End of An Era, Start of an Ora: America’s Next Top Social Media Mogul

There are two words that have ruled this season of America’s Next Top Model: Boss and Brand. They’ve been repeating it so many times that you may forget you're watching America’s Next Top Model in the first place — the reign of Tyra is over and we’re entering this uncharted territory, and I’m not sure if I’m a fan of this new land. 

What made America’s Next Top Model so interesting in the past was that it gave viewers an insight into a world that we would never see or experience, a world of high fashion, a world where the eccentric and beautiful would come together with over-the-top interpersonal drama. Unfortunately, the show has completely forgotten the intensity of runway shows and avant-garde photo shoots in favor of social media challenges and music videos. Like a lot of music videos. Like way too many music videos. You really have to ask yourself: What is this show about?

The new host, Rita Ora, keeps telling us that they’re not just looking for a model anymore. They’re looking for a boss, they’re looking for a brand. I understand that there is an art to social media and that being a backup dancer is not easy, but neither of these things are comparable to being a model, even if they do speak to what fame and fortune is in today’s society.

It’s rather telling that our new host is not a top model like Tyra Banks, but Rita Ora, whom you may have heard of for her music career or possibly from her cameo in 50 Shades of Grey — the point is you probably haven’t really ever heard of her.

As much as she claims to be a multi-media mogul, you really wouldn’t know because almost no one knows who she is. Even today, I told someone that she’s the new host of ANTM and their response was “Rita Ora?” with the voice of someone scrambling in their mind for an idea or an image or any clue of who she is.

Ora wouldn’t honestly be that big of an issue if she was not surrounded by panel members who exude charisma and self-confidence. Law Roach, a “famous” Hollywood image architect (yeah I can talk up my résumé too hunny), and plus-size, actually famous supermodel Ashley Graham cannot stop killing it at every turn. Graham especially outshines Ora, and while she is not a perfect analogy to Tyra, she is a hell of a lot better than Ora.

In the first episode, we see Tyra for the first and last time. She tells the crowd of beautiful, smart, and interesting women in their 20s that this year they are looking for a non-traditional model. The camera pans back to the crowd of beautiful, able-bodied, fresh-faced, size zero models.

The problem with this reboot of America’s Next Top Model is that it pretends to be a radical redesign but ends up following a lot of the same disappointing trends that the modeling and media industry always follow: portraying Latina women as inherently hypersexualized, West African women as violent and angry, and of course letting mediocrity slide by in the face of true talent.

I for one am not impressed, and I’m not sure how much longer my love for the show’s history will hold me over.

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