America’s Next Top Mistake

Kaydence Liu, Staff Writer

Imagine being in an abandoned building, strapped to a harness, and hung above a giant hole with at least twenty feet below you. How is it possible for someone to focus on their facial expressions when their life is at risk! This is just one example of the odd and dangerous challenges America’s Next Top Model proposes. ANTM is a reality show in which unestablished models compete. Contestants have a chance to become established models but are eliminated weekly until only one model remains.

Airing from 2003 to 2018, ANTM was on television for twenty-four cycles, or seasons. When ANTM originally aired, most of us were still waking up early for Sunday cartoons. However, after rewatching the show on Netflix and Hulu, I began to realize how problematic this show actually was. Perhaps it was a different era; society was less inclined to talk about controversial topics. As Netflix and Hulu continue to endorse ANTM, it is becoming abundantly clear that they only care about the money ANTM makes by ignoring the obvious blackface and brownface, exploitation of the contestants, and body shaming on the show.

Tyra Banks, a supermodel herself, got away with having the models do blackface and brownface. During one of the most notorious shoots for blackface and brownface, Tyra Banks had the girls “dress up” as biracial people. As Banks announced which races the girls would be, the models became excited as if they had been handed a fun dress to model with. One of the biggest issues with this is that being biracial isn’t like a dress at all—you can’t take it on and off. 

One of the earliest questionable moments was in cycle one when Adrianne, a model on the show who eventually won, was assaulted while she was on her way to her go-see, an audition for modeling. Instead of reporting what happened, Adrianne moved on from it and hastily went to her go-see. This harmful example of denial could influence young viewers to believe that this behavior toward women is normal—when it shouldn’t even be acceptable. 

Another issue with ANTM is the body-shaming and lack of plus-size models. Some of the plus-size models were told by judges and photographers that their bodies weren’t made for fashion—just the opposite of the body-positivity ANTM should have been advocating. ANTM should have included more plus-size models to show that beauty and fashion are diverse—there isn’t a blueprint for how a model should look. The lack of plus-size models in the show continues to perpetuate unrealistic societal standards of beauty.

ANTM is problematic in so many different aspects that even Tyra Banks had to apologize. She admitted on Twitter that ANTM had been insensitive to many important issues on the show. ANTM was the example of what not to do—thankfully, more recent fashion television programs have (mostly) steered clear of these mistakes.