gaps.
One of the most notorious moments in the show was the ultimate makeover challenge when the judges and Tyra would pick out new looks for the contestants. Girls with long hair would sometimes go bald, others dye their hair, some got extensions/weaves put in, while a few stayed the absolute same. In the most extreme cases, girls would leave the show or refuse to complete the challenge because of how drastic the change was, most of the time crying.
At first, I too thought that sometimes the judges were benign to harsh or rash with the girls depending on the challenge they proposed to the contestants, but I now understand that one of the most beautiful things about the fashion industry is its constant strides toward growth and uniqueness. Everyone has their look already, but finding ways to enhance or isolate that can show you your “umf” factor.
“ANTM,” unlike any other show of its time, was the first to really expose the art of modeling and working in the fashion industry. Although it’s not always showcased, the show taught us how important it is to celebrate yourself and what that can do for your confidence and security within yourself. In addition to her dramatic outbursts or jokes for comedic relief, Tyra really embodied what it was to be a woman that grew into herself through celebrating what made her her.
She shared her own background and hardships. In short terms, she kept it real with the girls who also came from a variety of different backgrounds: some mothers, working full-time and/or in university. Tyra, for one, made it clear that no matter your circumstance your confidence is what will empower you to persevere.
By no means will I say that the fashion or modeling industry is perfect because it definitely is not. However, the intention of both is what needs to be remembered in such times. In finding and calling out where the industries lack, we can find solace in the parts where they remained true to their purpose: to celebrate beauty, differences, and individuality.