Americas Next Top Model: Cycle Eight

Noah Davis

Cycle Eight isn't about skinny models vs. plus-size models, blondes vs. the brunettes, or Caucasians vs. African Americans. It's about Banks vs. the world, and we already know who's going to win.

America's Next Top Model

Airtime: Wednesdays, 8pm ET
Cast: Tyra Banks, Twiggy, Nigel Barker, J. Alexander, Jay Manuel
MPAA rating: N/A
Subtitle: Cycle EightSeason Premiere
Network: CW
US release date: 2007-02-28

On the two-hour eighth season premiere of America's Next Top Model, Tyra and her tastemakers again set out to mold one of the hopefuls into a runway success. They start with a trip to "model boot camp." The girls' collective positive attitude is adorable, yet another rendition of the hope that comes at the beginning of every season of every reality show. In her head, each girl is already the next top model.

Yet again, 13 pretty, petty girls are crammed into a house and allowed to "duke it out" for a chance to be the next Cindy, Giselle or Tyra. But modeling is different from other sorts of performing. On American Idol, participants can make huge strides if they attend to the advice of their vocal coaches and the judges. Modeling, on the other hand, is all about the look and the attitude. You can make minor changes to a woman's walk or her facial expression, but the camera offers harsh judgment. It doesn't help that none of the girls on Top Model is ever exceptionally beautiful. When they stand next to Tyra, it's like watching LeBron play basketball in high school. No winners from the previous seven seasons have gone anywhere in modeling. They can't hold Tyra's jock strap.

This season's victor will be no different. She'll get a spread in some obscure magazine looking for the free publicity, then disappear. At least the winners of other reality shows have a chance to succeed. Top Models have a legacy of failure, and from the outset of this season's premier, you're reminded why.

First, the judges -- Banks, Nigel Baker and J. Alexander -- appear to be the nicest people alive. In the season premiere, they don't say an unflattering thing about any of the contestants, even behind their backs. One girl has "a beautiful smile," another "stunning eyes." The judges refrain from destroying the girls' self-esteem, instead gushing about any body part that could be considered model-worthy. Watching this unrelenting flattery is painful. We're talking about fashion, people: get mean. Tell a girl she's too fat, too ugly, too ungainly. Take out the Sharpies and circle some excess flab. It's all in the name of "personal development."

The models seem to think that personality plays an important part in winning the competition. In the first three minutes of the show, two of them tell the camera they are going to win because "I have a great personality." Spare me. On the runway, no one cares if you're bubbly or willing to help a friend through a tough time. We only care how you look. Judging by the expressionless faces of girls on the catwalk, having a "great personality" is actually a negative. Models need to show up and look great. Nothing more. These Top Model aspirants will do the first part (smiling the whole time!), but without the second, they are worthless.

While models exist to make clothes beautiful, the rest be damned, the fashion industry itself is beginning to show a little conscience, and Top Model is on top of this trend. In September, Madrid Fashion Week banned models who were "too skinny," pushing the debate about too-thin models into the international spotlight. Cycle Eight sees a focus on plus-sized models, who receive ample air-time to elucidate upon the difficulties of being a bigger girl in a world of stick-thin beauties. One tells Tyra that she has "no doubt that a plus-size model can walk the runway with Naomi Campbell." Pretty to think so, but that will never happen. Plus-sized models will always be second-, or even third-class citizens.

Coincidentally, in recent weeks, Tyra herself has come under fire for gaining weight. In response to some unflattering pictures of her printed in the tabloids, she told People that she weighs about 30 pounds more (around 160) than she did when she was a model. She also admitted that TV execs "think it's better when I'm at 155 lbs. At 145, they feel I'm not as relatable." Sorry, Tyra, the producers can try to make you into a normal person, but even 30 pounds over your fighting weight, your beauty makes the 13 women dying to be you look like Cinderella's stepsisters. Cycle Eight isn't about skinny models vs. plus-size models, blondes vs. the brunettes, or Caucasians vs. African Americans. It's about Banks vs. the world, and we already know who's going to win.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.