“America’s Next Top Model” has changed a lot in recent years. Yes, the basic formula remains the same — around 15 wannabe models live in a house and are put through a variety of photo shoots and challenges, both silly and spectacular, as they are whittled down to one winner, who sometimes goes on to medium-sized fame after the show.
But Monday’s (Jan. 2) episode perfectly encapsulates how “ANTM” has changed with the changing pop culture landscape.
The two challenges in the “Major Key Alert” episode both revolve around social media. Now, the show has definitely used social media in the past, even letting viewers vote on Facebook while the show was filming and factoring fan votes into the elimination.
But we can’t remember a time when both the challenge and the photo shoot were so intertwined with the hippest social media platforms.
The challenge involved sending Snapchat messages and while a couple of a girls weren’t quite sure about how to use Snapchat, nearly all of them felt right at home in the challenge, effortlessly slipping into model-y poses and walks while sending out their messages of love, beauty and empowerment. In fact, it appeared as though they didn’t even need very many takes to nail their videos, which speaks to some practiced Snapchatters who feel comfortable using that medium.
The photo shoot, meanwhile, felt even more current because the ladies were tasked with creating an Instagram story using three photos that they took themselves. They didn’t have to be selfies, the girls could photograph each other, but there was no professional photographer around to stage their shots and make sure their lighting was perfect. It was all down to how experienced the girls were with Instagram and the answer is — very.
Only a couple girls fared poorly on this challenge and it wasn’t because they weren’t familiar with the social medium platform. They just didn’t choose great photos and their narratives got a little lost.
Now, the argument can be made that the episode felt a little like “the poor man’s ‘America’s Next Top Model,” because obviously there was very little money involved in handing the girls cell phones and sending them off to shoot their own photos and videos.
But it also perfectly captures how someone can be famous today. “Instagram model” is now a thing, as is “Vine star,” though Twitter has now disabled uploading on the service. But for a couple of years, there were Vine celebrities. Musicians are discovered on YouTube without any help from a major recording label.
Are these Snapchat videos and Instagram photos going to land these ladies on the cover of Vogue? Well, probably not — but that didn’t really happen 10 years ago on “ANTM” when they were booking famous photographers like Patrik Giardino and Joseph Cultice.
But these types of challenges may be helping the contestants gain more real-world tools to use after their time on the show. And the younger-skewing vibe isn’t hurting the ratings. So far Cycle 23 is averaging slightly higher ratings than the previous two cycles, both in total viewers and in the coveted 18-49 demo. Granted, the sample size is small — as of publication, there are only ratings available for three episodes. But neither the move to VH1 nor the “ANTM” makeover appears to be hurting the franchise.
So, viewers who have been here since the days of Adrianne Curry and YaYa DaCosta, it’s time to brush up on your Snapchat, Instagram and Tumblr. Because the “ANTM” train has left the station.