Yea! It’s Wednesday! Two more days to go before our home “pack” is complete again, and Bill comes home. There was a time in my life when I loved having the house to myself. That was when I was a teenager, which was many years ago. 😉 I didn’t mind living alone when I was a young woman, either, because apparently I’m not the most likable person, or the greatest roommate. Scratch that. I am a pretty good roommate, but only to the right person. I’m such an oddly shaped puzzle piece that there aren’t that many “good fits” for me in the world.
Against all odds, Bill and I happen to get along beautifully. We genuinely dislike being apart when he has to travel. It’s very boring for both of us. He spends all his time working or sleeping, and I spend mine writing, reading, and watching trash TV. Then he wants to have a chat when I’m knee deep in the trash. Actually, this past week, poor Bill has been working nights, which means he gets even less sleep than usual. We haven’t had too much opportunity to chat. Most of our communication has been through very short emails of little substance. So, we’re both really looking forward to Friday, when he comes home from his latest adventure.
I mentioned yesterday, that reading Good Girls by Hadley Freeman had inspired me to watch old episodes of America’s Next Top Model. I was pretty hooked on that show when it was popular, although I didn’t watch it until Cycle 7, when I happened to channel surf past it one night. I don’t like Tyra Banks very much, even if I can easily see why she’s a famous model. Maybe she’s different offscreen, but I find her onscreen persona very off putting and narcissistic. There were times on ANTM when she acted like a complete twat (in the British sense of the word).
However, I did like a couple of other cast members. Miss J and Jay Manuel were favorites of mine. They could be dismissive and disdainful at times, but I got the sense that they were much more genuine and kind than Tyra was. And I also thought they were legitimately funny and entertaining. Tyra was just nuclear level annoying to me– although I suspect, in her case, that behavior stems from the industry she made her name in, as well as– I suspect– perhaps some family trauma. I don’t know, and I’m not saying my suspicions are true. It’s just that in my experience, people who act like that often have an abusive past, delivered by their families. (raising my own hand, here…) The fact that Tyra has spent years as a model and an entertainer means that she’s also been exposed to a lot of the same types of people– many of whom are pretty damaged.
I do think Tyra Banks is legitimately beautiful, bright, and talented, but her personality comes across to me as entitled, fake, and manipulative. Unless she’s been doing some Oscar winning acting, she has a deep and obvious need for admiration and attention. It was especially clear in some of the widely circulated clips on the Internet showing, which some of ANTM’s craziest moments over its many years on the air.
I’ve studied a lot about narcissism, and it’s obvious to me that a lot of the people who made it on Top Model also suffered from abusive, traumatic pasts that turned them a bit Machiavellian. There are only a few cycles in which it seems like fewer people are drama queens. Those cycles, which I mostly found more pleasant to watch, tended to be the ones that weren’t as highly rated. For example, I loved Cycle 13, which was the “petite” cycle– All of the women were short, like me. I got the sense that they weren’t nearly as blackhearted as some of their taller counterparts. Maybe it’s because they have more concentrated oxygen at such low heights. Kidding, of course… 😉 I am myself only about 5’2″.
So… about today’s title. It comes from Cycle 10. I had just finished watching Cycle 9, where I heard all kinds of red flag narcissism phrases like, “You don’t know who you’re messing with,” and watched Tyra be totally horrible to Ebony Morgan, a beautiful contestant who suddenly quit when she’d decided that being on the show wasn’t for her.
Ebony Morgan was clearly someone who’d had a very traumatic past, and determined that she didn’t enjoy modeling. She wisely and nobly decided to quit the show, and allow someone else to take her place. And Tyra said, “The most unattractive thing in the world to me is a quitter.” Really, Tyra? There aren’t less attractive people than that? How about child molesters? Would you put Ebony beneath someone like, say, Josh Duggar?
In that same cycle, there was a very smart “nerdy” young woman named Victoria. It was clear that Victoria had never really considered what modeling is all about. She was just very quirky and interesting looking. She came on the show and very quickly got the “bitch” edit. They had all of the contestants dress up like plants and Victoria was a cactus. At judging, she was deemed “prickly”, and when she stood up for herself, she was quickly chastised.
Anyone who ever watched ANTM remembers this gem from Cycle 4. It gets trotted out all the time as an example of how toxic this show could be. It doesn’t matter what Tiffany’s “attitude” was. Screaming at her the way she did is verbal abuse. And no, Tiffany… Tyra doesn’t care about you.
And then there was my revelation last night, as I watched Paulina Porizkova talking to the models of Cycle 10 for the very first time. I actually loved Paulina on this show. She seemed very genuine, and didn’t behave like a narcissistic twat. She came up to a beautiful blonde woman named Kimberly and said something along the lines of, “You seem to have this High School Musical thing about you, but I sense you have a dark side. And if there is a darker side of you, bring it forth.” Then, she pantomimed as if the dark spirit would come out of Kimberly, exorcist like.
Kimberly also ended up quitting the show. She claimed it was because she didn’t enjoy modeling and couldn’t see spending $500 on a pair of shorts. Some time later, Kimberly was on Tyra’s talk show, where she explained her real reasons for quitting.
Allison Kuehn was also on Cycle 10, and was eliminated early. I found her obnoxious when the show originally aired, but watching her last night was almost unbearable. She reminded me a lot of Donald Trump, especially after she got her makeover. She kept talking about how she was the most experienced and best model in the house, after she made some pretty offensive and racist comments to another contestant. When she got eliminated, she cried. It does look like Allison went back to real modeling, though, which is a credit to her, I guess.
There are so many other examples… I’ve written posts about Renee Alway, for example. I was a fan of Renee’s, in spite of her manipulative, spiteful, and envious behaviors. I thought Renee was absolutely gorgeous, and I thought she had a lot of potential on many levels. Sadly, Renee has had a lot of very serious interactions with law enforcement. She’s been in an out of prison after committing armed robberies, domestic violence, and drug crimes. There were times when Renee seemed open and vulnerable, and that made me think she wasn’t a completely black hearted person. I still don’t think she is. But she had some very serious problems that I don’t think were helped by being on America’s Next Top Model.
Likewise, Renee’s fellow cohort and sometime friend, Jael Strauss, also had severe difficulties after being on ANTM. I didn’t like Jael that much when I first saw her, but now that I’m watching again, I find her very endearing and entertaining. She seemed like a genuinely kind soul. Unfortunately, she had a terrible problem with drugs, to the point at which she appeared on Dr. Phil. And then, in December 2018, after a two month battle with inflammatory breast cancer, Jael passed away at age 34.
Angelea Preston was another contestant who, I think, got exploited on ANTM. I didn’t really care for Angelea’s appearances on three cycles of the show, although I’ve looked her up since her last appearance, and I’m impressed by how she’s recovered. Angelea has proven that she’s a survivor, and is telling her story… having “won” the All-Stars edition of the show, and then been disqualified for briefly working as an escort. After she was disqualified, Lisa D’Mato, who had been on Cycle 5, won. Lisa is also speaking out about ANTM, and Tyra has reportedly blocked her on social media.
One last person I want to mention is Jenah Doucette, who was in Cycle 9. She was a very strong competitor. I ran across a very informative Reddit thread she started, inviting people to ask her anything. It seems like she’s doing pretty well now, but she admits that she had a very hard time after being on ANTM. She says she is a recovering alcoholic, and has been through therapy. She might have been an alcoholic anyway, and she might have needed therapy anyway. However, I doubt that the experience of being on that show was very helpful to her.
I probably shouldn’t watch these old episodes of Top Model, but I’m finding them very engrossing and, I’ll admit, often entertaining. They help pass the hours before Bill gets home on Friday. And, if you’re interested in psychology, it is interesting to pay attention to the interactions among the contestants, especially so many years later.
Thanks to reading Good Girls, falling back down the “fashion rabbit hole”, and watching old episodes of Top Model, I’ve also started reading Jay Manuel’s novel, The Wig, The Bitch, & The Meltdown. I don’t read many novels anymore, but I couldn’t resist this one. I suspect the book is highly influenced by his time with Tyra Banks, who is now a former friend of his. Stay tuned for a fresh review, which I hope will come sooner, rather than later…
For now, I need to walk the dog, play guitar, and go buy some more half and half at the store. Then, I’ll probably dive back into my ANTM reruns, which do a good job of keeping me from binge watching YouTube DWI videos. So, have a happy hump day. Catch you later.