Somehow, I've pretty much escaped our nation's obsession with reality shows... with one major exception.
America's Next Top Model.
If someone would've told me I would love this show, I probably would've laughed in their face. But at some point, I caught an episode of this show and really enjoyed it.
In case it's not obvious, the point of the show: Tyra Banks and her posse of judges (currently 'noted fashion photographer' Nigel Barker [nice but blunt], 'fashion icon' Twiggy [she's so adorable and sweet], and 'runway diva' Miss J. Alexander [just plain weird]) pick out 13 contestants to compete for the opportunity to become 'America's Next Top Model.' The winner gets a contract with , a $100,000 contract with and a fashion spread in magazine, shot by world-renowned photographer Gilles Bensimon. The thirteen girls live together in a posh house, filmed constantly, and attend a photo shoot and some kind of challenge activity each week (they're usually related somehow). Each challenge produces a 'winner,' and the winner, sometimes along with a friend or two, gets some kind of prize (anything from a spa treatment by the other girls to a shopping spree to a surprise visit from a family member to a diamond necklace). Then, the photos from each photo shoot (or occasionally performances at a fashion show) are critiqued by the judges, and one girl is sent home each week (well, two the last week) until only one remains.
I think the strength of the show lies in its challenge. Most people think of modeling as a pretty girl dressing up nice and having professionals make them look great. Occasionally walking down a runway and spinning around a little. Maybe throwing up to stay skinny. But seriously-- few people give models much credit.
ANTM is interesting because it shows the aspects of all-around modeling. These girls can't just be pretty and walk down a runway; they have to have a signature walk and be good at spinning in heels and flowing skirts or maybe even while a cockroach crawls on them (one show this season involved jeweled cockroaches as accessories- yes, seriously). They can't just stand there and smile in a photo shoot; they have to know their angles, pose sitting on a block of ice in a thong, portray emotion, fight through the pain of being dangled nearly upside down by a tight harness, "crunk" dance, run on a treadmill in heels, walk the fine line between looking sexy and slutty, fall onto a mattress- any of a number of things- while still looking pretty. The girls also have to be personable and intelligent-sounding in an interview situation, look good in a paparazzi photo, and take harsh criticism. The girls have to both memorize and improvise lines and actions for a television commercial. ANTM looks for an all-around model- not just runway or print, but everything-- and that's hard.
Of course, as with any reality show, there's plenty of drama between the girls. (But, seriously, stick 13 girls in a house for a couple of days, even, and you're going to get drama.) Sure, there's also shameless product placement. But, for the most part, the show sticks to the modeling.
It's interesting to see the challenges of modeling and all that's involved with it, because most of us normally only see the finish product; and, as it's meant to, the final product makes everything look easy. I admit I was a little surprised to see just how difficult all-around modeling is-- but what surprised me even more?
How much fun modeling looks! I think that's what brings me back to the show week after week. I'll never be 5'7 and 120 pounds, but if I could... I think I would LOVE to try modeling. Or at least this show! Modeling is, of course, about looking pretty, but it's also about acting and making it believable... and it's also about looking and moving gracefully. As I watch, I see plenty of opportunities where dance and acting experience would help, and plenty of creative photo shoots that just make me want to try it. I wonder if I'd be any good- and, like I said, I'm not made to be a model... but to me, it's impressive that this show makes me want to try modeling, when it's never really been an interest of mine at all before.
Despite the fact this is the 6th 'cycle' of America's Next Top Model, Tyra Banks and her cohorts seem to be coming up with countless innovative experiences and challenges for the models. The show is always interesting, and shows the challenges and fun of modeling but also incorporates typical reality show elements of drama between contestants and the competition/curiosity of weekly eliminations.
Addictive? Absolutely. I recommend watching it at least once (Tuesday nights on UPN are repeats, Wednesday nights on UPN are new episodes, and VH1 shows episodes of previous cycles all the time- sometimes in marathons)... who knows, you might like it as much as me. :)
PS-- For the record, I totally want Joanie to win.