On Tuesday, January 9, America’s Next Top Model will return for its 24th cycle. Take that in for a minute. TWENTY FOUR CYCLES!
The show first started back in 2003 when UPN was a channel and Tyra Banks was only 30 years old. In more than 14 years, the show has launched a shocking amount of successful careers with contestants becoming working models, actresses, and more.
Yes, they have yet to produce the next “supermodel.” They haven’t launched the career of the next Cindy Crawford or Gigi Hadid, but they have given many young girls the chance to get consistent work modeling and acting, which is more than I can say for most reality TV shows. How many contestants on The Voice, for instance, have we ever heard from again? And while shows like American Idol started out strong by launching Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood into stardom, the show has basically been a dud for the last couple years (and I can’t imagine the revival will do much better).
But for 14 years, ANTM has been giving girls (and for a short time, boys) from all of over the country, from all walks of life, the chance to actually live out their dream.
Contestants from the show have gone on to appear in the pages of Vogue (American and international editions), Cosmo, Glamour, Elle, and Complex, to name a few. They’ve walked the runway for Alexander McQueen, Steve Madden, Guess, Prada, Carolina Herrera, and Marc Jacobs. They’ve landed campaigns for Nine West, Gap, Calvin Klein, Pantene, American Apparel, and Nike.
A few even made their way onscreen — cycle 22 winner Nyle DiMarco landed guest roles on Difficult People and Switched at Birth (after winning the mirror ball trophy on DWTS, of course). Cycle 11’s Analeigh Tipton starred opposite Steve Carrell in Crazy, Stupid, Love; Cycle 3’s Yaya DaCosta appeared opposite Oprah in The Butler; Cycle 18’s AzMarie is currently on Empire as Hakeem’s BFF; and cycle 21’s Winnie Harlow made cameo’s in Beyonce‘s Lemonade, and more importantly, is friends with Drake.
Considering most competition reality shows take contestants and spit them out without a care, it’s actually pretty impressive that Tyra has launched the career of so many young women, especially since many of the contestants have zero experience, zero money, and zero connections prior to this.
And it’s not just these unknowns who have been given a second chance — Tyra has basically been given a whole second act. 30 years old is pretty much ancient in the modeling world, but ANTM gave Tyra’s career new life and gave her the chance to try out a few different business ventures. Over the last 14 years, Tyra has launched her own cosmetics brand, earned a business certificate from Harvard, started guest lecturing at Stanford, launched a beauty e-commerce website, and wrote a novel. Pretty damn amazing.
The show was also a bit ahead of its time. They had plus-size contestants before #EffYourBeautyStandards ever trended on Instagram (it’s rumored they even kicked Janice Dickenson out as a judge because she couldn’t get on-board with plus-size models) and they also featured numerous LGBTQ models, including Isis King, the first trans model to come on the show in cycle 11. This was 2008, way before Laverne Cox had graced us with her presence and before bathroom bills were even a thing.
All this to say that 14 years in and my girl Tyra has done me proud. And I can’t wait to see what she and the contestants have in store for us this season.
If you’re interested in keeping up with what past contestants are up to, follow @antmteam on Instagram.
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel (by far!), but when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her hanging with her kitty Tom or tweeting at Sen. Chuck Schumer.