Why Top Model Shouldn’t End
Ever since Tyra Banks fired the main Top Model judges (Nigel Barker, J. Alexander and Jay Manuel) people have been joking about the loud death rattle coming from the show. People figure it’s going to end in its 20th season, after producing such beloved models as … who? Few of them really made it to the mainstream after leaving the show.
I wish I could jump in here with a totally sound, logical argument for why Top Model should stick around, something related to its societal merit or artistic integrity. But I can’t. Here’s the best I can do:
1. Top Model is a strange exercise in ambivalence.
I don’t think I have as much of a love/hate relationship with anyone as I do with Tyra Banks. There are moments when I’m like, “Oh Tyra, you crazy, beautiful fivehead, your Chinese pronunciation is bold!” and there are moments when I think, “Really, Tyra, you’re going to make the first ever native American contestant dress up as Pocahontas?” This love/hate relationship extends to the contestants, who angrily pour out one another’s Red Bulls just after braiding each other’s hair. The experience of dealing with both a love and hatred for someone, or something, is psychologically complicated, and takes a lot of reflection. Top Model is like a petri dish of this experience, which I have to admit, applies to real life. If you’re not surrounded by people you have mixed feelings about, you’re lucky.
2. Top Model breaks down the façade of the beauty industry
When you’re raised to think models are the end all sirens of beauty, it’s interesting to watch a gangly 6-foot-tall girl from the Bronx get her teeth shaved while a preppy bitch who would look lovely on a Ralph Lauren horse is saying something racist. It helps you realize that there is a layer of depth and gritty realness behind even the most Photoshopped of veneers, and that is addictive.
3. It’s a million mini stories of transformation
Each season is like watching 12 slightly malformed My Size Barbie heads get pulled, prodded and branded into not quite Barbie, but some strange reflection of what Tyra Banks’ believes constitutes beauty. Her vision isn’t brilliant, but it’s at least quirky.
4. It just seemed like it was changing things up
Ok, so maybe the UK vs.US thing wasn’t the best concept, although I did enjoy all the Bri’ish accents, but you have to give Tyra credit for choosing people with actual experience who probably could be models, instead of just going for exclusively rough diamonds. Plus, Kelly Cutrone was the first ever judge to insist they pick the right person, the one who could have hung out with Andy Warhol back in the day, instead of the exotic bird that Tyra likes to teach life lessons to. Who knows, they might even pick someone Italian Vogue actually likes soon. The show is trying, in it’s own colorful way, to become less reality TV and more high fashion, and I’m still happily along for the ride.