TV: America's Next (Short) Top Model

by Emily Norton
Special to iVoryTowerz

I thought my friend was joking when she told me she was applying for the thirteenth cycle of America’s Next Top Model. (Debuting in 2003, Top Model throughout the year runs various show cycles of nine to 14 episodes that show a modeling competition with the competitors living in the same house a la MTV's Real World. Currently, the program is casting for its next cycle. Top Model is the top-rated program on The CW network.) When my friend mentioned she put her pictures in the mail that morning I couldn’t help but tell her, “Dear, you know I think you’re beautiful, but there is no way you’re over 5-foot-4!”

Naturally, I was shocked when she informed me that Tyra Banks (the program's host and executive producer) has decided to run a season for models under 5’7”. Such a thing is unprecedented.

Let’s be realistic. Models under 5’7” do not walk the runway. This wouldn’t seem such a big deal except for the fact that the runway = high fashion. America's Next Top Model Cycle 13 seems like a means to an end. It’s my impression that this mysterious notion of high fashion is the thesis preached daily to the women on the show. Sadly, the way things are now, even the loveliest of girls under 5’7” are rarely cast in more than commercial catalogue advertisements. The irony? The panel of judges on Top Model has consistently booted off girls who look like what the panel deems as “too commercial." In the modeling world, some experts tell us, the terms "catalog" and "too commercial" are often interchangeable with "too short for the runway.”

So, is this a step away from elitism and into the reality that those cute shorties are more prevalent than those gangly looking things we see chain-smoking and towering above the rest of us? I think not. My hypothesis: Top Model isn’t on top anymore. Some television critics say that Tyra’s girls aren’t booking the runway gigs post-show like they once did. America’s Next Top Model is slipping, and though I’d like to think that Tyra is trying to change the face of fashion to be a little more representative of the rest of America, more believably, she has just lit upon the perfect TV ploy to get her game back.

(The promotional graphic for America's Next Top Model is from The CW network. Auditions for the program's newest cycle have overwhelmed the show's producers at times. The video below is now infamous: showing the pandemonium of a crowd waiting to try out for the program in Manhattan in March.)

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Jeff Siegel said...

My favorite quote about models and related foolishness comes from Elle McPherson, who apparently is quite bright. McPherson says the one thing that everyone forgets about models like herself is that they are freaks of nature. Why, she asks, would anyone want to compare themselves to a freak of nature?

Suzie said...

Emily - you're probably right that Tyra is slipping and needs this ploy, but as someone who is about 3 3/4 of an inch shorter than your friend, I would love to think the face (or height) of modeling is changing!

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