Every year modeling agencies travel to malls in the heartland to entice unassuming, unsophisticated Midwesterners to come to the big city and pursue their dream of living in New York. Whether bundled in with talent agencies and sometimes working alone, hundreds, if not thousands of hopefuls come out to test the waters in an industry in which models can make thousands, if not millions, to appear in acclaimed advertising campaigns to sell clothing or some other product. Yet with the fantasy of this lifestyle comes a lot of hard work, which often includes shots that may make one uncomfortable; posing nude, snakes or other animals, campaigns that require one to speak eloquently or pictures that show of athletic ability.
All of the aforementioned were found in different exercises on “America’s Next Top Model”, a show in which Tyra Banks, a young African-American model who redefined modeling, helps to show the American public (as well as the contestants), the uglier, grittier side of modeling. For a network swamped with caricatures of African-Americans and has-been artists on shows like “R U the Girl” (T-Boz and Chilli of TLC fame) or “Eve” (a show in which rapper Eve more or less plays herself), the BET of the airwaves does have a few shows that appeal to those outside of the ghetto. The first season of “Model” found Adrianne (the odd, artsy type) pitted against Shannon (the all-American). True to form, the judges settled on Adrianne for the prize. Yet, much was missing here, the drama that comes with the final episode of a reality show. I didn’t much care and there wasn’t the anxiety that comes with the slick production of Survivor, this felt more like Big Brother 23. Tyra didn’t particularly care for Adrianne; she didn’t have any oomph, yet many felt that Shannon was boring. Granted, Adrianne does look a lot more like a model.
There was other drama as well. Robin had issues with one of the girls for being a lesbian. As much of a holy roller as she proclaimed to be, her insecurities and issues eventually came through when the judges called her out for being a hypocrite, as she shook her chest at someone in the buff. This from someone who wasn’t interested in posing nude. But there were other’s who didn’t pose that way as well, many went on and on philosophically about how they weren’t willing to digress to doing that, in spite of the fact that the pose was meant to be artful, not pornographic. Another girl they jumped on for being bulimic. At the end of the day the girl with the most growth won, in spite of the fact that few saw her potential in the beginning. Such is the modeling industry.
If you’re looking for depth from these girls, consider that one of them found about the casting call for the show while watching “Elimidate”, an empty-minded show on WB in which three individuals of the opposite sex compete to date a suitor. The first date is the four of them together, the second the three of them and in the conclusion he or she finally picks from the two and walks off into the sunset. Typically, if a guy is the suitor he tries to get some three-way action or attempts to get the girls to kiss each other, you know whatever is hot. The show is more suited to those looking to hook-up, than establish some sort of real relationship. Why this would be one anyone’s favorite list is up to me, and goes to illuminate how in modeling is it about how the photographer relaxes the subject and brings out the sensuality and mystery from within, rather than the other way around. There are of course exceptions, Naomi Campbell was considered to be a natural.
As time moved on, more African-Americans actually placed on the show, and eventually, in the third season, one actually won the competition. Another thing happened, the pool of candidates that actually appeared on the show grew from 10 contestants to 14. Expect to see more of Tyra and her girls in the future. This is refreshing, given how, in other reality shows minorities do not seem to be able to compete as well as their competition. In a way, UPN is setting a precedent with this reality show, and redefining the genre.
What about those thousands of kids at the mall each year, or the thousands of young girls in beauty pageants hoping for a killer career by winning Ms. America? The most well known Ms. America to date has a successful career, in spite of loosing the title upon the realization of explicit photographs that were taken of her by the judges. Another enthusiast of the pageants, Halle Berry, did one better by winning the Academy Award. There are options that come with modeling, but it is all about having the confidence and inner strength to persevere. This begins to describe the gift that comes with the wisdom that Tyra is attempting to impart into these hopefuls.