Our obsession America’s Next Top Model is going on 16 years. First airing in 2003, this show has given us endless models to root for and an insight into the realities of the fashion industry.
There have been plenty of unforgettable moments along the way, including the infamous Tyra Banks lecture which was directed at Tiffany Richardson. All the drama and contestant fighting in the world couldn’t make us forget that one!
ANTM is a unique reality show in that it’s not scripted at all. Unlike other shows claiming to be reality, fan-favorite ANTM runs off natural interactions between the judges and contestants rather than relying on a script.
And even though it teaches us a lot about the modeling world, there are still a few details about being an aspiring model on the show that most viewers aren’t aware of.
Although the chance to become ANTM is a great opportunity that a lot of people would give anything for, it’s certainly not easy. The contestants on the show have to follow a number of rules, some of them expected for reality television, and some of them totally surprising.
Check out these 20 rules that contestants on ANTM must follow!
ANTM is similar to many other reality TV shows in that contestants have to be completely cut off from the world during filming. That means no internet access, no phones, no computers, and even no television while they’re competing. The more smartphones that are on set, the higher the chance that spoilers will be leaked, and producers don’t want to take that chance!
Plus, because the contestants are not allowed television and can only communicate with the outside world in a very limited capacity, they are more likely to argue with each other, which in turn makes the show more entertaining for viewers.
Staying in the ANTM house seems like a dream, but it’s far from a vacation. For one thing, the restrictions on the internet, television, and phone access make it seem more like a prison than a TV show. And the contestants are responsible for cooking their own food while they’re on the show since it’s not catered.
Worse, the models have to pay for the food out of their own pockets. The producers “just give you a list and you have to fill out what you want and people get food for you and you give them your money, of course,” recalls Nicole Lucas (via Ninja Journal).
One of the hardest things about being a contestant on ANTM is watching yourself on TV afterward because the footage is edited to portray the models in a certain way. The producers like to paint some contestants out to be the villains and some to be the laughing stock, and as a contestant, you really have no control over how you come across to the world.
Even if you carry yourself a certain way, you can be edited to seem completely different, which isn’t always a good thing for your reputation. Not being able to interfere with the editing process is probably extremely stressful for any contestant, let alone those who are portrayed negatively!
The aim of the show is obviously to find America’s Next Top Model, and those who don’t have the chops to make it are eliminated before the final round. While in most cases, the weakest models are eliminated first, sometimes the decision to eliminate someone has very little to do with their potential as a model.
That’s what happened with Chris S. from cycle 20, who was kicked out after a photo shoot with two of the tallest male models made him appear incredibly short. He had no control over how tall he looked next to the other models, and lost his place in the competition because of it.
If you’ve ever watched ANTM, you’ll know that contestants have to participate in totally crazy challenges. While these are designed to test and improve their skills as models, they can be a little OTT sometimes, and you have to wonder whether they’re just included to increase ratings and provide entertainment rather than for the benefit of the models.
In cycle 20, the contestants actually had to walk down the side of a building wearing incredibly restrictive and sometimes painful harnesses for their safety. If you want to stay in the game, you have no choice but to compete in these absurd challenges.
Of course, the contestants aren’t prisoners and are allowed to decline challenges if they want to. But they might have to suffer consequences for that, whether that means leaving a bad impression with the judges or even getting eliminated in the next round.
Contestants are also not forced to stay in the show once they are accepted and filming starts. If they begin filming and realize that it’s too much pressure or it's just not for them, they can choose to leave it all behind, but that obviously means leaving behind their dream of becoming America’s Next Top Model as well.
You’ll already know all about the makeovers that take place on the show. When you’re an aspiring model and the way you look can make or break your professional success, it’s actually super intimidating to get a makeover. And although contestants can say no and leave the show, if they want to impress the judges, they have to grin and bear whatever makeover comes their way.
In one notable incident, Cassandra from cycle 2 cried the entire time that Tyra’s team cut off and dyed her hair. While this makes for great television, it’s not always a fun time for the models.
The apartment that the models get to stay in is perhaps the best part of being on ANTM. And as it turns out, there don’t seem to be any strict rules when it comes to taking care of the apartment! In 2008, Page Six reported that the contestants made a mess of the $6 million Tribeca loft they were staying in, causing $500,000 in damages.
The landlord, Michael Marvisi, said that “the ladies left it in really bad shape after having food fights and messing up the floors.” There were said to be hundreds of holes in the ceiling by the end of filming, and the wood floors had to be replaced.
When you watch the show, it seems like the models have a lot of time with Tyra and the other judges. But according to previous contestants, their time with the judges is actually extremely limited. In fact, they only see Tyra once a week during filming.
“I only saw her once a week, and there were a lot of us and only one of her, but she was always very nice and knowledgeable about basically everything,” recalled Sarah Hartshorne. “Tyra Banks should be the mayor.” Judge Nolé Marin revealed that there is purposely minimal interaction between the judges and contestants to keep them from forming relationships and biases.
It’s not hidden that ANTM is reality television, but it may come as a surprise that a lot of reality television is actually scripted. Although some of these shows claim to be 100% reality, the truth is the cast members follow certain script lines.
But ANTM is not scripted at all, and everything we see actually went down naturally (even though it may have been edited to convey a certain message or angle). Because of this, contestants must make the show worth watching by acting naturally rather than relying on lines and actions written for them. In short, they must have an actual personality!
The producers aren’t relying on a script to carry the show, so they have to make sure that they catch every piece of drama that they can on camera. For this reason, the contestants have to be prepared to be on camera pretty much all day long. BuzzFeed reported that the contestants were filmed for between 20 and 22 hours every single day.
Past winner Angelea Preston revealed that contestants weren’t even allowed to speak until the cameras were rolling, just in case they missed something that would make good television. The contestants were also basically banned from leaving the loft unless they were filming.
We can tell that the models on ANTM are under a lot of pressure during filming, but we had no idea how much! Multiple sources have reported that the contestants are actually denied sleep during filming to make them more prone to emotional outbursts, which increase ratings.
Former contestant Victoria Marshman told Cinema Blend that the entire environment was very stressful: “Keep in mind that none of us had slept at all. They sleep deprive you so much that you are very wound up. That’s why everyone cried and catfights all the time … I laughed a lot in very [awkward] places, because it is so overly dramatic at times.”
The cameras are on the contestants for the majority of the day, but the actual scenes that they shoot as part of the competition take much longer than they seem to complete. When the judges are deciding who to send home, it appears to be over in a matter of minutes, but the reality is the contestants could be kept standing around for hours.
The photoshoots also take up a lot of time. “Oh my God, we were there for like 13 hours at least every day,” Don from cycle 20 shared. “We’d get up at five in the morning, get home at midnight. They make it seem like it was so quick, but really it was just all of us hanging around all day.”
When the models aren’t doing photo shoots, fighting due to lack of sleep, or waiting around to find out who will be eliminated next, they have to participate in confessionals. According to Ninja Journalist, all contestants are obligated to spend between 20 and 30 minutes every single night opening up to the camera.
During this time, they are encouraged to share how they are really feeling so that the producers can mine the footage for something that will make good television. Although they’re mandatory, confessionals aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Some contestants have claimed that they feel like having a therapy session!
The contestants may have to spill their guts on camera and pay for their own food, but they don’t have to audition in order to make it onto the show. Well, not in every case, anyway. The audition process is highly publicized, but the producers also scout models and invite them to audition or just cast them straight away.
Even though a contestant doesn’t have to audition in the strictest sense, they still have to meet the criteria before they are admitted to the show. The rules state that the contestant is to have little modeling experience and cannot have modeled in a national campaign five years prior to her audition.
Even though some contestants are invited onto the show without having to audition, the majority go through the standard auditioning process. And it’s similar to the audition process used on Idol. Hopefuls stand in line in different cities and then meet the producers before they meet the judges. The producers decide on the spot whether they should go onto the next round.
Potential contestants go through several more rounds of evaluation by the producers, and most are eventually told to go home. The final 100 are then invited to meet the judges. They don’t show any of that on TV, though!
Before a contestant is accepted onto the show, they must undergo a psychiatric evaluation. BuzzFeed reports that prior to moving into the house, the contestants have to submit to hours of psychology tests and participate in visits from both psychologists and counselors to determine what kind of personality they have.
This helps the producers to know whether the contestants will actually be able to cope with being on the show because it’s clearly a lot more stressful behind the scenes than it looks to viewers! Many former contestants have confirmed that, although being on the show is a great experience in many ways, it’s not for the faint of heart.
After a few weeks on ANTM, you need some solid me-time. Contestants are cut off from the world, deprived of sleep, forced to air their deepest emotions to a camera, filmed for the majority of the time, and forced to stand around for hours. And that’s all before being critiqued and eventually rejected by the judges.
It’s no wonder that after they’re eliminated, contestants are given access to therapists. A former contestant revealed on Reddit that there is a therapist on standby after every elimination who helps the cut model to feel better and regain some of his or her sanity!
There’s something else that happens to contestants once they’re eliminated that we don’t get to see on the show. Once they’re kicked off, they are sequestered in hotels, where they are kept for an indefinite amount of time. This is to prevent the general public from finding out that they’ve been eliminated.
After all, this is the most exciting part of these types of shows for viewers. Once the cat’s out of the bag and the episode where they’re eliminated airs, the former contestant can finally return home and resume a normal life. It all depends on when you’re cut and when the public finds that out.
Although ANTM is marketed as a platform that helps aspiring models reach success, there is no guarantee of a ticket to stardom, even for the contestant who wins the competition. While some winners have gone on to find success in the modeling industry, others have never been heard from again. As contestants, they have to accept that they probably won’t get a lot of help after the show.
A number of winners have complained that the show didn’t help them enough after it ended, and Lisa D’Amato confirmed that the producers and judges themselves could do a little more to give the models a leg up.
Sources: BuzzFeed, Screen Rant, Ninja Journal