Will Models Cease to exist?

November 5, 2005

America's Next Top Model 

Who will the winner be on America's Next Top Model? According to NYT, it won't be any of the girls competing on the show:

The truth at the core of this least-real reality series, now in its fifth season and with nearly five million viewers from the coveted demographic of women age 18 to 34, is that the winner is never Nik or Kim or Nicole or Lisa. It is Tyra Banks, the show's host and producer, a Victoria's Secret beauty with a snap queen's attitude and the entrepreneurial chops of Donald Trump

There are a few good, simple reasons why the competitors on "America's Next Top Model " will not become America's next top model, insiders say. For starters they are generally too old to succeed in a field where much of the talent, like the current teenage Australian star Gemma Ward, is recruited out of middle school, explained Cathy Gould, the director of Elite models. And even though, by ordinary standards, the bodies of cast members on the reality show are unobjectionable, they are too plump to succeed in a business where eating disorders are no hindrance to success.

In an ironic way, though, the most serious strike against the women may be, like their beauty itself, an unalterable accident of birth. They are American. "You just can't sell an American model right now because editors completely don't appreciate them," explained James Scully, a casting agent responsible for discovering many of the quirky, provocative sexpots who helped mold the image of Gucci during the stellar Tom Ford years. "Americans are just not in."

So, since these girls are already too old, too big, or too "average looking" (despite the fact that Tyra specifically looks for girls who have some quirk that will make them stand out from other models)– what is the purpose of competing on America's Next Top Model? Tyra herself informs the contestants that the era of the model who only does modeling is over; everyone wants to be an entertainer now, so if all they have to offer is a pretty face, with no other talents to accompany it, then they'll get nowhere.

In addition to learning how to apply makeup, walking the catwalk, and creating a personal style for themselves, the girls also get an accelerated acting course, some dance or movement lessons, and a sort of charm course on how to present themselves to the public, and to the press. The judges are constantly telling the girls that good looks are not enough for success; a personality, a sense of grace, and real style and talent are all a part of the package.

It's more difficult for models to get jobs now, because they have stiff competition from actors, pop stars, and other celebrities who, in a lot of cases, are just as photogenic as the average model, but have more selling power because they already have a built-in audience. Tyra should actually rename her show; it shouldn't be called, America's Next Top Model, but "America's Next New Entertainer".

These days, modeling is seen as the stepping stone to a bigger, more multifaceted career. The only real supermodel left walking the runways, who hasn't successfully ventured into other areas of the entertainment world is Naomi Campbell. And while there will certainly be more models who have a singular purpose, but they won't be considered as successful as the models who manage to branch out into other fields.

"Who Is America's Next Top Model, Really?" (NYT)