The producers of CW’s hit America’s Next Top Model decided it was time to bring in some boys last season, so not only did the hopefuls have the pressure of competing against each other, but they also had to deal with the opposite sex! While the new approach did make for an interesting season, it was hardly the provocative, cut throat season I believe producers were hoping for.
Fear not! Judge Kelly Cutrone promises this years’ contenders will heat up our screens in more ways than one! August 18 marked the premiere of Cycle 21, and the men are back, determined to take the throne from the women! There are a myriad of interesting wannabe models this season, including an ex-NFL player, a 22 yo virgin, a model with Vitiglio (a pigment skin disorder) and practicing Wiccan, all of whom make the dorms a little bit more intriguing.
Probably the most feared returning judge is hard-nosed Kelly Cutrone, who isn’t afraid to dole out the brutal truth. While some critics scoff at the show, believing it to be very superficial, and a bad influence to its younger audience, Cutrone disagrees and feels it does just the opposite, serving to educate.
“With the break down of the family, you have these kids growing up you know are going to the internet and they’re going to television to teach them.”
She adds that over the years she has spoken with many young women who want to know how to take better care of themselves, how to do their hair and makeup, dress better, and put a style together.
“These girls are in development and are watching the show, learning how to become young women and young women are learning how to become women. These are kids in the middle of nowhere who are model material and that’s the closest thing they have besides some freaky person that’s gonna charge them $3,000 for photos at the mall. We’re teaching kids how to do it right, bringing in great experts.”
Boosting self esteem is another thing Cutrone feels the show encourages. She points to last year’s contestant Marvin Cortes, who was embarrassed to admit his father was a janitor; he never wanted his friends to see where he lived. The team instilled in him that his family situation was nothing to be ashamed of, and that he shouldn’t hide where he came from.[It’s] “helping turn these kids self esteem around and teaching them what’s important: celebrating themselves, and [learning] how not to be embarrassed [because] you live in the middle of nowhere. Not to be embarrassed that you had to sell your sneakers to come to try out to be a contestant on the show. That’s courage. That’s victory.”
It was only 15 to 20 years ago when the only way to really be heard was by calling into a radio show– if you could get in! In this new age of Internet and social media, young fans are finding their voices matter as Top Model factors in their opinions in the judging process. “They can tune in, go online and vote, then see their comments,” explained Cutrone.
So what does she look for in a contestant? These days with companies utilizing models for branding purposes, it’s more important than ever to find a model that can be versatile. With photo shoots costing thousands of dollars, Top Model looks to find someone with star quality who can give clients confidence the majority of shots will be usable. Cutrone points to Top Model‘s star Tyra Banks as an example. The client knows if Tyra is in 150 shots, at least 140 can be considered for their ad.
Much to the fans’ delight, Runway Coach J. Alexander has returned, and this season, Creative Consultant and internationally known photographer Yu Tsai has joined the team. he is tasked with directing the models during photo shoots.
Yu Tsai came from humble beginnings. Born in Taiwan, he grew up on a farm in Indiana before the family settled in Chino, California. Although his father was photographer, and ran several photo shops Yu Tsai had no aspirations of becoming a photographer himself. “I was never in the studio. I was in the sandbox in the backyard”, he laughs. His first passion was in biology; however he soon found himself studying graphic design, which led him to become a branding expert.
As a fan of Top Model since it first premiered, he was thrilled to receive an invitation to be a part of Cycle 21. “I’ve been a fan of the show since season one. My photography career is exactly ten years long, which is about the same duration of the Cycle, so when the show approached me I thought it was a great honor to be a part of great history.”
He agrees with Cutrone that it’s important to find that individual who not only looks good, but is also multifaceted.
“I think it’s not just how you look and how you dress, it’s the whole package.” What is he looking for in the contestants? “Star quality. That unspoken star quality. You know someone is going to be successful just by the energy they exude. That’s really important to me.”
He adds with social media and television, it’s important the models be well-rounded, especially in the world of advertising and branding, where they must be able to translate what the client is selling.
Yu Tsai laughs when asked for his pick to win this season.
“People always ask me that. It’s like asking me which one of my kids is my favorite.” He adds, “My job, my passion on the show is truly to guide the one who should win to the top. My job is to groom them and help them, support them. Sometimes be harsh, sometimes gentle, sometimes loving and maybe even just rude.” Believe it or not sometimes he’s amazed what comes out of his mouth during photo shoots!
Ultimately he views himself as a parent to these wonderful hopefuls.
Like Cutrone, Yu Tsai is well aware how social media factors in to the show. “Social media for right now, drives the younger audience. You have YouTubers with 5 million followers. “The CW” knows it’s the new generation and that’s why we include it.”
The photo at the end of episode three was visually stunning, which included all 22 contestants. How did he come up with that concept?
“We had a lot of talent we had to capture and I thought intertwining with each other, that would be uncomfortable because modeling sometimes is uncomfortable. They could really get to know each other. Feel each others energy, hold on to each other and rely on each other and learn something from each other. What better way than doing it than almost naked on the beach?”
This season has dialed up the heat, with contestants already going at each other, hungry to win at all costs. Practicing Wiccan Romeo Tostado claims to have put a curse on a formidable opponent who, ironically, was actually eliminated in round two! Wouldn’t want to be on his bad side! There’s also been flirting that’s morphed into hurt feelings between contestants Matt Smith and Mirjiana Puhar, after he learned of her boyfriend. Of course every dorm needs a party animal. Enter Adam Smith, the 26 yo eternal frat-boy, ready to party anytime. Last week after getting drunk, tensions rose when Mirijana asked him to stop drinking! I think it’s safe to say things are going to be even more tense as the season progresses.
So, how does Cutrone sum up this season? “It’s a pretty good season. Definitely has some love affairs, break ups. This cast is doing what we hoped last season’s cast would have done.” Interestingly the judges have not screened the show ahead of airing, so Cutrone will be watching, learning how it all shakes out with the rest of us!
Yu Tsai describes, “It’s a very honest season, with very diverse and savvy cast members. I hope to bring what people haven’t seen in the last 20 Cycles, what fashion really means to me.”
With the first three episodes already teaming with provocative, explosive energy, America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 21 is set to be the best season thus far! Tune in every Monday, at 9:00 pm on “The CW“. Be sure to follow your favorites on social media and cast your votes to ensure your pick becomes the next Top Model.[amazon template=iframe image][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B0007KIFNC][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00B8C7OXA]