So, I wonder if there are any fellow America’s Next Top Model fans who were just as perturbed as I was by the results of last Wednesday’s elimination ceremony (the first of this new cycle). Anamaria, the 19-year-old from
, was given the boot for one of the most unfair, and frankly hurtful, reasons ever from the ANTM judging panel. Granted, Anamaria seemed rather mouthy and conceited throughout her brief time on the show, but her attitude was not the chief factor that played in her departure. Queens, New York
To be fair, before I even saw who got cut from the competition, I was already annoyed. The theme for that episode’s photo shoot was patently a Tyra Banks creation (i.e. something sappy and lame, but meant to be female empowering). It focused on the subject of bullying and self-esteem. Each of the aspiring models was asked to recall one word that their peers used to pick on them when they were younger, and then think of another word they could use to lift their spirits in the face of “adversity.” For example, Kayla (the 19 year-old out lesbian from Aurora, Illinois) remembered being called “queer” by her classmates, but believes that the simple term “free” has helped her to break away (that is, break free) from such homophobic oppression. (That was touching and all, but my personal favorite was 24 year-old Arlington, Texas native Terra, who was dubbed “soup cooler” as a child because of her large and pouty lips. I am sorry that she was picked on, but that’s actually pretty amusing; I wish the bullies at my high school had been that clever!)These words were then painted on the models’ bodies to represent how they’ve been branded by these labels their entire lives, and they had to pose for their photos in a way that highlighted their struggles but also showed signs of perseverance and growth. Yes, the whole things sounds like it’s dripping with melodrama and cheap pathos, but that’s pretty much what many viewers, like myself, have come to simultaneously love and hate about ANTM.
What bothered me was that Anamaria was sent home, basically, because of her weight (which, ironically, had nothing to do with her photo shoot that focused more on her “buckteeth”). Whereas past contestants have fought to lose weight and avoid being deemed too “plus sized,” Anamaria’s problem is exactly the opposite. Anamaria is dangerously skinny. She is just barely over 100 pounds, and the bones of her body protrude at all angles. Even worse, this is not a natural outcome of genetics or a high metabolism, but strict dieting and calorie counting. Anamaria is determined to achieve optimal thinness, and she even revealed that she believes 135 pounds is too thick for a woman (!). After reviewing the pictures from her photo shoot, Tyra claimed that she was frightened to see how emaciated and unhealthy Anamaria looked on film. Thus, for what seemed like concern for her physical well-being, Anamaria was let go.
On the surface this appears to be the responsible approach to take; they would be best to eliminate her now, rather than keep her around for weeks and berate her over and over again about her size. However, I think there was an even more responsible choice Tyra Banks could have made: don’t put her on the show in the first place!!! Tyra, who has a direct role in the ANTM casting process, knew about Anamaria’s weight issues prior to that photo shoot. Even if Tyra claims that she did not literally see the effects of Anamaria’s gangly frame until her body was so visibly on display in a photograph, the application to compete in the semi/finals requires an applicant to list both her height and weight. The figures were undeniably there in print in front of Tyra. Furthermore, in Anamaria’s first semifinal interview with Tyra, she was asked to perform a runway walk wearing a skimpy two-piece bikini. As she walked across the room, I noticed her upper rib cage conspicuously poking out. I bet Tyra did, too.
Clearly, this is an insecure teenager suffering from a low self-image who is practically starving herself to achieve an unnatural, almost skeletal facade. Someone who is borderline anorexic and this abusive to herself is not going to benefit from being told that she is “too skinny” and that she needs to pack on more pounds (or, as Tyra awkwardly put it, that she needs to eat “some avocado and a little bit of bread with some butter on it”). Instead, Tyra should have acknowledged Anamaria’s troubles during the semifinals, discussed the matter with her in private, provided a small portion of whatever exorbitant amount of money she has made from ANTM and her former talk show to pay for intense psychotherapy, and then dismissed Anamaria. Letting Anamaria into the finals, despite her blatant malnourishment, and then dropping her immediately for a disorder-pathology you were cognizant of before her initial photo shoot is completely inappropriate and unprofessional. And to think, all of this went down in an episode that was meant to be centered on promoting self-esteem! How was tricking Anamaria into believing that she had a real chance at being crowed ANTM’s next winner and then informing her that she is too gauntly even for high fashion modeling supposed to enhance her self-esteem? Shame on you, Tyra.