Smizing, Crying, And OMG Why-ing Facts About America’s Next Top Model

Brendan Da Costa

Long before Ru Paul was crowning queens, there was another supermodel of the world bestowing titles to would-be stars. Of course, we’re talking about Tyra Banks and her brainchild, America’s Next Top Model. Spanning 24 cycles and 15 years, ANTM has given pop culture an assortment of meme-able, cringe-worthy and iconic moments. In no particular order, here are 50 of the moments that kept audiences “smizing.”

1. Where’s My Crown?

ANTM’s long run all started with Adrianne Curry…kind of. The Cycle 1 winner had to endure photoshoots with snakes (gross) on her way to the big “W”—and after she won, she had a rude awakening. According to Curry, after winning the inaugural cycle of the hit television series, she never received the contract with Revlon or Wilhelmina Models that she had been promised.

When she called the show’s producers about it, they politely ghosted her. At least she got to keep her crown…

2. Top to Bottom

Angelea Preston originally appeared on Cycle 14 of America’s Next Top Model, where she placed third overall. She was later invited back for Cycle 17—the all-star cycle—and this time, she meant business…until she was disqualified. Preston later confirmed that she had actually won the competition only to have her “Top Model” designation snatched away.

The reason for her disqualification was quite scandalous…

3. Top Model for Hire

Unless you are a supermodel, chances are that posing for photographs in designer clothing won’t cover your bills. Just ask Angelea Preston. After appearing on Cycle 14, Preston said that it was difficult to get booked and she had to find…alternative means of employment. Preston revealed that the reason for her disqualification from Cycle 17 was that she had worked as an escort.

ANTM shouldn’t have been so quick to judge though…

4. No-Fly List

Getting through airport security should be a breeze for reality TV stars, particularly when those stars are drop dead gorgeous models. Instead, for the Cycle 3 finalists who traveled to Tokyo, getting through the airport was no catwalk. In fact, the finalists were detained at the airport and barred entry to Japan on suspicion of being sex workers.

I guess the Japanese TSA didn’t watch the show.

5. Eat It

When Cycle 3’s finalists finally made it into Japan, they were required to act out a commercial in front of the judging panel. In the commercial, the contestants had to sample umeboshi—pickled fruit. If that sounds disgusting to you, you’re not alone. After acting out a great commercial, Yaya DaCosta was asked to eat the umeboshi. The model struggled visibly to keep her composure before finally just spitting the pickled fruit out. No one said this job was easy…

6. As Easy As “ABC”

Modeling is tough work. You have to like, pose and be pretty and stuff. But don’t ask Cycle 1’s Elyse Sewell. According to the top modeling brainiac—she has a BA in both Spanish and Biology—there couldn’t be anything easier. Sewell has been quoted as saying, “Modeling is the easiest job in the world. I can’t imagine something that’s less taxing, emotionally and mentally.”

Easy though it might be, not all of the contestants fared so well under the pressure…

7. “Model” Behavior

To say that ANTM has produced many a meltdown would be an understatement—I don’t think a single episode passed without a model bursting into tears. None of those meltdowns, however, were as glorious to watch as one in particular. In Cycle 8, contestant Brittany Hatch was late for a challenge and disqualified, sending her into a toddler-style tantrum.

Hatch threw down her portfolio, cursed loudly, and told a fellow model to “shut up.”…all within earshot of the challenge judges. But that was just child’s play…

8. “Rude” the Day

Taking criticism from the ANTM judging panel can’t be easy—it’s like being cross-examined by fashion fascists. No one would know this better than Cycle 18’s Louise Watts. After judge Kelly Cutrone accused Watts of being “condescending” on set, Watts fired back, calling the fashion PR heavyweight “rude”. The exchange escalated until Watts fled the sound stage and quit the competition.

But Cutrone wasn’t finished with Watts yet…

9. Cancel Cutrone

Despite being a judge on four cycles of ANTM, Kelly Cutrone isn’t a household name. Her biggest claim to fame now is as a cyberbully. After the episode of her and Louise Watts’ exchange aired on television, Cutrone posted a video online in which she and a gaggle of other women verbally attacked Watts. A quick gander of the comments section shows that Cutrone could use some PR work of her own as her actions have been widely denounced.

10. Cut Short

The America’s Next Top Model makeovers—dubbed “Ty-overs”—have been the cause of at least half of the tears shed on the show. Tyra Banks and the ANTM producers just loved playing Barbie with their model contestants…until one girl said no. Cycle 5’s Cassandra Whitehead had her hair cut into a pixie cut that she did not like.

When Tyra Banks threatened to cut it shorter, Whitehead quit the competition. Hair, at least, grows back…

11. Skin of Her Teeth

The tears shed during the Ty-overs because of chopped locks of hair, bad dye jobs, and tight weaves could fill an ocean. But all of the theatrics and histrionics seem a little overdone—none of the makeovers are permanent…or are they? During the makeovers, Cycle 15’s runner-up, Chelsey Hersley, had her natural front tooth gap widened by two millimeters.

She did not shed a tear. The next model should have…

12. Mo-vember, No-vember

The male models on ANTM were not given a hall pass on the makeover episodes…though they should have been. Despite having far less hair on their heads, the ANTM production team still managed to give them cringe-worthy Ty-overs. Probably the worst of those of makeovers was that of Cycle 21’s Denzel Wells. Wells was given a weave…on his face.

For his Ty-over, the makeup team put a fake-looking lace front weave on Wells’ chin as a beard. He looked decidedly un-model-esque.

13. A Photo to Faint for

Louise Watts wasn’t the only ANTM contestant to crack under the pressure of the judging panel. Cycle 4’s Rebecca Epley was receiving positive feedback for her photo from that week’s shoot when suddenly, disaster struck. Epley hit the floor like a ton of bricks. Epley fainted in front of the judges and sent the ANTM production team into a mad scramble.

Turns out, Epley was ok and said that fainting spells were something that she had been dealing with her whole life. The next model to take a fall was less graceful…

14. If at First You Fall…

A strong walk can either make or break a model’s career. But the catwalk is no cakewalk and taking a stumble every now and again is almost expected. A stumble. Cycle 14’s Alexandra Underwood, however, took two big spills during a runway challenge. The model tripped going down the stairs and was subsequently knocked off the runway by a swinging pendulum.

She ended up with an injured knee and torn dress…and reality TV infamy.

15. Making a Splash

ANTM has had more guest celebrities over its 24 cycles than stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—well, not actually, but you get the idea. Meeting all of those famous people must be super exciting for the would-be top models…too exciting. At a party, Cycle 8’s Jael Strauss was so excited to meet rapper 50 Cent that she just couldn’t stop buzzing around him like an annoying bee—so he made a shocking move.

The rapper unexpectedly pushed her into the pool. It was a shocking moment. but it looked playful on camera.

16. The Burning Bush

Lisa D’Amato is one of the biggest personalities—and successes—to come out of ANTM. Graduating from the class of Cycle 5 and winning Cycle 17, D’Amato has had some, should we say, memorable moments. Like that one time that she had a full-blown conversation with “Cousin It.” No, no. Not the lovable furball from The Addams Family but a giant Pampas Grass bush growing in the backyard of the ANTM models’ mansion.

It did not respond to her. And her antics were just getting started…

17. Not the Face!

As a model, your face is your money maker. Sure, your body and personality matter but they don’t help cure a “butterface.” Lisa D’Amato must have been quite panicked then when she injured herself in a freak accident. In 2013, the unimaginable happened to D’Amato when she landed on her face while doing a handstand. The model totally crushed her face, from forehead to chin and had to receive facial reconstruction surgery.

Maybe next time she’ll wear a helmet—she has experience with, erm, protective equipment…

18. Nature Calls

You’re a model stuck on set for hours upon hours. There’s only one washroom and like…a hundred other models who have been hogging it for hours. What are you to do? Why, use a diaper of course. Lisa D’Amato actually urinated into a diaper to the shock and horror of the other contestants of ANTM’s Cycle 5. Her excuse was that she wanted to see if it worked.

Thank heavens it did. No one was mopping that up. She wasn’t the only model, however, who had the other contestants fleeing in horror…

19. Clean & Clear & Out of Control

As a model, one of your biggest assets is your skin. Having clear skin makes it just that much easier to get the perfect shot—it’s like a photographer’s canvas. So you could probably imagine the horror of Michelle Deighton from Cycle 4 when some mysterious blemishes appeared on her face. After a trip to the doctor, Deighton was diagnosed with impetigo, a highly contagious bacterial infection.

Thankfully, it’s also easily cured and a course of antibiotics had her skin radiant again in no time.

20. Carcass Couture

Years before Lady Gaga made headlines with her meat dress, the models of ANTM had already been over that trend. In one of the strangest and grossest photoshoots in ANTM history, the contestants of Cycle 9 had to pose with and wearing meat…Just FYI, a smelly animal carcass does not a high fashion photo make. And the photoshoots just got weirder…

21. The Wrong Shade of Makeup

Over the years, ANTM has had some…questionable photoshoots. With Tyra Banks as a producer from the show’s inception, one might expect a certain level of “wokeness.” Cycle 4’s “different ethnicities” photoshoot was anything but woke, however. The controversial photoshoot saw the models pose as people of a different race.

Apart from reinforcing stereotypes, models were painted in blackface, whiteface, and everything else in between. And race wasn’t the only topic treated with casual disregard…

22. Mix & Match

Cultural symbols are sacred to a lot of people—whether it’s a Native American headdress, a Caribbean Carnival costume or an American bald eagle. To say that one should tread lightly while adopting these symbols should go without saying…unless you’re talking to an ANTM producer. Cycle 13 sparked controversy when models were asked to pose with “mixed” cultural symbols.

While the photoshoot sparked heated debate, the message was actually quite powerful. Nevertheless, matters of race and culture plagued the show…

23. Race Relations

It’s not at all uncommon for models to have to work with people that they aren’t fond of. A demanding photographer, a picky designer…a prejudiced co-star. Cycle 7’s Jaeda Young displayed a level of professionalism that is inconceivable when she had to pose with a male model who said flat out that he “didn’t like black girls.”

I guess no one told him that he was on Tyra Banks’ show. Young wasn’t the only contestant, however, who had to pose with a loser…

24. #ModelsToo

During a photoshoot, Cycle 4’s Keenyah Hill had her very own #MeToo moment long before Twitter was even a thing. While posing with a male model for a racy photoshoot, Hill’s counterpart touched her inappropriately and grunted in her ear. After the shoot, the jerk harassed Hill for her phone number—but it got worse from there.

When Hill complained to the ANTM production team, their response was underwhelming. ANTM’s male model extras caused problems for other girls too…

25. Cheater, Cheater

Working as a model means that you’re surrounded by very attractive people all of the time. Temptation lurks behind—or underneath—every designer outfit. Shandi Sullivan from Cycle 2 of America’s Next Top Model knows this all too well…During the competition, Sullivan cheated on her boyfriend with a male model and instantly regretted it.

The worst part: her tearful confession over the phone was captured on camera for the entire world to see…forever.

26. Puppy Love

Some people search high and low for that special someone that they want to spend the rest of their lives with. Most people never find their soulmate. And then there’s Cycle 20’s winner, Jourdan Miller. The ANTM alum wasn’t just married when she was 18—she was also divorced. According to Miller, the relationship was abusive and she got out and on to better things…like being America’s Next Top Model.

27. Silly Sabotage

The competition on America’s Next Top Model wasn’t always, how should we say…sportsmanlike. While there was plenty of bickering back and forth between contestants, some of the models resorted to hostile tactics—and one was particularly disturbing. Cycle 5’s Jayla Rubinelli just might have been the worst of the saboteurs.

Her dirtiest trick was giving medication to Bre Scullark that made her drowsy during the photoshoot. The joke was on Rubinelli, however. She was eliminated that same week.

28. Trans-aggression

In Cycle 17, Isis King became the first-ever transgender competitor on America’s Next Top Model. To say that King faced discrimination would be an understatement—hard to believe the progress that’s been made since 2008. While most of the discrimination and hatred was expressed verbally, there was some…physical bullying.

While all of the contestants were in the jacuzzi, Hannah White pushed King in a moment that is so cringe-inducing it is downright shuddering. Fortunately, King kept her cool and just floated to another end of the jacuzzi. Other contestants, however, got on maybe too well…

29. Keep Your Friends Close…

While Rubinelli was busy trying to sabotage other contestants, Sarah Rhoades and Kimberly Stolz were getting, erm, acquainted. The two contestants shared a kiss on the ride to their ANTM home and things were only getting started. Security camera footage later captured the two making out in bed. We don’t know what happened next but I can’t imagine that it was in keeping with ANTM’s largely family-friendly fun.

30. Nice Digs

One of the perks of competing on ANTM is that you get to stay in a super swanky mansion. The contestants on Cycle 10, for example, stayed in a $6 million apartment in Manhattan…and trashed it. According to the owner of the property, the models destroyed a $15,000 chandelier while the film team had left countless holes in the ceiling. The damage totaled $500,000, but the owner only got a quarter of that from production…yikes.

31. Silence, I Say

We’re all familiar with the many expressions and catchphrases that Tyra Banks has come up with throughout ANTM’s long run. But the supermodel turned mogul isn’t the only one to have uttered quotable lines on ANTM. Aminat Ayinde of Cycle 12, for example, coined a phrase that we can all use to silence our haters: “Keep it cute or put it on mute!”

32. Just Do It

Modeling doesn’t come easy to everyone. However, Cycle 16’s winner, Brittany Kline, was a natural. During a photoshoot, photographer Nigel Barker asked the top model what she was thinking while she was striking her poses. Kline’s response was priceless. While continuing to deliver Vogue-worthy poses, Kline quipped back, “I don’t think, I just do.”

33. Model, Bus, Push

Certainly, one of the most cringe-inducing moments in America’s Next Top Model history was in Cycle 12 when Celia Ammerman tried to throw Tahlia Brookins under the bus. Ammerman got up in front of the judging panel to announce that Brookins had voiced reservations about remaining in the competition to the other contestants.

In an uncomfortable lecture, Tyra Banks said that Brookins had said nothing to the judges and dismissed Ammerman and told her, “Don’t mess with a girl’s money.”

34. Critique or Criticism?

The ANTM judging panel is at times fair, harsh, and hilarious. While Simon Cowell has never appeared to lend his particular brand of “blunt honesty,” other judges have had their shady moments. In Cycle 2, judge Nolé Marin commented on one of Xiomara Frans’ photographs by saying that she looked like a “walrus wearing chiffon.” I mean…I don’t know if that’s helpful or hurtful. The next judge, however, was just hilarious…

35. Janice’s Little Black Book

Janice Dickinson was only a judge on ANTM for a fraction of its runtime but she left her mark in a big way. During a dinner with the contestants, the former supermodel tried to impart—in her own Dickinson-ian way—some industry wisdom to Gina Choe. Perhaps it was a trick of editing or perhaps it was just Janice Dickinson being Janice Dickinson, but the judge eventually told Choe, “Zip it. You’re dead in my book.” Needless to say, Choe did not win.

36. Beauty, Inside & Out

The mental health of a model is just as important as their physical health—it’s a pretty brutal industry on the models’ psyche. Tiffany Richardson was turned down from Cycle 3 of America’s Next Top Model because of mental health issues. Tyra Banks and the rest of the production team, however, apparently believed so much in Richardson that CW paid for her to receive treatment.

Richardson, apparently, suffered from anger management issues. Which is ironic because…

37. Enter the Tyra-Zilla

Perhaps the most iconic moment from ANTM’s prolonged run was the rampage of Tyra-Zilla. The now-iconic moment began when Tiffany Richardson was eliminated from Cycle 4. Richardson refused to shed a tear, looking at the glass as half full. Her sunny disposition was interpreted as nonchalance by Banks and the rest is YouTube clip history.

Banks shouted at Richardson, at one point claiming that she had never yelled at another girl that way…she normally just breathes fire.

38. Three Stooges No More

Shouting at contestants wasn’t even the shadiest thing that Tyra Banks did while working on America’s Next Top Model. Not…by…a…long…shot. Photographer Nigel Barker, runway coach J. “Miss J” Alexander, and creative director Jay Manuel were all part of ANTM from the very beginning. They were each part of what made the show special…until they weren’t.

Tyra Banks fired her co-stars due to slumping ratings. And they weren’t the only ones struck down by Tyra-Zilla’s axe…

39. Happy Birthday, Go Home

Paulina Porizkova was a judge on ANTM for three cycles. The former Czechoslovakian supermodel has posed on two Sports Illustrated covers and was dubbed the “model of the 1980s.” Suffice to say, no one disrespects Porizkova…except Tyra Banks. Porizkova revealed that she was fired from the judging panel of ANTM over the phone…on her birthday. She should have seen it coming…

40. Tyra-Zilla Strikes Again

Before he was president, Donald Trump was most famous for saying, “You’re fired.” He might have borrowed those words, however, from Tyra Banks. Janice Dickinson was fired from America’s Next Top Model after four cycles, sparking a feud between Banks and Dickinson. During the feud, Dickinson was quoted as saying that Banks, “fired everybody, she’ll keep firing people, she’s soulless, she’s heartless, and she’s cold.” They’ve since made nice.

41. Detox D’Amato

Lisa D’Amato’s antics in Cycle 5 earned her a reputation as a wild child but she had a good excuse. During the time of filming in Cycle 5, D’Amato was dealing with some inner demons. D’Amato later revealed that she had a drinking problem and even appeared on Celebrity Rehab. She appears to be doing better now and is married with two kids.

42. She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

Models really do have the pick of the litter—with killer looks and bank accounts to match, they can snag anyone they want. Just think of Gisele Bündchen who married Tom Brady. Perhaps Cycle 3 winner, Eva Pigford, now Eva Marcille, was waiting for her own pro footballer. The top model was engaged to actor Lance Gross before breaking that off and moving on to rapper Flo Rida.

She ended it when the word “marriage” reared its ugly head.

43. I’m Having a Vision…

Speaking of dating celebrities…AzMarie Livingston appeared on Cycle 18 of America’s Next Top Model, a special cycle that featured American and British models. Livingston didn’t fare particularly well in her cycle—she finished ninth—but she went on to a success of a different kind. Livingston dated That’s So Raven’s Raven Symoné for almost three years between 2012 and 2015. You can now find her on Empire.

44. Model Smackdown

Michelle Deighton’s most notable achievement on ANTM’s Cycle 4 was battling impetigo. After that, however, the model was doing battle of a different kind. Deighton, best known for striking poses, was striking down opponents instead. She appeared on WWE Tough Enough and WWE Raw in 2011. And Deighton wasn’t done with reality TV yet…

45. House of ANTM-Survivor

America’s Next Top Model is reality TV history—its cultural legacy is cemented in place. Yet, for all that it is legendary, it is nothing compared to Survivor. Bringing those two shows together, however, would be like creating a reality TV empire. That’s almost what happened when Michelle Deighton married Survivor’s greatest villain, Jonny Fairplay.

The two have a daughter together and we expect her to rule reality TV as a cutthroat model.

46. Triple Trouble

Most of the ANTM alums have gone on to lead moderately or wildly successful lives after their time on reality TV. Even those who struggled to find their way seem to have found some light at the end of the tunnel. Sadly, this can’t be said for Cycle 21’s Mirjana Puhar. The model was one of the victims in a triple homicide.

47. Model Mother

News of Angelea Preston’s unceremonious de-crowning after her disqualification from Cycle 17 is hard enough to take without knowing what the model sacrificed for the win. Preston revealed that she had lost a daughter prior to appearing on Cycle 14 and that she had spent a night sleeping in the washroom of a bus terminal just so she could audition for America’s Next Top Model. Methinks the girl deserves her Top Model win.

48. Model Down

Jael Strauss first stood out on her cycle of America’s Next Top Model when she was pushed into a pool by rapper 50 Cent…and times only got tougher from there. After the show, Strauss became dealt with a substance misuse problem. After a family intervention that was featured on an episode of Dr. Phil, Strauss managed to get sober…but there was a heartbreaking twist.

Soon after, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Strauss succumbed to her diagnosis two months later.

49. It’s Just a Show

Jade Cole was the outspoken model of ANTM’s Cycle 6. After famously quipping, “This is not America’s Next Top Best Friend,” Cole has continued to speak her mind…openly. She was invited to return for the all-star cycle but declined. In a tweet, Cole commented about the contestants, “These girls are all idiots for signing the most ri·dic·u·lous and [one sided] contract ever!!…These girls just signed [there] Rights and Life away! Best of Luck to them cause they sure are going to need it!”

50. A Model Prisoner?

It’s a long way down from the top of the model heap. No one would know this better than Cycle 8’s Renee Alway. Alway made it to the top three of her cycle and then it all came crashing down. In 2013, the America’s Next Top Model alum was detained following a prolonged armed standoff with law enforcement. Her offense? Possession, burglary, theft, and fraud…amongst others.

51. You Want to be On Top?

In an interview with ABC News’ Nightline while serving her 12-year sentence, Renee Alway had some very good advice for former reality TV stars…and everyone else. “Regardless of whether you win or not, you have to recognize the strength in yourself and be able to be proud of who you are, regardless of what other people think.” Now that’s model attitude.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70

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