After cycle 16 of America’s Next Top Model, Aunt Tyra announced that there’d be no more “normal cycles”, opting instead to center each successive round of modeling hi-jinx around a particular theme. First came the all-star cycle, which found Top Model verging on self-parody and ended with one of the most confounding reality finales I’ve ever seen, with the much improved British Invasion cycle following last February. With the college edition set to premiere soon, I thought that I’d offer up the Haus of TyTy Baby a few suggestions of themes for future cycles, should the show reach its 20th birthday in the near future.
Even though we have a “plus girl” winner in the annals of Top Model history (cycle 10′s Whitney), nobody’s going to mistake the show for being a haven for those that may not fit the sample clothes. You can pretty much rule out the plus-size contestants from gaining even a whiff of victory, often falling prey to critiques about body image and self-confidence and tending to max out around the halfway point of a cycle. It doesn’t help things that there’ll be at most one “plus girl” per cycle (if any at all) and if there happens to be more than one, they’re judged not on their performance in the competition but in their performance against one another, which is insulting.
Given all this, an all plus cycle could be a breath of fresh air for Top Model. For as much as Tyra goes on about how poorly the fashion industry treats a girl with curves, the plus girl tends to be a foot note in a typical cycle; she matters, but her plight is under rug swept by the time we hit the international location and no more will we talk about the inequalities plaguing the industry. It’d be nice to have firsthand accounts of what it’s like to try to break into fashion when you’re not the norm, as well as having the judges actually critiquing the models rather than putting them in a pre-determined box of pity. And honestly, it could be pretty groundbreaking stuff to see 12 beautiful, confident, talented plus girls strutting their stuff and showing that fierceness isn’t relegated to just the “normal” girls.
Even though Nigel used to be a male model, I think that the introduction of current male model Rob Evans could be the catalyst to make this type of cycle a reality. He would be able to give the panel (and contestants) a bit more perspective on what it’s like out there in the world of male modeling and what it takes to make it; his youth might have initially been a con for me, but if they tailor a cycle to let it come in handy, the freshness of experience that past judges have lacked might make it rather compelling. There have been male modeling shows before (Manhunt, co-ed Make Me a Supermodel, co-ed America’s Most Smartest Model), but it’d be a whole other animal to have Tyra get to interact with and coach a crew of 12-14 good-looking men in the art of serving it. There would be a different dynamic to the house drama, different critiques from the judges, and different types of photo shoots that could be done, the combination of Tyra and that much male energy able to bring a little spark back to a show that has become predictable in its insanity.
3. Second Chance
This would be a little bit different from the recent all-star cycle, which crowned Lisa D’amato its champion in late 2011. Rather than round up its most outrageous personalities and familiar faces, Top Model: Second Chances would take girls that had potential but were cut early to do their inability to put it all together. After a certain amount of time away from the perils of reality TV, they’d be able to get their face out into the public again and show the type of growth that they’ve had since their cycle. Top Model loves a story and loves the heartwarming ending with a teary-eyed victor on top of the world, which is what this type of cycle could provide in spades. Rescuing somebody’s dream from oblivion and changing someone’s life that had been stuck in neutral? Watching a comeback from years of struggling to make it in the business? Reality TV gold.
Plus, these would be girls that have been in the industry and know how hard it can be without luck and/or a jump start on their side. A lot of comments have been made over the years that girls who win Top Model get a little complacent, but if the show is looking for someone hungry that won’t back down from the challenge of forging a career for herself, it might be time to bring back a cycle of girls.
4. The American Dream
Top Model can get a little funky with its ideas, so after three fairly normal ideas, here’s my left field suggestion. Tyra loves a narrative and with the recent British Invasion cycle dredging up all types of faux patriotism, let’s go all in. Gather up a cycle of women who weren’t born in America (or are second generation immigrants), put them in a house together, and you could have a fascinating dialogue about identity, standards of beauty, and the makeup of the fashion industry in 2012. Tailor a few challenges/shoots around the idea of exploring their background, throw in some ideas to reinforce the notion of the cultural salad bowl, and then let Tyra do a bunch of bad accents that all somehow sound vaguely Italian. Boom. Excellence.
You just know, in your heart of hearts, that there’d be a moment in this hypothetical finale where Tyra mentions that this competition, this cross-section of nationalities and different types of beauty, is what America’s all about. And then an eagle would go screaming by, a fireworks display would begin, and a single tear would fall from the eyes of the 7 Americans watching. And it would be ridiculous in the best way imaginable, although having its heart in the right place.
The 19th cycle of Top Model premieres Friday, August 24th at 8:00 on The CW. To meet the co-eds for the college edition, get a preview of the cycle, or read about additional changes I’d like to see on the show, check out the America’s Next Top Model tag here.
You can give me your ideas for future cycles and everything else concerning Top Model on the TVOvermind America’s Next Top Model discussion forum here.