After a yearlong hiatus — hey, even models need a break! — and a network switch, the fashion competition returns Tuesday at 10 p.m. on VH1, with host Rita Ora calling the shots. Here’s what else you can expect from this TV makeover.
1. Changing Channels
America’s Next Top Model has a whole lot of history. Following 12 years and 22 cycles on UPN and The CW, the competition went off the air in December 2015, but executive producer Ken Mok says there was still industry interest in the series. “Right away, a number of networks called and inquired about picking up the show,” says Mok. “CBS Studios took the show out [to other networks]. We had multiple offers.” Mok says they landed at VH1 due to the network’s “enthusiasm” and access to millennials. “We hadn’t been in the business of fashion for a minute, but it was an area we clearly wanted to be in,” says Nina Diaz, head of unscripted programming for VH1 and MTV. “It’s a tough space to develop. So when one of the greatest pop culture formats of all time was going to be available, in our minds it was a perfect fit.”
2. Bye-Bye, Banks
Try to smize through the tears: Tyra Banks has hung up her hosting heels. “I always like to leave the party before it’s over,” says Banks. But the famed supermodel and entrepreneur — who has a 10-month-old son, York, and her own cosmetics line, Tyra Beauty — is an EP and will still make appearances throughout the season. “I got a lot of babies in my life,” she says. “ANTM was my baby, and over the years it’s grown, learned to crawl, walk, and talk. With the VH1 revival, everything is getting a little shake-up, including the host.” Speaking of…
3. Hostess With the Mostest
With Banks stepping aside, producers turned to musician-actress-designer Rita Ora (Fifty Shades of Grey) because of her remarkable reach via the worlds of music, fashion, and social media. “As time has gone on and technology and social media have taken over, the definition of model has changed completely,” says Mok. “Models are as defined by their social-media presence as the number of shoots they’re doing. Models are music stars; they’re celebrities. It’s a wide range now.” For Ora, coming on board was an easy decision. “The producers just asked to meet me, and it ended up being a great brainstorming lunch. Being a fan of the show, I had questions. And I’m a big Tyra fan.” Joining Ora will be a brand-new judging panel: supermodel Ashley Graham, stylist Law Roach (he works with Celine Dion), and Paper Magazine chief creative officer Drew Elliott.
4. Challenging Behavior
While the bones of the series haven’t really been altered, production is decidedly trying to skew toward a younger demographic. In fact, this ANTM might as well be called ANTMM…as in America’s Next Top Millennial Model. “We wanted it to have that youthful attitude, edge, and vibe of the now,” says Diaz. For example, instead of being alerted to their daily activity via old-school Tyra Mail, the ladies will get Rita Alerts, which operate like Snapchat. In addition, the celebrity guests reflect a more youthful, influencer-focused crowd, with a roster including the likes of Zendaya, Chanel Iman, and DJ Khaled. The challenges will also push the contestants to look beyond simply modeling and into imagining their future as a brand. (One of the series’ new slogans is “Be Your Own Boss,” or “BYOB.”) “It’s finding more than just a beautiful photograph,” says Ora of ANTM‘s new motto for the winner. “If you think about all the most relevant supermodels today, with the Gigis and the Kendalls — these girls are stunning but have other ventures. It takes a lot more now to stand out and be remembered.” In other words, you gotta have more than just a great smize.