For some reason, when Bill was away last week, I started watching episodes of America’s Next Top Model. I will grant that it wasn’t the most wholesome show on the airwaves, but it was kind of entertaining. I probably decided to watch it because I figured it would help me pass the time. I was soon reminded of how toxic that show was. It gave me some food for thought… and fodder for my blog.
I’m not sure why I ever got hooked on ANTM. I’ve never been into hair, makeup, or fashion. I never liked Tyra Banks, either. To me, she came off like a total narcissist– like, my “N” chimes rang off the hook when I watched her on TV. I didn’t even know much about Banks until I stumbled across Cycle 7 of ANTM. Tyra’s show was probably the first reality show I ever really paid any attention to for longer than an episode. I never got into Big Brother or Survivor at all.
Shameful as it is, I must admit that I did get hooked on ANTM, and I watched it until maybe Cycle 18 or so. After that, it simply became unwatchable to me. I think life events also intervened, preventing me from tuning in anymore.
To view ANTM, you’d think Jay Manuel, Nigel Barker, and Miss J (J. Alexander) were all the best of friends. Jay Manuel, in particular, seemed to be in Tyra’s hip pocket. He served as the creative director of ANTM for years, before finally leaving the series. In 2020, Manuel published a satirical novel based on his experiences with ANTM. In January of 2022, I downloaded his book, The Wig, The Bitch & The Meltdown. A few days ago, I finally got around to starting to read it.
In the past, I would have been done with Jay’s book by now, but it’s harder for me to read these days. My eyes aren’t as good as they used to be, and I have a tendency to fall asleep when I start reading. I will admit, however, that I am enjoying Jay’s book. I do think it needs an editor, and maybe some of the characters should be fleshed out a bit more. BUT– I am enjoying the snark and the “T” spilling going on. Yes, it’s a novel, and fictionalized. But it’s also clearly based on a true story, and all I have to say is, the people who were regulars on that show and weren’t as narcissistic as Tyra is, definitely went through some shit.
I will be reviewing Mr. Manuel’s book when I finish reading it. I hope to complete the book sometime this week, because I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on it. However, I can’t resist mentioning it today, because in writing his novel, Jay did something that I like to do when I need to “unpack” something. He turned his real life experiences into a fictionalized “based on a true story”. I imagine that dealing with Tyra Banks gave him lots of material to draw from for the book. When you’re dealing with a narcissist, you have a lot to unpack… but you have to do it very carefully. Narcissists have a way of bringing the pain.
A few years ago, when Bill and I were living in our last house, I did very occasionally write fictional stories about certain people who irritated me. It was a creative way to get out my angst. Not that many people read my short stories, anyway, so I thought of it as a constructive way to “process the crazy” without causing undue upset.
For a short time, I even considered starting a fiction blog. Our former landlady was legitimately driving me nuts, and I needed a safe place to vent. My fiction blog lasted less than a day, though. I started to write a story, but before I got far, I received a private Facebook message from the now late former tenant. She’d read what I’d written, figured she knew what I was about to do with my characters (though she was actually wrong), and decided to intervene on ex landlady’s behalf. She basically told me I was a no talent hack, and tried to shame me into silence. She also implied that I was crazy and “mean”.
I subsequently scrapped the idea of the fiction blog, but not because I agreed with former tenant’s assessment of my talents and character, or lack thereof. I mainly aborted the fiction blog because I knew that Bill was going to take legal action against ex landlady. I didn’t want to complicate matters with my creative and purely fictional doodlings. Thanks to former tenant, ex landlady and her other flying monkeys were on high alert. I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of using me to fight against Bill in court.
Former tenant probably thought she’d fixed things when I abruptly stopped writing my fiction story. But it soon became quite clear to her that things were about to get much worse. I’m sure, if she was still capable of hindsight, she might have preferred to mind her own business and not interfere in situations that don’t involve her. Unfortunately, she was entitled and emboldened enough to meddle, and made things a lot more difficult than they needed to be. Really… knowing ex landlady, losing money was probably a lot worse for her than being the fodder for little read fictionalized short stories that were inspired by her narcissistic, passive-aggressive, crazy-making behaviors. I’m sure she also might have preferred my use of a creative outlet rather than my going off on her to her face. Trust me. She got VERY close to that experience, and I feel pretty sure she would not have enjoyed it at all.
In retrospect, for many reasons, I probably should have made the fiction blog invite only, and then opened it to the public years later. Maybe, if and when I feel inspired to write fiction again, I’ll do it that way. Or maybe I’ll just self-publish a book, like my friend Alex is doing. I no longer have to worry about getting any nastygrams from former tenant, since she is no longer among the living. I’m truly sorry she’s no longer with us, mainly because I know she has loved ones who miss her.
I don’t know what former tenant’s motivation was for harassing me. She obviously lacked understanding of the situation on a number of levels. Or, maybe she simply didn’t care. Maybe I wasn’t an actual person to her… or a worthwhile person, anyway. She was clearly a lot more concerned about her former landlady of 18 months, than she was about what was happening to us– the people who innocently took her place for four years. I wouldn’t necessarily expect her to care about us, but I certainly expected her to have a better understanding of things before assuming she had the right to send me chastising and accusatory PMs about my writing projects. In the end, I guess we did the right thing and just let the law handle it.
I know I’ve written about former tenant’s interference before, so I don’t want to rehash it too much. It’s just that reading Jay Manuel’s novel reminded me of that situation. Some people don’t realize that creative people are inspired by literally everything. You might not think writers, artists, musicians, or other creative types ought to be inspired by things that are negative. I’m sure, to former tenant, I should have just suffered in silence… or just privately talked trash to people in the community… or spoken to a therapist, or whatever, instead of channeling that experience into a fiction story.
Or, maybe she felt my complaints weren’t worthy of consideration. Maybe she thought it was okay that I was being screamed at, slandered, and blamed for things that weren’t my doing. Maybe she thought I should have just smiled and sucked it up, rather than trying to process it in a way that was funny and creative. Of course, given what happened to her, I can’t say that she was the best judge of what people should do to preserve their own mental health.
I don’t know Jay Manuel, but he’s obviously a creative guy. And as I read his novel, I recognize the Narcissism 101 traits of his protagonist, Keisha Kash, who is clearly modeled (heh heh- see what I did there?) after Tyra Banks. Last night, I read a couple of passages aloud to Bill. After one passage, I quipped “She sounds like a female Donald Trump!” And yes, it IS a fictionalized book, but obviously, there’s some truth in jest.
Tyra even said it herself to a contestant who got eliminated in Cycle 10. When the exiting model said, “I think I’ll go be an anesthesiologist,” Tyra replied that that was why she was “going home.”
When the contestant said she was “just kidding”, Tyra said, “There’s truth in jest.”
Jay Manuel’s book is obviously snarky, humorous, and satirical, but… “there’s truth in jest.” I have absolutely zero doubts that he drew from a huge well of direct experiences for inspiration when he wrote his book. In fact, as glamorous and exciting as fashion seems to be, Manuel reminds his readers that that world– along with the entertainment industry– is loaded with narcissistic creeps who ruthlessly tear down good people with their obnoxious, entitled, selfish, and crazy behaviors. So… although I think The Wig, The Bitch & The Meltdown could be improved with help from a professional editor, I also congratulate Jay for turning his experiences on ANTM into art… digital art, in my case, as I’m reading it on the Kindle app. 😉
Maybe someday, I’ll be ready to write fiction again. And perhaps there will be some people who will see themselves in my words. There are many ways to be inspirational… and perhaps we can even take heart, realizing that even the most awful people can lead to the creation of something beautiful, entertaining, or educational. I have said and written it often, and it bears repeating… Even the worst things can inspire good things.