This week marked a pretty exciting week of trashy and terrific TV for me. Aside from the season finales for Ugly Betty, Gossip Girl, and Grey's Anatomy, as well as the return of So You Think You Can Dance, I watched the first episode of Bravo's new reality show, Make Me A Supermodel, which is hosted by Tyson Beckford and Nikki Taylor.
Talent search reality shows that promise to give hidden talent that one lucky break always intrigue me. For one thing, the winners of such shows rarely achieve as much notoriety in their subsequent careers as when they were on the reality show. Sometimes the ones who don't win outshine the ones who do because they had memorable or nasty personalities. In the particular case of model search reality shows, I find it cruelly ironic that these shows all set out to find the next Kate, Tyra, Naomi, or Giselle, the next supermodel to make waves in the industry and become fashion icons when in reality, we're living in the Age of the Celebrity. L'Oreal and Cover Girl's big endorsement deals go to pretty, personable actresses, not professional models. The high-profile ads feature Drew Barrymore, Queen Latifah, Beyonce, Penelope Cruz...the list goes on. Meanwhile, the winners of ANTM get lower profile print ads that run once or twice before they're pulled. The ANTM girls do find work, which is nice, but they disappear into the woodwork after the season ends. I don't think any reality show winners have gone on to achieve bigger things post-show and become bona fide stars in their own right except for Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson from American Idol.
For these reasons, I think the title and premise of Make Me A Supermodel are pretty inflated. Come on, if 10 seasons of ANTM have failed to produce a superstar, how will this show?! What did impress me about the show, however, was the refreshingly straightforward and professional approach of all the parties involved. The first episode showed the casting call and winnowing process. Unlike other shows, they aired mostly segments with the serious contenders and not the bad eggs who show up at the open calls and embarrass themselves terribly (ahem, SYTYCD and Idol), which revealed a classy and respectful approach toward the subjects. Tyson and Nikki, along with a team of booking agents from New York Models, put the candidates through their paces with various screening challenges and made a round of cuts after each challenge to narrow it down to 7 guys and 7 girls. At one point, they made the candidates put on swimsuits and went down the line, scrutinizing each person and making comments about any additional work they had to do (the word "toning" was thrown around a lot).
All in all, I came away from the first episode feeling like it was a breath of fresh air and a nice alternative to the increasingly campy antics of ANTM. However, only time will tell if the winner really does make it big.