On Tuesday, Jan. 9, America’s Next Top Model returns to VH1 for its 24th cycle with a promise: to go next-level fierce, or go home.
With the return of former host and all-around boss Tyra Banks, it looks as if the seminal modelling competition will hold true to its promise. The legendary “Queen of the Smize” has a few surprises up her sequined-sleeve, and has already drummed up excitement for the new season by removing the show’s 27-year-old age limit.
In a video posted to her personal Twitter account, Banks explained why contestants of all ages are welcome to werk it.
“There have been 23 cycles of America’s Next Top Model, and every single cycle we say you have to be 27 years old or younger,” said Banks. “You know what I hear all the time? ‘Tyra, come on. Why have an age limit?’ So you know what? I’m taking that age limit off.”
— Tyra Banks (@tyrabanks) April 1, 2017
Critics and fans have lauded this decision to make Top Model even more inclusive. Over 23 cycles, the show became known for its proclivity to push boundaries in the modelling industry and ditch antiquated beauty standards. From the beginning, Banks featured plus-sized models and LGBT contestants. One cycle three contestant was legally blind, but that didn’t prevent her from taking “the most gorgeous photos,” according to Banks. This season, a 44-year-old competitor and a grandmother will compete for the crown, among others.
Watch the super trailer:
I’ve watched Top Model since it debuted in 2003, when I was 5-foot-8-inch preteen and had vague aspirations of becoming the next Kate Moss. Watching the reality show gave me a reality check—modelling seemed like the most glamorous job in the world, but I learned after one season that the lifestyle involved waking before sunrise, getting lost in Tokyo on the way to casting calls and living in close quarters with girls who would, more often than not, snoop through your possessions and steal your granola bars. This perspective allowed me to reconsider my dreams and find my true passion in writing (while still devouring episodes of Top Model like sugar-free Luna Bars).
In 2008, I watched as Isis King made her debut as the first transgender contestant, giving trans women a platform on mainstream TV before stars like Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner. Ten years later, trans models are becoming runway fixtures, and trans women such as Amanda Lepore and Carmen Carrera (a RuPaul’s Drag Race alum) are some of the most sought-after models in the industry.
I’m looking forward to seeing fan-favorite drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race’s complement Top Model’s climate of inclusivity—as well as camp and vogue. “It’s the queer culture that truly bonds both reality competitions,” writes Out Magazine columnist Damian Bellino.
And Banks is more than ready to share the crown with these queens, telling Entertainment Weekly “They’re so friggin’ gorgeous and can pose their asses off.”
Top Model joins a slate of top-tier VH1 programming ringing in the New Year. Nearly 2 million viewers tuned in for the debut of Love & Hip Hop: Miami, the latest iteration of cable’s “no. 1 unscripted series,” according to a VH1 press release. At the end of the month, we can look forward to a 90-minute, explosive season 2 premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.