Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lessons Learned from Tyra

America’s Next Top Model entered its thirteenth cycle this month, and as such, I thought it would be appropriate to examine some of the moral lessons that I have absorbed from my years as a dutiful spectator.

Modeling is a good way to:

a) provide for your children
Each season has its token single mother, who is just out there in the cutthroat-modeling world so that she can provide a better life for her daughter/son. There are three phases of the single mother character within the competition:

(1) Stoic Mother: Producers emphasize that the contestant have overcome great adversities to compete in ANTM. Close ups of the mother’s rock-hard abs are mandatory.

( 2) Separation Anxiety Mother: The stoic mother misses her child(ren), and all less-than-adequate performances shall be linked to this missing of her child(ren). Photo montages of baby photos are a must.

(3) Kicked-off ANTM Mother : The mother is convinced by producers, judges, fellow contestants, that the tough world of modeling-and all the traveling etc.—is just too much for her as a mother. Because as we know, women are baby machines, and high-paying jobs are simply too emotionally strenuous for us. Back to the kitchen!

b) spread the love of Jesus/do his bidding

Each season has its token bible-thumper. Who is looking to spread the love of Jesus. Through modeling. That’s right: IT IS THE LORD GOD’S WILL THAT SHE MAKES LOUIS VUITTON BAGS LOOK SEXY.

c) resolve all the feelings of inadequacy lingering from your dysfunctional childhood
Had a bad childhood? Been abused? Have low self-esteem? What better way to resolve these feelings of inadequacy then to enter a manipulative, vindictive, self-loathing world of modeling in which to gain acceptance you must consistently morph your body to match the otherwise unattainable ideal. ATM teaches us that feeling good about yourself is being made-up, dressed-up, air-brushed, primped, and photo-shopped to the point where you no longer resemble yourself.

“Smizing” is more than just squinting your eyes
Its fierceness, it’s a hot fudge Sunday, it’s “your boyfriend kissing your neck”... confused? Well, this clip should clarify:

Short people, size-8 girls, and African Americans can all be models!
As long as short girls are willing to wear 8-inch heels, “walk as if they are six feet tall” (whatever that means), and endure episodic reminders of their shortness at every critical juncture of the competition (but don’t worry, because coke-addict-thin Kate Moss was also
As long as “plus-size” (ordinary sized) models are okay with being covered up in most photo shoots and catwalks, and as long as they don’t lose/gain any weight (thus becoming disproportionate), and as long as they don’t mind occasionally being elephants in African animal shoots.

As long as black models don’t mind being dressed in blonde wigs, having their hair straightened to death, being ridiculed for their weaves, and being dressed in animal prints at every available opportunity.

AND most certainly, as long as you are not short AND plus-size. You can only be one.

If you have breasts and curves, you look slutty in photo shoots. If you are waif-like, you look “high-fashion”
“This is looking a little pornographic!” say the photographers whenever a girl shows booty/booby. High fashion seems to mean looking prepubescent, which probably explains why the fashion industry snatches models in their early teens. Which leads to the next lesson...

If you are over the age of 21, you are old.

Thou shall not complain about anything, ever.
Tyra reinforces the importance of being a docile model, one who accepts what is done to her throughout the competition (having her hair shaved off, being put in outrageous outfits, having to wear shoes that are sizes too small, wearing suffocating corsets) and who does not complain. “Complaining” is the ugliest feature a girl can have. ANTM perpetuates a model of complacency for girls. When life gives you lemons, eat the damn lemons, and thank the lemon-provider for giving you the lemons. Women are ideally non-assertive. They should be seen and not heard. Women who resist or question oppressive beauty ideals betray their “feminine” nature of obedience, and meekness.

Are you a fellow ANTM-fanatic? Can you identify with what I've said? What "valuable" lessons has ANTM taught you concerning being a woman? Tyra proposes ANTM as a positive-message narrative for women about the many shapes of beauty, but I have my skepticism. Please post your thoughts!


  1. Excellent post Michelle. It is so irritating to see Tyra try SO HARD to be a ~momma~ figure and try to ~empower~ women through her talk show, but then to be so hypocritical on the show.
    I used to be obsessed with this show - I think I gave up 3 seasons ago, when they had the transgendered contestant?

    One positive thing I can say about ANTM is that it's probably one of the more racially diverse tv shows on primetime. Too bad it reinforces silly stereotypes

  2. Love it, Michelle. You've obviously done your research, which is something I think that Tyra could learn from you - in March, it was discovered that one of the jean designers who made his "debut" on ANTM (that is to say, he got a lot of publicity from a photoshoot on ANTM) has been arrested due to allegations of rape and sexual harrasment that involved several young women. I have yet to see her make any sort of comment on this fact. Full article here:


  3. I think ANTM is purely made for enternainment value and I do believe a lot of the graduating models there are refused in the fashion world BECAUSE they come from ANTM. It's just one big joke! Honestly, did you hear her French accent this week? And what about her constantly 'trying to change' the fashion industry... with transgendered people... with "plus-size" models... now with "short" models? Girl, please! I hope people realise what a big joke it is and not take any of Tyra's "advice" seriously because even though she's been a models for so long I still think she hasn't gotten things right. It's one great big joke and therefore I love it! :D