Twelve gorgeous, young women stand in two rows facing a panel ofjudges. Supermodel Tyra Banks places herself directly infront of the judges’ table while holding 11 pictures of aspiringmodels looking for their big break. The room remains silent untilTyra speaks,
“I have 12 beautiful girls in front ofme. I also have 11 photos of 11 girls that will continuetheir journey. If I do not call your name, you must pack yourbags immediately, for you will be out of the running in beingAmerica’s Next Top Model.”
The scenario described was an actual scene ona UPN episode of America’s Next Top Model. The televisionseries airs every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. Running in its thirdseason, the show is based upon the transformation of so-calledeveryday young women into potential supermodels.
It begins with 14 participants who are forcedto live together in New York City. The young women are askedto compete by mastering catwalks, physical fitness, fashion photoshoots, and publicity skills. Each week a young woman iseliminated from the show by a panel of judges.
In the end, one woman is chosen as the winnerand is deemed America’s Next Top Model. Along with the title,the winner receives a grand prize of a contract with Ford Models, aspread in Elle magazine, and a $100,000 contract withCovergirl.
The creator of the show, Tyra Banks, is aworld-renowned supermodel who says that she is out to makemodel-hopefuls into runway divas. She also executive-producesthe show alongside Ken Mok who also produced such hit reality showsas Making the Band and WWE Tough Enough on MTV.
Although the show gives young women a chanceto fulfill their dreams, it also helps in forming and judging ideasof what beauty, which is often viewed as someone with long hair,long legs, a slender frame, and the face of a goddess, reallyis.
Standards of beauty from the fashion world, aswell as the media, nullify the natural beauty of women and ignorethe diversity that occurs in women of all shapes, colors, andages.
When asked about how she felt about the ideaof the show, junior Jocelyn Kearney says, “The show sends themessage to our young woman that beauty can only be one standard,slender, and perfect. I’m not slender and perfect and theirbasically telling me that if I wanted to be a model that Icouldn’t.”
According to a study done by the AmericanMedical Association, winners of such beauty contests have body massindexes that the World Health Organization describe asmalnourished. On a previous episode of the hit show, one ofthe participants, Cassie Grisham, admits to starving herself andvomiting after meals.
She says on national television, “If I didn’twant to be a model, I’d eat what I want.”
She continued saying that, “I don’t considermyself bulimic because I don’t throw up after everything Ieat. I’m just obsessed with my weight.” (Bulimia is adisorder that causes individuals to vomit after they intentionallyovereat).
Although she is the only participant who hasexhibited traits of an eating disorder, the self-esteem of othershas also been jeopardized. Judges told YaYa Dacosta Johnsonthat her acne is a problem for the model world and have madecomments that the only plus-size participant on the show, ToccaraJones, is too big for the fashion industry.
Recent studies by the American Academy ofPediatrics found that as many as 50-75 percent of adolescent girlsare dissatisfied with their weight and body image. HarvardMedical School found that before television was introduced, onlythree percent of Fijian girls vomited to control weight. Thisnumber is now up to 15 percent with the addition oftelevision.
Sophomore Ashley West-Nesbit argues that theshow reinforces close-minded standards of beauty. “I watchthe show all the time and everyone looks the same. They tryto make it seem like no one has flaws, but we all do. Whatever happened to the saying beauty is onlyskin-deep?”