“America’s Next Top Model” was desperate to be on top — but at what cost?
Some impressionable viewers of the reality competition series, which ran from 2003 to 2018, have said they paid the price in their mental health as the show promoted a warped vision of beauty in the media at the time.
People on TikTok are now putting the once-beloved 24-season series, currently streaming on Hulu, on blast. “2000s reality tv was truly INSANE,” wrote one such critic.
In a series of videos dubbed “Moments in ANTM that probably destroyed my future mental health,” TikTokker Carly Ristuccia, 25, featured problematic moments from the show.
Judges were shown critiquing the models at every angle, scrutinizing their size smile and skin — demonstrating the negative body image “ANTM” promoted on set and in front of the camera.
In an interview with NBC News, Ristuccia said she realized during a recent re-watch how “insanely wrong” the show was.
“It got me thinking about how the ideas in that show probably built my subconscious ideas on body image and the whole industry,” she said.
In another video Ristuccia shared, captioned with the question “who let this air[?],” a segment from the series shone the spotlight on judges caught grimacing at models’ unretouched photos, including former supermodel Janice Dickinson exclaiming that she “needs blinders” to look at the image of one unbronzed face.
It followed with another soundbyte of longtime “ANTM” judge J. Alexander telling one plus-sized contestant to “suck the gut, baby. Anything hanging out, it looks nasty.”
Elsewhere on the video sharing platform, “ANTM” viewers exposed more clips of judges nitpicking contestants’ appearance, while also urging them not to wear makeup — because “usually ugly women put on a lot of makeup,” one said. The show also featured a challenged in which one white women was asked to wear blackface as a “proud African woman” for a photoshoot.
“I think [the show] gave us an example of how you can berate yourself,” founder of the Fashion Psychology Institute Dawnn Karen told NBC News. “How you can look in the mirror and say, ‘[I don’t like] my hair, my nose.’ ”
But it wasn’t just to make good television. “ANTM” reflected the grueling life of modeling, according to Karen, and Tyra Banks shouldn’t be the only one in the hot seat. Instead, she reiterated what’s already known about the grueling conditions women face in the fashion and media industries.
“She [Banks] gave us a display of what happens in the modeling industry. So now in 2021, à la TikTok, we’re not going to stand for it,” Karen said, adding that it could be a catalyst for change.
The reality show created by iconic Victoria’s Secret supermodel Tyra Banks has been under heavy scrutiny on social media as of late. It was just a few weeks ago that past contestants slammed producers for paying them as little as $38 per day — mirroring another one of the realities of the modeling industry.
In 2020, Banks, now 48, tweeted an apology for comments made on the show, saying “those were some really off choices.”
While some people responded with support for Banks, claiming it was a “different time,” others weren’t satisfied with her reckoning.
“Say more about this. Which choices were off? What was off about them? Mere acknowledgement and genuine apology are not the same thing,” tweeted one critic, which earned them more than 6,000 likes.
“You should issue individual apologies to the Black girls you tried to change for industry instead of changing the industry for those girls,” wrote another.