I was looking through different platforms to find a new show to binge when I came across “America’s Next Top Model.” It looked like a good show to start because I like reality tv, drama, and competition shows, and it has modeling and fashion (which I loved when I was younger). I started the show and instantly liked it because it had all the aspects I loved. I was obsessed and watched it whenever I could. When I was watching there were some crazy challenges the contestants had to go through, like photoshoots with snakes, bulls, people walking over water, and so much more. I decided to look up more about it, and was completely disappointed when I saw articles talking about the audience backlash against the show, and just how controversial the show was.
In 2003, Tyra Banks created ANTM, the reality tv series that hosted people from around the country to be a part of their modeling competition. Contestants of the show go through different challenges and photoshoots of which there is a loser sent home each week. Some of the challenges have been so drastic that competitors decide not to do them. The winner of each season gets prizes designed to benefit their modeling career in the fashion industry, usually including a feature in a magazine and a contract with a modeling agency. While the contestants are in this competition they also are living together, which usually brings conflict and drama to the show.
The different challenges they perform can range from walking down a catwalk to posing nude on top of a building. Doing the challenges well is a big factor in the elimination process. Many viewers at home think most of the challenges are harmless, and part of working as a model. For some challenges those viewers are right, because having to do things like modeling with snakes may be common for models who do some crazy things for great photos in their jobs. I loved to see amazingly cool photoshoots. Even if some of the pictures were bad, it was still interesting to see everything they went through as models in the creative process.
While some challenges like the snake-wrangling shoot may be not outrightly harmful and offensive, others have been, in viewers’ opinions. One of the challenges that was brought up a lot on social media was when the show had contestants do blackface. According to Insider, in season 4 of the show, multiple white contestants posed as Black women, wearing makeup that was significantly darker than their own skin tones. When the show had contestants portray races other than their own, many found it highly offensive. And how can someone even blame them for feeling offended? People have the right to feel offended about. It sucked to see that happen because of how offensive it was and how the show did not even think of how people would react or feel about it.
Another challenge that received backlash is when the contestants were wearing clothes to make them look “homeless.” Insider writes that in season 10 of the show, they tasked the contestants with posing in clothes that were supposed to make them ‘look homeless.’ Just hearing this was terrible and stupid-sounding to me. Who decided to go out of their way and not only have models wear homelessness as a costume, but then also have homeless people in the picture, seeing how other people see them? When people watched this, they believed the shoot was “out of touch,” and saw it as offensive and disrespectful. The producers had the contestants purposely dress worse because they see homeless people like that. If I was in a situation where I was homeless and people were modeling their negative depiction and negative thoughts of me, I would probably be upset
The show has some controversial and offensive challenges, but it is not just the challenges that are this way. The way that the contestants are treated on the show has also been called out as disrespectful and degrading.
The show has had moments with insinuated weight-shaming. According to a Vox article, in season 4 of the show, “In photo shoots, [a contestant] was forced to dress as the deadly sin of gluttony and an elephant, while the show played sound effects and zoomed in on her stomach.” Throughout the seasons, Tyra has promoted ANTM as all-inclusive and claimed she loves to see plus-size models there to represent. This completely contradicts with a girl having her body zoomed in on. Imagine being at home hearing how these people are all inclusive, but then people judge you, and do things to offend you on the show. I would feel disrespected if that was happening to me.
Some people do disagree with much of the backlash. They say that this type of behavior is what the contestants have to do to get what they want, and what models may face in the real industry. The contestants do have to do what they need to win, but what they do not have to do is go through some of the things they did, or have their private lives exposed. Even with this show trying to prepare models for the real modeling industry, they should have been more aware of some of the things they have contestants do and go through.