You wanna be on top? Na-na-na-na-naaaa-na… It’s that time of year again!
America’s Next Top Model is about to start its 24th season this December with the triumphant (?) return of its original host and creator, Miss Tyra Banks. If you’ve been a diehard fan sinceMay 2003, this was your year to audition.
In one of the more controversial ways the show has reinvented itself, Tyra Banks lifted the contestant age limit for the first time in the show’s history. Any man or woman of any age was able to audition this year, so that should make for some fascinating house drama and even more fascinating makeovers.
To herald the return of this seemingly immortal series, we searched long and hard for some deep, dark secrets about the show even some of its biggest fans might not know. We discovered weird facts about the show’s process, its judges, behind-the-scenes drama and, of course, the “models.”
Think you know all there is to know about this show? Think you’ve read every article, seen every Tyra Show reunion or obsessively followed everyone’s later appearances on The Surreal Life and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew? In that case, put on your best smizes and read on to test your knowledge.
Here are 15 Dark Secrets From America’s Next Top Model You Had No Idea About.
15. ADRIENNE CURRY IS ON TERRIBLE TERMS WITH TYRA BANKS
After becoming ANTM’s first winner, Adrienne Curry was supposed to have been awarded a contract with Revlon cosmetics. However, it seemed that, despite there being a wide variety of looks and body types in the first season of the show, it never occurred to anyone that the winner wouldn’t fit Revlon’s current brand. Cosmetics companies can be particular about the way their models, you know, look.
So, according to the Curry, the “contract” she was awarded involved a day’s convention work for which she claims she still hasn’t been paid. Curry’s never been shy about voicing her disappointment, and in response, her presence has been virtually erased from the show that honors its past winners with portraits in every model house and usually return for guest appearances and mentions.
14. ELYSE SEWELL KNEW SHE WAS GOING TO BE ELIMINATED
Elyse Sewell was by far the most traditional-looking couture model from Cycle 1 of America’s Next Top Model. With her rail thin frame, delicate features, and pixie cut, Elyse looked like she belonged on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar even when she was eviscerating other girls in her infamous confessional rant (never change, Elyse.).
Judge Janice Dickinson favored Elyse from the very beginning, insisting Sewell had the most realistic shot at a career in the industry. She was so invested that, according to Elyse, the judge would wink at her each time the judges returned from deliberation if Elyse was safe. But, when it came down to the final three — Adrianne Curry, Shannon Stewart, and Sewell, Dickinson emerged from deliberation and shook her head in Elyse’s direction.
13. THE “WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU” SCENE WAS MUCH WORSE
Oh, Tiffany Richardson — the stripper-turned-model was a gift that never stopped giving on Cycle 4 of ANTM. She was kind of rough around the edges, but she was gorgeous, worked hard, and was, by all accounts, a decent human –until she appeared ungrateful to Miss Tyra, that is.
After her elimination in Week 6, the single mom tried to brush it off and make it seem like she wasn’t that upset. Tyra responded by screaming about how ungrateful Tiffany was acting, infamously screaming, “We were rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!” Apparently it was much, much worse than what got shown on TV.
12. PAULINA PORIZKOVA THINKS ANTM PRODUCES BOGUS MODELS
Paulina Porizkova replaced Twiggy on Cycle 10 of Top Model, but the gorgeous supermodel only stuck around three seasons. Considering her lack of discretion about her negative time on the show, it’s not that surprising she didn’t last long.
Among her chief complaints was the lack of realism on the show when it came to the winners. According to Porizkova and Janice Dickinson before her, ANTM was woefully out of touch with what kind of look would constitute a top model by fashion industry standards.
Speaking to Reality-tea, Porizkova didn’t mince words about her utter lack of faith in the career prospects of the top three girls on her final cycle: “…they’re not models. Look at the history of Top Model. When has a winner not fallen down into that great big hole where the other sock goes? When? That’s because you can’t pick models from a TV show.”
11. ANGELEA PRESTON IS SUING OVER HER ELIMINATION
Angelea Preston took part in two Top Model cycles — 14 and 17, the first All-Star season. She made it to the final three in Cycle 14 and the final two in Cycle 17, going up against semi-fan favorite Lisa D’Amato. However, at the very last second, Preston was enigmatically and oh, so dramatically eliminated with no reason given to the audience. D’Amato won by default and Preston went home in mysterious disgrace.
Later, it came out that Preston was eliminated because the judges found out about her past as an escort and disqualified her. Preston claimed the show knew about her history at the time of filming and only eliminated her in that fashion for dramatic effect. She’s currently waging a lawsuit against the show for breach of contract and seeking $3,000,000 in damages.
10. CONTESTANTS ARE ALMOST COMPLETELY CUT OFF FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD
If eliminations make up half the stakes on reality show contests, drama makes up the other half. And what’s the best way to manufacture reality show drama? Trap a bunch of hungry girls in a small space and cut them off from the outside world.
Like many reality shows of its ilk, America’s Next Top Model does not play games when it comes to isolating its contestants. The models are allowed no phones, computers, internet access, or television during their time on the show, except in very limited capacities.
There are practical reasons for this, of course. The more smartphones there are lying around, the more chance there is of someone leaking spoilers without production finding out until it’s too late. Also, if the girls could watch television and surf the internet, they wouldn’t fight with each other or make fools of themselves. Sounds a bit like prison, but that’s entertainment.
9. MODELS ARE SEQUESTERED IN HOTELS AFTER ELIMINATION
Obviously in an elimination-based reality contest, it’d be pretty easy to guess who was still competing just judging by the girls who’d been spotted out in public while shooting was still going on. Considering elimination is literally half the drama on shows like these, precautions have to be taken to ensure secrecy throughout filming.
One strategy is to keep eliminated girls sequestered in hotels for indeterminate amounts of time after their time on the show is finished. The length of time depends on how long the model actually spent on the show. A girl ousted in the beginning of the show wouldn’t spend as long as say, someone who was eliminated with five or six weeks left to go. At that point, the audience would have invested in the “characters,” and spoiler hounds would be out trying to figure out the more interesting later eliminations.
8. CONTESTANTS WHO BROKE BAD
One of the more tragic and well-known post-Top Model stories is that of Jael Strauss. Strauss competed in Cycle 8 of ANTM, and then developed a serious addiction to crystal meth. Her condition was brutally made public on an intervention episode of Dr. Phil that aired on national television. Her ravaged face got splashed all over the internet and she maintains to this day that she feels the talk show exploited her.
In a terrible coincidence, another Cycle 8 alum, Renee Alway, got addicted to drugs after her time on the show and is now serving 12 years in prison. She’s sober now, and revealed in a 2015 interview that when she became aware of Strauss’ state, she reached out and the two have formed a real friendship. For her part, Jael is three years sober. Keep movin’ on up, ladies.
7. PAULINA PORIZKOVA BLAMES HER FIRING ON TYRA’S TARDINESS
While Top Model has cycled through its fair share of judges in its 23 seasons, some of them haven’t exactly gone quietly into the night. Paulina Porizkova was certainly one of those. She never attempted to portray her exit as anything other than a very unceremonious and unexpected canning, and she wasn’t shy about why she thought it happened.
Apparently, according to Porizkova, Tyra Banks’ constant tardiness was to blame for the budgetary issues the production company cited as reason for Porizkova’s “elimination.” In an interview with Reality-Tea, once again, she didn’t mince words: “Actually a lot of my friends from the show got booted. Makeup and hair people… But if Tyra came in on time, they would save somebody’s salary. If she actually showed up on time for the judgings and they didn’t have to pay a lot of overtime, they would save a lot of money.”
6. THERE’S A THERAPIST ON CALL AFTER ELIMINATIONS
Of all the secrets on this list, this one is by far the smartest. Can you imagine being locked up for weeks with a bunch of crazy people all cut off from the outside world, only to have the reason you did all that heartlessly ripped away from you on camera? We’re shocked more women don’t have meltdowns like the one Tyra threw Tiffany Richardson’s direction.
According to a Reddit AMA from a former contestant, there is a therapist on standby (on the phone) after every elimination to talk the poor, former cast member off the ledge. We wonder if part of that therapy is to detail just how few winners have actually gone on to have a legit fashion career. We truly hope so, but unless one of them does an AMA we’ll never know.
5. DON’T EXPECT ANY HELP WHEN YOU’RE FINISHED — EVEN IF YOU WIN
In a 2016 interview on YouTube show toofab, Lisa D’Amato addressed other winners’ complaints that the show didn’t help them enough after their win. D’amato remained largely diplomatic regarding her experiences on the show, pointing out that their job is to produce a reality show, not make sure the contestants go on to have great careers after. She considers the show a platform that the winners then need to utilize.
That said, she didn’t let Team Tyra off the hook completely: “I do think that with the connections that they have, they should try to throw you a bone. But I think that also Tyra kinda likes to keep everybody down a little bit so that everybody knows that she’s, like, you know, the queen bee. There are certain things they could do to help… even if it is sending an e-mail… or forwarding pictures.”
4. THE AUDITION PROCESS RESEMBLES AMERICAN IDOL
If you have the sense God gave a cactus, you can guess that the American Idol judges don’t actually see each and every one of the thousands of people who show up to the first-round auditions. That would take months, and Simon Cowell would ragequit by Day 3.
Instead, most people are funneled in to have quick sessions with producers who either send them packing right there or who send them on to the next round. Only a few actually get to meet the judges and get on television.
Top Model’s basically the same thing — girls stand in line in different cities, meet producers who judge them on the spot, then they go through several more rounds before getting whittled down to the 100 or so girls who meet the judges. Might sound brutal, but dreams a worth a few days in line, right?
3. SOME MODELS DON’T AUDITION
While the audition process for Top Model is highly publicized (it makes up the first two episodes of every cycle), the producers don’t have to follow it. If they come across someone they want on the show, there’s nothing stopping them from scouting that girl and bringing her in to either audition or casting her. That said, the competition rules state that a contestant cannot have modeled in a national campaign for five years prior to her audition. That made awkward when the Cycle 10 winner was found to have had pretty extensive former experience.
Saleisha Stowers won Cycle 10 of ANTM, but after it was discovered that she’d starred in a national Wendy’s campaign less than five years before. The producers claimed she’d disclosed the job and they deemed it “not modeling,” so she was allowed to compete. Still feels a little like a stacked deck, though.
2. THERE ARE OVER 40 INTERNATIONAL SPINOFFS AND THEY’RE… BETTER AT PICKING MODELS
Top Model airs in over 150 countries and because it’s such an easy format to recreate, has launched a slew of foreign spinoffs. Think of it like reality television franchising. Interestingly, these shows appear actually better than the American version at producing models that actually carve out legitimate modeling careers.
Ksenia Khanovich was the first winner of Russian ANTM spinoff, You Are a Supermodel, has walked for the likes of Dior and Versace. Alice Burdeu won Cycle 3 of Australia’s Next Top Model and has gone on to have a similarly successful international career, modeling for the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, LaCroix, Marc Jacobs, and many more.
1. ALLISON HARVARD’S “OBSESSION” WITH BLOOD WAS A TOTAL RE-EDIT
Remember Allison Harvard? She was the Bambi-eyed runner up on Cycle 12 who gave everyone total chills when she introduced herself in her audition as the girl obsessed with blood. Really leaning into her goggly-eyed weirdness, at one point Harvard let loose that she actually got jealous of people with nosebleeds. Except that’s totally not how it went down.
Speaking in a very interesting Reddit AMA (she used to be a meme!), Allison clarified: “Haha. Editing is truly ridiculous. Before everything was spliced up–I had prefaced that statement with my fascination in forensics–and–genetic blood disorders. I used to want to be a mortician and I have always been intrigued by human anatomy. Blood is interesting to me but I never meant for it to come out like a Halloween-esque statement.”
Do you have any other America’s Next Top Model scoop to share? Leave it in the comments!
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