Photo Credit: CW
Friday night marks the premiere of the 19th cycle of America's Next Top Model (8 p.m. ET on the CW). And we know what you're thinking. The nineteenth cycle? How can this show not be tired by now? But not so fast.
ANTM has gone through a major revamp, with new judges (so long to Nigel Barker and Miss J, and hello to sexy male model Rob Evans) and a viewer voting component that will truly impact the winner. (Through social media, fan input will account for 25 percent of each girl's score.) Tyler Perry is scheduled to help coach the girls, and Alicia Keys will make a guest appearance when the girls strut their stuff to her music. Plus, it's a special, college edition.
This season's prize package is different, too. It includes a fashion spread in Nylon magazine, $100,000 worth of cash and campaigns with Smashbox Cosmetics and Nine West, and a modeling contract with LA/NY Models. The winner also gets to be the spokesmodel for America's Next Top Model Dream Come True perfume.
In a candid interview with The Hollywood Reporter, host and exec producer Tyra Banks recalled how the reboot came about after ten years of doing the show the same way. "I got a call from my boss ... who said we needed to make some serious changes," she said. "It was a phone call that left me nervous and shaking. I hung up the phone -- I got pulled out of a class at Harvard [where she recently graduated from the university's executive education program] to take the call -- and went back into the class, but I couldn't focus on the professor. I was panicking."
Banks took some time off, flew to Bali, and went through some ANTM-related soul searching. She watched DVDs of that first 2003 season, when the show debuted on UPN. And she asked herself "why we are successful and what got us there in the first place and what we did in terms of being creative and what we left on the table that we shouldn't have."
She concluded that the show had shifted from its focus on the girls themselves to an emphasis on teaching, challenges and eliminations. So she threw out the script, literally. First and foremost, Cycle 19 will put an emphasis on getting to know the girls' stories. And Banks said she's also done with reciting the same final speech she's given for ten years.
"I have a whole new thing, a new prize package, the social media fan vote," she said. "These are no longer the lines I had known. So the two girls standing in front of me crying their eyes out had no idea what I was going to say. I didn't know what I was going to say. One time I had to pause and say, 'Ladies, I am so sorry and I want to let you know I am here with you emotionally. I don't know my lines.' And I ran off the set. It was such a mess! It felt like season one -- so fresh and uncomfortable, but in a good way."
But her decision to let viewers weigh in isn't one she would have made at the show's start. "I'll tell you why it was important not to in the beginning," she said. "I created Top Model because I wanted to expand the definition of beauty… I wanted to highlight atypical beauty, unique beauty, so the ugly-duckling girls at home who were not feeling beautiful could see other girls with a gap in their teeth or super pale or with big frizzy red hair being called beautiful and could feel better about themselves."
And, she said, this strategy has paid off. "Over the course of the years, the audience is now not just choosing the cheerleader or the pretty girl in the mall," she said. "They realize that beauty comes in different shapes and sizes with freckles and frizz. I felt comfortable enough that the audience wouldn't just go for the cheerleader now."
Well, Tyra. Thanks for the vote of confidence. We promise we won't let you down!
Watch the preview for the first episode below:
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