Danielle Grady is a senior telecommunications and journalism major and writes "Grady Grades" for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the paper. Write to Danielle at firstname.lastname@example.org
The 22nd cycle of "America’s Next Top Model" began with its benevolent overlord Tyra Banks staring dramatically into the camera as if she were about to announce the next president of the United States and not, as was the reality, that models were about to walk on a platform.
It’s become commonplace in the 12 years "Top Model" has existed for Banks to exaggerate certain aspects of her show, like its positive effect on humanity or the success of (most of) her protégés.
However, there’s one thing she couldn’t admit, and it was that "Top Model" ratings have been plummeting for years. Cycle 21 performed the worst, with the show landing in last place among all fall 2014 shows on the five English-language broadcast networks, according to Zap2it’s analysis of Nielsen’s ratings.
Banks finally admitted defeat on Oct. 14 with a tweet that confirmed every aspiring model’s worst fear: "Top Model" would be ending after the Cycle 22 finale in December.
Reactions were what you’d expect — lots of sobbing emojis and “we were all rooting for you” gifs. Noticeably absent (for the most part) was surprise. There were plenty of signs, after all, that the show’s ratings weren’t just the inevitable result of the longevity of "Top Model," but its declining quality. Here they are:
1. Underwhelming guests
Hints of a less-than stellar season came early when the first celebrity guests appeared in Cycle 22’s second episode. No, they weren’t fashion designers, photographers or even previous contestants. Instead, Banks chose the Property Brothers to set the tone for her season. Yes, the people famous for renovating and selling houses.
Banks didn’t even attempt to connect them to the world of fashion. She asked them to design this season’s "Top Model" house. The brothers explained this to the bright-eyed contestants of Cycle 22, who didn’t have time to act too confused because they’re practically required to run around their new home, exclaiming, claiming beds and gushing over the portraits of Banks hung throughout the building.
2. “Not too” realistic
The contestants themselves were another puzzle. Banks launched a “not too short, not too tall” social media campaign during the recruitment stage, basically opening up the audition process for everyone. You know, except to average-looking people.
The idea was a nice sentiment, but not very realistic. Female commercial models are expected to be in between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-11, according to models.com. The requirements are loftier for editorial models, who are expected to be between 5-foot-8 and 6-foot-0. Male models have it easier, with a general height requirement of 5-foot-9 to 6-foot-0.
Banks’s announcement completed the dual task of further removing "Top Model" from the fashion world and cruelly injecting a possible winner with false hope before subjecting them to the realities of the industry.
3. The Hadassah situation
Let's be honest, some of this cycle’s contestants wouldn’t still be in the running for the "Top Model" crown if they had appeared on an earlier season.
Hadassah Richardson, the well-meaning pageant girl from Texas, is somehow still in the running, despite a slew of mediocre photos and three, bottom-two close calls.
Her saving grace hasn’t been a winning personality or hidden potential, but the new scoring system "Top Model" began to adopt in its 19th cycle. Now, contestants are given a score out of 10 based on their performance in the weekly challenge and from each judge.
Before, the judges would deliberate in private, listening to each other’s concerns and gradually coming to a conclusion on who should be eliminated. Challenges were treated as learning experiences for the contestants. Women were rarely booted based on a challenge performance, and if they were, the judges had good reason. Usually, a contestant had acted unprofessionally — an actual death sentence to a model’s career.
"Top Model" challenges are often silly or have little to do with the practical world of modeling. In Cycle 20, contestants were asked to interview people off the street while responding to the ridiculous demands of Perez Hilton through an earpiece. They were actually evaluated on their willingness to harass a stranger. There’s no way that should factor into a contestant’s "Top Model" fate.
4. Downgraded experiences
Then, there’s the lack of variety and quality in things "Top Model" audiences have learned to expect from the show.
First, there’s Erik Asla, who has taken photos for almost every shoot that’s occurred this cycle. Yu Tsai, the show’s creative consultant, stepped in for one week, but he hardly counts as a special guest.
Asla, while not an untalented photographer, is also Banks's boyfriend. His presence on the show seems forced, especially when prior to him, "Top Model" watchers enjoyed a parade of famous photographers, including the old mainstay Nigel Barker, whom Banks often described as “noted” and “sexy.” There might be a pattern here.
Secondly, the “foreign destination” for this year’s cycle is not so foreign at all. In fact, it’s less than four hours away from where "Top Model" is filmed in Los Angeles. Where, you ask? Vegas, baby: the home of understated glitz, refinement and fashion icons Penn and Teller.
Banks announced the “exciting” news to her contestants with money falling from the ceiling. Let’s hope they didn’t get too carried away. Banks probably needed some of it back.
5. Banks' shameless self-promotion
It might seem hard, with all this going on, to point out the worst of Banks’s infractions. Luckily, she made it easy with the latest episode.
The models were asked to act in a commercial for Banks’s new multi-level marketing company. Yep, you can become a “Beautytainer” and hawk Banks’s new makeup line, Tyra Beauty, so she doesn’t have to.
Banks has always used "Top Model" to build her personal brand and sell her sometimes-ridiculous wares. Remember “Modelland,” the young adult novel she wrote? A whole episode of Cycle 18 was devoted to her unfortunate underlings (Banks called them "all-stars") acting out scenes from the book.
It’s no surprise, then, that Banks would use "Top Model" to promote her beauty line. It is, however, the cherry on top of a season full of disappointments, mediocre modeling and slipping quality.
Tyra, you’re no longer in the running for America’s Top TV Show.