America’s Next Top Model went out with a whimper last year as Tyra Banks tweeted, “Thinking #ANTM22 should be our last cycle. I truly believe it’s time. May your pics be forever fierce. Keep on Smizing!”
Whether or not the choice was Trya’s is up for speculation. The CW called it quits after moving the show to a sad Friday time slot, and viewers seemed ready for it to end. Nyle DiMarco, the show’s first-ever deaf contestant, went on to win. By the end, the show had produced zero “top” models, but a handful of notables, including Yaya DaCosta, Analeigh Tipton, Fatima Siad and Eva Marcille.
Tyra went on to work on her pyramid scheme makeup brand, and we forgot all about Top Model. Or did we?
We did not. How could we ever forget the show where Tyra made Allison Harvard work the phrase “pot ledom” (Top Model backward) into a song about her recently deceased father? How could we forget the contest that made the first ever Native American contestant dress up as Pocahontas? We could not.
Naturally, someone rushed in to save the franchise. VH1 picked it up, and made the choice to insert singer Rita Ora as the new Tyra. This choice seems odd until you consider Tyra’s new POV on a “model of today,” which is someone who can master what she calls the three B’s: Business, Brand and Boss. According to Tyra, Rita Ora is a master of all of these things.
So how is Top Model without Tyra? As much as we want to find something lacking without Tyra’s made-up words and passionate speeches, we may not. In fact, the show is more polished, fun and non-toxic without her. It’s kind of like when your really un-chill childhood friend goes to summer camp and comes back super chill because she’s gotten boobs, found Jesus and had her first makeout in one week.
Rita Ora as a host is refreshing. She’s energetic and stylish, even if the idea of her as today’s example of “Business, Brand, Boss” is a stretch. Plus she’s flanked by wonderfully campy and fun judges, including Ashley Graham, Paper mag Chief Creative Officer Drew Elliot and “image architect” Law Roach, who looks and sounds like a character from Mortal Kombat.
VH1 has replaced Tyra’s kitschy music and graphics with bold colors and editing that feel cooler and more modern. Overall, it’s a better show now. Sorry Tyra!
But what really matters are the contestants, and this season’s are the perfect blend of real model potential and infectious reality TV personalities. Here’s my take on each one, without spoilers about who gets kicked off.
Cherish is like a boring version of Jessica Rabbit. She has “virgin hair,” and does not want any stylist to touch it.
Cody is an identical twin. I hope these twin contestants get dealt with better than the twins on The Bachelor.
Coryanne’s mom was Stephanie Roberts, a famous 90’s supermodel. If she can stand out some other way, she’ll have a chance.
India’s name is India even though she’s a blonde, blue-eyed white woman. She looks kind of like Amanda Seyfriend though, so I could see her going fairly far.
Justine is a very entertaining 18-year-old with a look that is surely ready for Instagram fame.
Even though Krislian is one of those names where two parents try to jam their names together, I like Krislian a lot. She’s short, super sexy and has a bit of a Kardashian vibe. Also, she likes to start sentences with, “I’m Latina, I’m short and I have a big butt.” Vibes.
Kyle is a genderqueer model whose ability to make straight girls want to have a Katy Perry moment rivals that of Ruby Rose. Great TV.
Marissa seems like she’s from The Baby Sitter’s Club or its grown-up cousin, The California Diaries. There’s just something uber-cool and relatable about her. She calls herself “the mouth of the south” so that will lead to plenty of drama.
Paige seems like someone who would be in Lena Dunham’s “squad.” She’s privileged and knows it, and likes to hear her own voice talking expositorily about Black Lives Matter.
Binta is a fierce contestant from Gambia. She really hates Paige. The show makes it seem like she started to hate Paige while listening to her talk about Black Lives Matter, but this could have been one of many reasons. Either way, she sparks an interesting conversation about black identity in episode 2.
Courtney is chill, a good model and has “chia pet eyebrows” according to Quei, a transgender contestant who did not make the final cut. She kind of has a St. Vincent vibe.
Tash is the other identical twin. Makeovers needed for telling apart purposes!
Giah. I love her. She’s just gorgeous and has a glowing personality. Plus, Rita Ora “love, love, loves” her. If she doesn’t go far in this contest, she should try acting because she is a star.
Tatiana takes killer pictures, although I don’t really feel I know her well yet. She seems to stay out of the drama.
Overall, the new season has brought all the sparkly and zany fun of Top Model even more than the show’s final few seasons. The contestants definitely hold a few potential stars in their ranks. Even better, you get the sense that Rita Ora actually knows what “social media” is.
Sure, we’ll miss Tyra. She was problematic at times, but she also pushed for representation and fought for marginalized types of beauty in her own very idiosyncratic way. Now, the torch has officially been passed, and that seems to be a good thing.