Review: The Last Season of America’s Next Top Model

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There’s been a death rattle coming from America’s Next Top Model for awhile now, and no muscle-y male models or FIERCELY SHORT contestants can save it. Once the show was moved to the Friday slot, we knew that the tastemaking Comcast devices behind Nielsen ratings had turned away from Tyra. It had been 22 seasons. How many more roman numerals could Tyra possibly spell out with her fingers?

But I could have watched America’s Next Top Model forever. If forces permitted, you’d find me happily using my SpacePad to tune into cycle 98 decades from now, just to watch future mallrats with gap teeth ugling-duckling into Amazonian swans. But alas, all things have to end. So did the final season do it justice?

Season 22 kicked off with a bang, producing plenty of contestants with real potential and others with fake vampire contacts. Speaking of, there was Bello, who had seemingly just wandered off the set of Twilight. Then there was Devin, whose perpetually cocked eyebrow betrays that inside he’s just a 12-year-old jumping on an awesome trampoline. There were also plenty of cool kids, like Justin (aka “J. Smooth”) and Mamé. If I recall, they fell in love when they were literally forced to be naked and tied up with rope together.

I assumed that, this being the last season, Tyra would finally pick a winner who could actually be a Vicky’s Secret-level supermodel. Otherwise, was this franchise all for naught? Sure, you could argue that last season’s winner, Keith, has been really successful, and the show has also created some semi-successful models and actors. But none of these are people’s whose names I can remember without Google, so I think that means they don’t fit the description of a “Top” model. (Which I think today means you date a member of One Direction, are part of Taylor Swift’s #squad or star in a John Green movie?)

To me, the obvious choice if she wanted to last-minute legitimize the whole franchise was Mamé. There’s clearly something special about her, and if J. Smooth’s devotion to her is any indication, she could probably win the heart of at least one member of One Direction.

Throughout the season, Mamé continued to be the clear frontrunner. The only other major contender was Nyle, the deaf underwear model-looking dude with eyes so piercing his mug overshadowed a husky’s.

Nyle remained admirably upbeat considering that no one really cared to learn enough sign language to communicate with him. (Other than Lacey, the southern bell who had recently lost 30 pounds and wanted to inspire everyone to do the same.) The judges tried to act like Lacey and Mikey were legit competition for Mamé and Nyle, but to that I say pssshhhh.

I rooted for Mamé the whole time, even when she made the questionable choice of “warming up” with Mikey in a sleeping bag. Her cavalier attitude about the whole thing when explaining it to Justin was creepy, but hey, does that have anything to do with her modeling? No. Plus, I felt a bit bad for her. It seemed like having her mom hang around for a couple episodes was the most she’d ever interacted with her own mother in her life. That sucks.

So did Top Model do the logical thing and pick Mamé as its final winner EVER?

SPOILERS:

Picking Mamé would have meant Top Model departed from its long tradition of picking not the best candidate, but the one who needs the show the most. The show stuck to this strategy, instead picking Nyle. I can’t be that mad at it, because I liked Nyle too. But is he going to be the star the franchise always hoped for? Not in the way that Mamé could have.

That’s not to say this season was a disappointment. It contained everything I love about Top Model. Raw talent. Odd creative direction. Makeover-related drama. This season, as Tyra would say, brought it even harder than most others. In that sense, I leave the American franchise of Top Model mostly satisfied. I wish there could have been more, but it definitely quit while it was ahead. Now, I’m onto finding the Brazilian version and mainlining that instead. Fierce and love, my dear Tyra.

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