A Requiem For “America’s Next Top Model”

2013-09-25 07.28.26[I wore this for picture day at work, but I’d also wear it to the funeral of a chic person. Please excuse my beauty.]

I am finding the words I need to write this very dramatic and important post difficult to find. How can I express most succinctly and with deft prose the intense agony America’s Next Top Model now brings me? We are no longer in love. In fact, I’m outta love.

MANDATORY ANASTACIA DANCE BREAK:

Gosh, I love that song. I’ll never not love it.

I used to think that’s how I’d always feel about America’s Next Top Model…I suppose we should get into this now.

When I was in high school, I began to watch ANTM with an almost religious fervor. My friends all watched it, too, and we had deep, rather intellectual conversations about the contestants and the photo shoots. Oh, those were the glory days! Mr. Jay would create the most beautiful concepts for the weekly photographs. Ms. Jay would teach us all how to walk with such quality. Nigel was always there for us to laugh at. The show was ridiculous back then, but it was such fun. God, I loved it.

Angelea! My favorite ANTM contestant of all time!

Watching each week truly changed my life. I don’t mean this in hyperbole, I mean it with total honesty. I was exposed to a world that I was unaware of, one that I fell passionately in love with and still am to this day — the world of fashion. I researched designers and the history of famous couture houses and loved scrolling through the pictures of male models, wanting to do that someday.

I saw the way they looked and I saw how I looked in the mirror and I realized that they weren’t matching up much. I was, though nobody will agree with me, rather overweight and a poor dresser. I didn’t care much at all about how I looked back then. I would wear oversized corduroy pants with a ridiculously oversized Cheerios sweater that I bought at the Mall of America when they had this strange world of cereal exhibition. I had long hair that I didn’t know how to take care of. I was a mess.

[I was going to post a picture, but I couldn’t bear to show you what a disaster my look used to be.]

So, I changed all that about myself. Over the summer before senior year, I lost a bit of weight, nothing like what I later did, but it was a noticeable difference. I bought clothes that fit me and I felt so much better. I wasn’t athletic or super thin, but I knew that this was how I was supposed to look and things could only get better. And over the years, they did. I’m now a veritable fashionista with two abs. It can only get even better!

But, back to the show. It continued to be endlessly entertaining with a wacky cast of characters. It was such fun to go to foreign destinations and to critique the weekly photos and to see how many ruffles Ms. Jay would wear that week. Le grand sigh…Karl always says that we should not idolize the past, but it’s hard when the past of this show was its prime.

My QUEEN!

Everything was going well and fine and then Tyra announced that there would never be another normal cycle of ANTM again. I didn’t know what this meant, but I soon found out it was nothing good. First, there was the All Star cycle, which I was fine with until it became nothing more than an hour long commercial for Tyra’s dystopian teen novel. I tried and tried to make it past the first chapter, but I don’t think I could have managed it even if I wasn’t such a book snob. To make matters worse, they had to record songs and insert the phrase “POT LEDOM” into them for no reason at all. I thought my beloved Allison Harvard was going to weep, and rightly so.

One of the comments on that video: “Thanks for editing out Tyra and the dwarf!!! I felt like she really screwed their performances by forcing them to write the Pot Ledum-shit and popping in and out. Especially in this beautiful song.”

And that was it for me. The show died for me in that moment, but I couldn’t give it up just yet. Oh no, I suffered through several more cycles and then even more unthinkable atrocities occured. Tyra eschewed her legendary costars, Ms. Jay, Mr. Jay, and Nigel, for a group of people nobody’s ever heard of: Bryanboy (what?), Kelly Cutrone (who I respect, actually), and Rob Evans (who makes no sense when he speaks, and that’s not just because you can’t understand his accent.) Instead of Mr. Jay as the creative head, we have this bald guy who wears ironic caps and lisps. It’s gone to complete and utter shit. AND YET I PERSEVERE OUT OF LOVE.

tyra-banks-boys-and-girls

It happened, then, the next cycle was going to have men and women. Of course I applied. I got a call back and did another interview for the next round. I wasn’t called back. Then, it killed me a little, but now…now I can look back on it with incredible relief.

This cycle is complete and total shit. I was done with it before it began. I was done with it the day I saw Tyra for the first time in person this summer in Los Angeles. I didn’t want to scream and cheer. I just looked on at her like some kind of foreign species. It was upsetting, but I didn’t give up completely. I watched as much as I could and I reviewed it for you, but I just can’t continue. I can’t do it anymore. The program has become inconceivably stupid and poorly done. And so, I decided that I’m done with it.

I release myself from the obligation of watching each week. I release myself from the guilt this brought me. I release myself from my need to be on the show. In fact, casting for Cycle 21 has begun recently and I don’t have the slightest inkling of desire to try out. I don’t want to be a part of that monstrosity. It’s not that I don’t want to be famous or be a model or be on television — I just don’t want to do it that way anymore (and besides, what ANTM alum has gone on to really great success? FEW.)

I’ll still pursue modeling in the future when I develop a few more muscles. It’s something I’d truly like to do once in my life. But, I don’t need America’s Next Top Model for that.

And so, I fondly say goodbye to this show that sustained me for years, that brought me such joy and such pain. It was nice while it lasted. It’s not me…it’s you.

Ciao,

XOXO,

BEN

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