I have never been much of a reality television viewer, and any lingering desire I may have had to watch reality shows disappeared after I read Jennifer Pozner’s Reality Bites Back earlier this year. But as soon as I heard about the new season of America’s Next Top Model, I realized I had to give it a shot. That’s because Cycle 18 of ANTM features not one, but TWO openly queer women. And one of them is bi-identified Laura LaFrate.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be sent to a nonsensical, exclusive modeling school where girls acquire magical powers that allow them to convince people to buy useless products? Me neither. But Tyra Banks has.
I’ve watched America’s Next Top Model intermittently over the years. I can’t really say why. I was never that interested in fashion magazines, which seemed to me to depict another planet altogether, accessible only to the very rich. I have, furthermore, never much understood the fascination with models. Understand that when I say that I am not trying to make any claims about the difficulty of the work they do - I don’t "hate models" or anything so broad as that. It’s just that they don’t seem to hold for me the kind of visceral fascination they do for other people.
I admit I do have one philosophical objection to modeling. I simply do not know how we are going to build a world where everyone is valued if we keep insisting that no, really, some people are more valuable than others. Particularly if we do so on bases over which they have little individual control - such as being socially "attractive," meeting the critical mass of "pretty" that will get you on magazine covers and sigh-ingly acknowledged, by almost everyone, as "gorgeous." I don’t see how that strain of the cultural conversation benefits anyone in the slightest.