• Lane Bullis

ANTM - The Shady History & Behind the Scenes - Featuring Interviews with Cycle 4 & 11 Winners

I’m sure we all know reality TV is not real and most of it is staged… and edited. One of my guilty pleasure shows is America’s Next Top Model, so today, we’re going to talk about the show and some of its flaws, along with some things that happen behind the scenes. I have to admit, I don’t like or support most of the things that happen on it, but the drama? It makes it so hard to stop watching, and we are going to talk about why that is. America’s Next Top Model is a modeling competition show, where Tyra Banks chooses 13 or 14 girls out of about 35, and they all compete through photoshoots and runway challenges to become the next top model. Lots of shady and bad things happened, yet how did this continue on for 24 seasons with girls longing to be on this show, including myself when I was little? Well, let’s talk about this and how Tyra and all of the producers got away with it for so long, and how the process changed over the course of the show.

In the first season, the promised prizes were a contract with Revlon and Wilhemina Models, and a spread in Marie Claire Magazine. Over the course of the show, the prizes and everything that went into the model’s career after the show changed, with one of the big, memorable prizes being a contract with Covergirl. To find out more about the prizes and overall experience, I reached out to a couple of girls that were on the show via Instagram, and got a response from the Cycle 11 winner, McKey, and Cycle 4’s Michelle. I sent in questions to Michelle through DMs and got some fascinating answers. As for McKey, I got the most wonderful opportunity to do an Instagram live interview with her, where she answered some of the questions I had about prizes, behind the scenes, and just some general questions about the show and her experience. I am going to give a preview of the interview and the questions I asked McKey, but the full livestream will be linked at the bottom if you’d like to watch the full interview.


Every winner has a different experience, and this was McKey’s. I started off by asking about the prizes that she was promised.


LB: So, one thing I’m touching on in my article is prizes. I know that at the end after final panel you had a photoshoot, so could you talk about that and your prizes afterwards?


MA: Sure thing! So, when I won, there’s supposed to be a photoshoot immediately after you win. Tyra wasn’t there, she kinda left right away, but I guess she got really busy. There was that and then we did go for a shoot for ‘Seventeen’ which was probably two or three months later, and then I had a contract with Elite. I loved my first agent with them and then it was a little hard after that. Then, there was Covergirl which was a blast. Covergirl was really fun to shoot, and it took weeks, months maybe even and I had to move to New York for it, so it ended up being just a lot of fun.

LB: After Top Model, in your modeling experience, did it change the way you viewed the industry afterwards with your experiences?

MA: Yeah, I mean, definitely. The show was a really good fit for me. The little bit of modeling I did before the show just gave me a very low self-esteem and it terrified me, honestly. It was just a lot of negative criticism at once when I was very young and I was very much so the awkward duckling in school, because I did not fit in with girls. Wearing heels was the first time I ever tried to model. It was foreign to me. My first experience with modeling was very negative. I did not have tough skin and the show just kind of gave me a chance to have somebody kind of teach me without yelling at me. I mean, I kind of got yelled at before they started offering any kind of full criticism but after they started showing kind of what they were looking for, or what they were looking for in other girls I had an idea of what I was supposed to do. I just kind of went for it, you know, I learned how to move a little bit and I got tougher skin and it kind of left me exiting into the harsh world of modeling with a little bit more of an idea of the fact that I was going to be criticized that didn’t matter.

In conclusion, McKey’s experience was a good one and something that will stay with her forever, but there were lows and highs to her experience, and as I stated before, each winner and contestant has a different experience. If you would like to watch the full interview where we talk about behind the scenes, insight on some iconic moments from her cycle, and much more. Click the link here: INTERVIEW W/ ANTM CYCLE 11 WINNER MCKEY!

Then we have Michelle’s experience, and here are some of the fascinating things I learned from her. Michelle placed 6th in her cycle overall.


LB: So, your cycle had the infamous scene in the judging room where Tyra yells at Tiffany (We were rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!), and I’ve heard that there was a lot that happened while the cameras weren’t rolling. If possible, could you tell us a little bit about that?


MC: It was crazy! On a show like Top Model the cameras are always rolling so they caught everything but didn’t air everything. Tyra said some things that were not okay. I understand the stress of a show and her new talk show being a lot for her but no one deserves to be yelled at like that. Tiffany was trying to save face and not break down on TV. She was a tough person but didn’t have a lot of confidence in herself. Confidence takes time and work to develop.


LB: Another thing I’ve heard is that in the panel, the judges spend more time than viewers get to see when they’re evaluating each girl’s performance. Is that true? And how long did it take when they were deliberating?


MC: The judging and eliminations from the time we started to the time we finished took a minimum of 4 hours each. The longest one took from about 6ish pm to 2 am (the one where Rebecca passed out). They were always super stressful. And we know that sometimes they didn’t pick our best picture and we had no idea what some of the judging challenges were going to be. We were always exhausted by the end because the stress just wears you down.


LB: One thing I’ve always wanted to know is what happens when a girl is eliminated overseas. Do you actually go home to the US? Or do you stay and wait for the final runway? I’ve heard bits about girls that have gotten eliminated walking on the final runway but are not shown in the show.


MC: So when you are eliminated you don’t go home because then people will know when you were eliminated. So since I was the first one out in South Africa I got a paid vacation until the filming was done. It was amazing. All the girls that were eliminated in South Africa got to stay and walk on the final runway.


Top Model, even though it is a reality show, there are writers that help to build a storyline and your ‘character’ that is going to be shown on TV. I think mine was pretty spot on. I had no confidence in myself. Confidence is not something that just shows up one day, sometimes it’s something you have to practice and work for. As crazy as it was living with a bunch of women and sharing a bathroom with them, the stress and challenges of the situation, I’m glad I did it and it helped me become who I am today.

Overall, Top Model has stayed true to some girls, but sometimes, editors and writers give girls a bad narrative or there are moments that happen behind the scenes that don’t make it air. In the end, it’s up to viewers and contestants on the show to decide if they enjoyed it or not.


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