It’s almost hard to believe, but when America’s Next Top Model premiered in 2003 on UPN -- yes, that was
a network until 2006 -- there were no major social media platforms. In fact,
social media as we know it didn’t even exist yet.
Facebook didn’t launch until 2004. Twitter followed two
years later, with platforms like Tumblr (2007), Instagram (2010), Pinterest
(2010), Snapchat (2011) and Vine (2013) to come over the next decade.
While Tyra Banks has always tried to keep America’s Next Top Model relevant -- introducing
new challenges and themes to fit the ever-evolving definition of a model or
Tyra’s own needs -- social media wasn’t a major component of the show until
cycle 19, when the public was allowed to vote and Bryanboy was added as a
social media correspondent.
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“The reason we’re still on the air is we’re always looking
for ways to push the envelope,” Tyra said
By cycle 22, which Nyle DiMarco would eventually win, the
contestants were competing in social media-inspired challenges, from
hashtag-themed photoshoots to “living photos” created by Flixel -- a company Tyra
invested in and featured heavily in cycle 21. Tyra scoured Instagram to find
would-be contestants with the best selfies and biggest followings. There was
even the web-only The Comeback Series,
which allowed audiences to vote on Facebook for which model they wanted to
return to the competition.
Along the way, Tyra, who calls herself “obsessed with
technology,” embraced social media, not only by investing in Flixel and
featuring it on her show, but becoming a user on platforms like Vine and
learning how to make GIFs. “You’ve seen me on Vine being the fool. It’s something
I enjoy myself,” Banks said in that
same interview. (Check out some of her best
Of course, over the past few years, modeling has evolved as
Instagram stars -- Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner among them -- have become the
faces of high-profile brands and campaigns, eventually going from filters to
the runway. And when Rebecca Romijn suggested to ET that they
weren’t true supermodels, Tyra came to the defense of Gigi, Kylie and
Instagram sensations alike.
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“We witness young girls on reality shows and super popular
girls on social media now being called Supermodels and think, ‘WHAT?! It’s not
fair! Is that kind of success even real?’ I’ve gotta be blunt. Yes. IT IS
REAL,” Tyra wrote
in an essay title “Model War.”
On cycle 23, now hosted by Rita Ora, social media scores may
be gone, but their presence is always felt, thanks to the emphasis that the
winner be a “triple B” -- that is, a boss, a brand and a business -- with
contestants constantly being reminded how something might play out on social
media. Even Instagram and Snapchat play a pivotal role on the show, with
contestants attempting their best poses on the platforms. In another episode, one model's prized selfie with Zendaya causes #squadgoals envy among the other girls.
Snapchat, which has reached a new level of popularity over
the past few years, plays a pivotal role in the latest episode of America’s Next Top Model -- and ET has
your first look.
DJ Khaled, a music personality and internet phenomenon, even
swings by to teach the contestants a few lessons about the platform. (His
popularity is largely due to his popular Snapchat videos, in which he embraces
life as a living meme.) “The fans and the people that’s going to support you,
they have to be connected to you. … We’re superstars, but the only way to do it
is to really be it, live it,” DJ Khaled tells the aspiring models before
sending them out on the streets of New York City wearing nothing but lingerie
to film Snapchat videos.
One pair of contestants prove they “get it” right away, with
a video that’s on message, on brand and authentic. “She’s being herself,” DJ
Khaled says. Yes, even Tyra would be proud.
America’s Next Top
Model airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on VH1.