Revisiting "America's Next Top Model"

What were your favorite shows growing up? For most kids, it was cartoons on Nickelodeon or hilarious Disney channel originals. But, my favorite did not fall into any of these common categories. I loved America’s Next Top Model. Yes, this reality television show about up-and-coming models in their twenties was the best in my eyes. I remember gathering with my family in our living room to watch the contestants try to make it big time. We would sit in front of our big, boxy television set every Wednesday night to catch the new episode. Tyra Banks, Miss J. Alexander, and Jay Manuel were my superheroes. I would have done anything to sit in one of the fancy swivel chairs and receive a head-to-toe makeover. 



Hoping to relive my childhood and revisit my love for America’s Next Top Model, I decided to rewatch the earliest seasons of the show a few months ago. I was surprised to find themes I had not previously noticed as a child. Trends of racism and sexism characterize many of the earliest episodes. Also, the unattainable beauty standards of the early 2000s were enforced heavily through the choices of the producers for the models. While it seems newer seasons of the show have strayed away from these themes and have attempted to diversify their participants, the older seasons certainly don’t dance around presenting problematic views of these topics. I was shocked to find such blatantly discriminatory attitudes in the show and was left wondering How did they get away with this? I, of course, did not consciously pick up on these themes as a child, but going back and viewing them through older eyes proved to be very surprising. 



I felt this experience was a good metaphor for growing up in general. Although America’s Next Top Model was fond to me as a child, the experience I have gained with age, has shown me the sometimes unsettling truth behind childhood occurrences. Often, we accept things readily as they are with youthful eyes, but age allows us to revisit familiar moments and reexamine them with seasoned mindsets.