'America's Next Top Model' Is Back & It's Better Than Ever

After a year-long hiatus, America’s Next Top Model is back and better than ever. It’s clear that the producers and creators took this year to revamp the production, and give it a more up-to-date vibe. The main focuses of this current season are all about taking advantage of today’s social media outlets, while also encouraging and supporting body positivity in every episode and challenge. ANTM is one of the only successful shows currently on air that in every way possible exclaims to its audience the importance of loving yourself and breaking societal norms. Everyone should be supporting this type of networking and production. Not to mention it remains a highly engaging and entertaining show that viewers will fall in love with all over again.

Tyra Banks: A True Icon

The show was created and judged by Tyra Banks, who remains in the current season. Banks became the first-ever black supermodel on the cover of GQ, Sports Illustrated, and the Victoria’s Secret catalog. Since the beginning of her career, Banks was a fierce and strong female role model for many young girls. She uses the show to project her views of body positivity and equal opportunity onto the models and viewers. As one of the first African Americans in the industry, she has dealt with an abundance of hate and backlash and now uses her success through that to make sure those competing and watching know the importance of defying societal norms. Every episode I watch I feel more and more empowered because of Banks, and this feeling is something many others should experience as well.

Plus-Size Positive

Positive body image has always been a theme present in the show, but this season it has become particularly evident. ANTM is famous for its powerhouse judges panel, who are constantly taking in the new icons to join the team. This season the show recruited Ashley Graham as a permanent judge. Graham is a successful plus-size model, most famous for being the first ever plus-size model on the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

By adding Graham to the team, the creators and producers of the show are emphasizing the importance of diversity of size, which is significant in an industry known for promoting a specific body image that young girls and boys to idolize. However, the support of plus-size modeling does not just end at the judges' table. Contestant Khrystyana Kazakova is a plus-size model in the current cycle of models. Kazakova continues to prove successful in modeling by winning competitions and the weekly “best photo” throughout the season. ANTM is not only supporting the inclusion of plus-size models but is using their platform to demonstrate these model’s successes. 

No Age Limit

All of the die-hard ANTM fans would know that in previous seasons, the show had an age restriction for those 18 to 27 years old. In order to promote the current season’s equal opportunity mantra, they decided to get rid of this age restriction. In the initial model interviews, we saw a lot of women audition from ages 30-50, including Erin Green. Erin is a 42-year-old mother of five and grandmother of three, yet she is one of the most #NLF (“next level fierce” in the wise words of Banks) models in the competition and has even made it all the way to the top five. By lifting the age restrictions, Tyra and the rest of production are showing that much like skin color and weight, age is not a reason one should not be able to pursue a passion or career. Erin Green is now able to continue her modeling career, something she had to put aside when she became a mother. If it weren't for this shows inspiring attitude, none of this would have happened.

“Unconventional Beauty”

Again, this season is all about supporting those whose beauty may not be conventional in the modeling industry, though it is something we should all get behind. Banks consistently uses the term “unconventional beauty” as a way of describing this mantra, and there was an entire episode dedicated to these “unconventional” features of the girls.

My favorite moment from this episode was hearing Jeana Turner's story. In my opinion, she had the most liberating Ty-over in ANTM history. Jeana was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes you to lose all your hair, at 10-years-old. Before the show, she never modeled without her wig on, but during her Ty-over, Banks insisted she throw it out. Since then, she has gone on to win multiple competitions and "best pictures" and is, in my opinion, the strongest model of the season. The episode shared the stories of judge Drew Elliot in his struggle with vitiligo, a skin discoloration disease, and contestant Shanice Carrol’s struggle with psoriasis.

ANTM has proved to be an inspiring outlet that we can turn to when we feel like we're not good enough for our dreams and aspirations. Every day I try to live my life being #NLF, and I encourage everyone else to do the same.

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