Tomorrow, America’s Next Top Model returns to the CW for it’s 23rd season “cycle.” (That number is approximate.) Tyra Banks, God bless her, is an entertainer. Perhaps not in the manner in which she envisions, but an entertainer nonetheless. While some may beweep ANTM’s outcast state, for me every worsening edition is the lark at break of day arising, singing hymns at heaven’s gate. For when something goes from good to bad, to really bad, to unbelievably bad, we somehow cycle (ha!) back around to an art form that is nothing more or less than pure poetry. Hence the Shakespeare.
Back when I believed myself better than the pure poetry that is Tyra Banks, I became sick. A nasty head cold, mild fever, the kind of sick where you can’t sleep but you can’t do anything productive, either. You’re caught in limbo. Until you find an ANTM marathon on VH1 and suddenly you find out what heaven is like. “Who is the man with silver hair?” you ask, your voice ethereal as it drifts through heaven’s misty clouds. “He is our spirit guide,” the angels whisper back. “And creative director, Jay Manuel.”
A few months after my discovery of ANTM I found myself on a night much like tonight, knowing that in a couple of days, the insanity would begin again. I slipped off to sleep, and there a dream overtook me.
I dreamed that I was me, and yet I was also a contestant on America’s Next Top Model. The other girls were as stupid and tall and skinny and mean as they always are, but I was confident. Jay Manuel, our “creative director,” gathered us for a challenge. Oddly, the challenge had nothing to do with modeling. Rather, it was our job to draw a picture. “Sweet!” I thought. “This challenge is really playing to my strengths.”
I drew a picture of a steam locomotive climbing a hill. It was a picture full of verve and ferocity. Jay was most pleased, especially as the other contestants had failed miserably. Right then and there, before all the rest of the girls, Jay turned to me and said, “you’re short, you’re fat, and you’re old, but you can TOTALLY do this.” I looked over at the others, haughty superiority in my eyes. “That’s right, chicas,” I silently communicated to them. “I can TOTALLY do this.”