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America's Next Top Model
Being a big fan who have chased after every single cycles and episodes of the America’s Next Top Model (ANTM), I decided to use observations I have made from the show on the wiki page for this gender studies module. So I tried to recall certain personalities or features of the show that stood out drastically and that’s when many unconventional notions of gender and sexuality, and challenges to the feminine ideal that occurred throughout the show began popping up in my mind!
Executive producer of ANTM, Ken Mok: “redefining what beauty is, is one of Tyra’s original missions for the show.”
As seen from advertisements in magazines and runways, models embody feminine beauty ideals by being tall and skinny. This is often also the basic requirements that needed to be met in model agencies’ selection of their models. However, on ANTM, we see acceptance of models that faced difficulties to be recruited by typical modelling agencies, either because they were too fat (you mean, average size??) or too short. The show’s acknowledgement of the relevance of plus-size models in the fashion industry is displayed with the emergence of, Whitney Thompson, a plus-sized model as Cycle 10’s winner, who is the first full-figured winner in ANTM’s history. Other plus-sized contestants on ANTM include Alexandra Underwood from Cycle 14 and Toccara Jones from Cycle 3. However, the winning of a plus-sized model was definitely a meaningful moment as it proves to the audience that physical beauty is not equated to one’s clothing size. In fact, Tyra often used herself as an example to point to the girls that one does not have to be skinny to be beautiful, as she has gained 10kgs after she stopped modelling but yet she felt happier now.
Alexandra Underwood Whitney Thompson
Also, the creative director of the show, Jay Manuel, who is in-charge of guiding the contestants, mentioned in an interview that a reason why he joined the business was because he believes that having a man to empower women is important for ANTM. As such, he often encourages the models to maintain a healthy body so as to alter females’ perception of ideal beauty. In addition, to prevent inappropriate messages on body image from being sent across the ANTM audience, who are largely young females who are still highly influenced by the media messages, models who are too skinny are eliminated. One notorious example is Anamaria Mirdita who was sent home because of concerns that her poor body image may send the wrong messages to the girls out there, as Tyra felt that Anamaria’s body doesn't look healthy and it makes her very uncomfortable. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btSHw_knb-A
Other than one’s body size, females are also concerned about their height and often sighed about how they wish they were born taller, which may impact their self-confidence negatively. This is especially important in the modelling industry unless the model is willing to be limited to commercial photoshoots. To resist against such standards of “tall and beautiful” in the modelling industry, ANTM Cycle 13 was dedicated to petite girls, with limits of height set to 5’7’’ feet.
There are also other challenges to the conventional gender and sexuality in the show:
Lesbian and transgender
In ANTM, it is observable that the lesbian models are open about their sexuality and how this difference is embraced by Tyra and the other contestants although gossips about the lesbian model occurred at times. An unforgettable scene in Cycle 5 involved the lesbian model, Kimberly Stolz, kissing another girl in the competition, and then feeling guilty that she had betrayed her girlfriend outside. Other than Kim, another lesbian contestant in ANTM is Cycle 15’s Kayla Ferrel.
Another, or perhaps the most shocking contestant in ANTM, would definitely be Isis King from Cycle 11 who till today is one of the most visible transgender on US television. her participation on the show was approved by the executive producers as it challenges the hegemonic ideal beauty that is so firmly rooted in the society.
For anyone who is interested in the analysis of ANTM in terms of challenging gender stereotypes and gender roles, I highly recommend you click on this link:
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|summerpostcards||ANTM||0||Apr 14 2011, 12:16 AM EDT by summerpostcards|
Thread started: Apr 14 2011, 12:16 AM EDT Watch
Picking up on the point of Jay Manuel saying that having a man to empower women is important in ANTM: perhaps this is because women, upon watching the show and seeing males endorsing and encouraging 'real beauty', will be more ready to debunk the stereotype that beauty equals to being thin and white, seeing that men do approve of it as well (the male gaze!). However, most of the men featured (maybe with the exception of Nigel Barker) are more effeminate as compared to the regular guy in mainstream society. This also goes in line with the stereotypes people hold for men in the fashion industry being generally more feminine - they are not where one will look to for examples of masculinity. Thus, perhaps to the viewers, having the opinions of men such as Jay Manuel may not really change the deeply ingrained notion of feminine beauty as they are regarded as tending towards being more feminine.
Also, though the show advocates for winners such as plus-sized women and shorter women, these are such a few exceptions to all the winners of ANTM. For example, the majority of the winners are stick-thin models, such as Danielle Evans, Ann Ward, Jaslene Gonzalez, etc. (Although I do appreciate that there is a variety of women of colour who were winners)
Thus, I agree that ANTM is sending mixed messages about feminine beauty to the viewers and that ultimately, the judges do use the standard ideal of beauty as a yardstick especially when judging models who are different.
|itsonlydivine||ANTM||0||Apr 12 2011, 11:24 AM EDT by itsonlydivine|
Thread started: Apr 12 2011, 11:24 AM EDT Watch
I really do love ANTM and have been following almost every series. I find it inspiring in a sense that all these normal individuals who may never have dreamt about being a model due to their size, sexuality or other physical traits are given a chance by Tyra to show that such differences don't matter. However,I find that throughout the series, these differences are in actuality being highlighted. For example in the case of the plus-size model winning, i recall from the show that the judges would comment that despite her size she was still able to look good, look skinny, look beautiful. Despite the fact that they may say this in the most positive of manners, without meaning to offend anyone, i feel that they have been emphasizing the differences in order to show that inspite of such "flaws" as some people in the modeling world may perceive them, they can still succeed. I believe that in their strive to empower women, they should disregard such differences and not make them the highlight of the show.
I must say however, that i applaud Tyra Banks for trying to make a difference in the modeling world, but i think we still have a long way to go in changing the mindsets of people to be more accepting of those who may not fit into the mold of what a model is deemed to be currently.
|aquaprinciple||Hey||0||Apr 5 2011, 2:21 AM EDT by aquaprinciple|
Thread started: Apr 5 2011, 2:21 AM EDT Watch
Hey I tend to indulge in America's Next Top Model once in a while because it is really very interesting. However I tend to get put off by the show because I think it gives many mixed messages? While on one hand Tyra seems all for empowering women etc, she has photoshoots like this http://sociologicalimages.blogspot.com/2007/08/eroticization-of-violence-against-women.html which i really have a problem with. Just wanted to say that the fashion industry is an oxymoron of sorts for women. It is meant for women(perhaps a very specific class of women, and then the trickle down effect to the rest of us mere mortals) but it subjects women to such impossible standards, be it in terms of how we are meant to look or behave or through such photoshoots that do nothing but reinforce and glamourize violence against women. There are also many photoshoots that appropriate issues like race, religion etc I just cannot find the ANTM version but here is one form BNTM http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2008/07/04/african-people-as-props-for-white-femininity/
Props to Tyra for trying to challenge such ideas but I feel like her show does not really change anything, I mean how many of these girls have gone on to be successful models? Runway models are getting whiter and thinner by the day..
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