Where It All Started...
Everyone has their own story regarding this question.
It's never an organic evolution of interest, but rather a defining moment in which you realize that this is an industry in which you belong. You start to crave the artistry of each collection, each twirling skirt of chiffon, the structured lines of a menswear-inspired jacket. Big names in the industry stick to your memory with ease and, eventually, the smaller names of up-and-comers come naturally as well.
For me, this moment occurred during my first viewing of an America's Next Top Model marathon. I was instantly in awe of the glamourous photo shoots and the intricacies of creating a fashion image. After my quick obsession with the modeling industry, I began to really notice the clothes. I was suddenly aware of every advertisement that I saw, noting how the model was positioned and theorizing as to why the company had chosen that particular image.
America's Next Top Model has a way of explaining a complicated and often confusing industry in simple terms. As a pre-teen, I was able to keep up with Tyra Banks' descriptions of her own time in the industry, as well as with the tips she gave to the aspiring models on branding and how to act while at work.
I took a lot of inspiration from these episodes, and took every piece of Tyra's sage advice to heart. Twenty seasons later I still tune in every week to see what crazy photo shoot the models will have to participate in, what makeovers will make them cry and which models will crumble under the "pressure" of living in a multi-million dollar mansion and getting their hair and makeup done every day.
As a Top Model classicist, I've been pretty disappointed with the past few seasons. If we're being honest, the show has gone completely downhill since Nigel Barker left. Although I miss his charming British accent and straightforward criticisms, his absence really signifies the moment in which Top Model took a turn for the worse. Suddenly the judges weren't giving as much commentary, instead giving each photo a score out of ten and adding it to the contestant's challenge score and the newly-added "social media" score to determine their fate.
This change in the format of the show really bothered me. The whole reason I tuned into the show in the first place was to hear the judges' expertise, to hear them criticize the contestants' photos so that I could learn from their mistakes. I wanted to hear what these industry insiders had to say. In fact, most of my early fashion knowledge was solely based on these comments. To see them removed from the show almost entirely was disheartening.
For the 21st season, Top Model has stayed with this format. They've also integrated male models for the second season in a row, which I must admit is an interesting component. The male modeling industry is one that has remained off my radar for some time, so finally getting a glimpse at that side of the industry has piqued my curiosity.
Although Top Model is slowly progressing into the doldrums of bad television I will continue to be a loyal viewer. As this is the program that started my interest in fashion, I feel like it is sort of my responsibility to help them out in the ratings.
Don't get me wrong, there are still many great things about the show. Aspiring models with fresh looks get their chance to strut their stuff and see if they can leave their mark on the industry, Tyra comes up with more catchphrases every week and even Miss J is back this year. That in itself should make you want to tune in.
America's Next Top Model airs on The CW, Mondays at 9/8pm central time.
Pro Tip: If you really want to watch the truly great years of Top Model both Oxygen and Style air marathons almost weekly.