Celebrity super model Tyra Banks
was the creator and host of this glamorous series in which aspiring models vied to win a grand prize consisting of a management contract with Wilhelmina Models, a cosmetics contract with Revlon and a fashion spread in ‘Marie Claire’ magazine. After a nation wide search the field was narrowed down to ten hopefuls who lived together in a New York City penthouse while they competed. Viewers saw the girls preparing for both photo shoots and runway work (hair, makeup, exercise, wardrobe selection, auditioning, etc.) taking acting lessons and attending various social functions, as well as the usual squabbling and cat fights caused by their competitive natures and the natures and the communal living arrangement. At the end of each episode one of them was eliminated. Ms. Banks handed out photos to the survivors, telling them, “You are still in the running towards becoming America’s Next Top Model” and critiqued the last two before revealing the week’s loser. Regular judges were Ms. Banks, caustic former super model Janice Dickinson, critical ‘Marie Claire’ fashion editor Beau Quillian and former model and current head designer for Baby Phat urban clothing, Kimora Lee Simmons. In addition to the regular judges, there was a weekly guest judge, sometimes the show’s runway coach J. Alexander or its flamboyant makeup artist / art director Jay Manuel and other times celebrities from the fashion world.
In the first week there was a swimwear photo shoot on the roof of a New York high-rise in freezing weather. In subsequent episodes the models acted in a contact lens commercial and did photo shoots with a live snake, for a Reebok ad, for ‘Staff’ magazine, for Wonderbra at the Eiffel Tower in Paris and when it was down to the final four, a nude layout for which two of the girls refused to disrobe. The two finalists strutted their stuff, along with other professional models, at Kimora’s Baby Phat fashion show during New York’s Fashion Week. Adrianne Curry, a 20-year old waitress form Joliet, Illinois, was the winner.
‘America’s Next Top Model’ returned for its second cycle with a dozen new hopefuls competing for the crown. The winner’s prizes this time around were a management contract with IMG Models (Banks agency), a Sephora Cosmetics catalogue cover and a fashion spread in ‘Jane’ magazine. Tall, intense Yoanna House, a 23-year-old fashion model from Jacksonville won the competition.
The third cycle, in the fall of 2004 saw more than 10,000 women audition with 14 making it to the semi-finals. Eva Pigford, a 20-year-old college student from Los Angeles, took home the grand prize, which this time around (and for the next three seasons), consisted of a management contract with Ford Models, a $100,000 contract with Covergirl cosmetics and a spread in ‘Elle’ magazine. There were no changes in number of semi-finalists or judges for the spring 2005 edition of ‘America’s Next Top Model’ but, unlike the previous editions, this time the girls lived in a mansion in Los Angeles where the show had relocated after three seasons in New York. The winner was Naima Mora, a 20-year-old coffee shop waitress from Detroit.
That fall the fifth cycle gave 13 aspiring models the opportunity to compete. On the judging former 1960s model Twiggy Lawson took over for the departed Janice Dickinson. Nicole Linkletter, a 19-year-old student from Grand Forks, North Dakota, walked away with the title. The spring 2006 cycle was won by Danielle Evans, a 20-year-old coffee shop waitress from Detroit.
Cycle 7 brought another change in the makeup of the grand prize. The winner still got a $100,000 contract with Covergirl cosmetics, but the other prizes were now a contract with Elite Model magazine. Cari Dee English, a 22-year-old photographer from Fargo, North Dakota, who had overcome skin disease, took home the prizes. In the spring of 2007 the eighth cycle winner was Jaslene Gonzales, a 20-year-old online college admissions advisor from Chicago.
In the ninth cycle premiere, the 33 semi-finalists competition took place on a Caribbean cruise where the final 13 were chosen. The winner of a couture runway challenge went to Paris and the rest of the ladies attended a rock-climbing wall photo shoot. The winner of another challenge won a makeup photo shoot directed by Mary J. Blige. They participated in an Enrique Iglesias music video where one model collapsed from exhaustion. They posed jumping off trampolines, on tops of buildings as gargoyles, in the desert and wrote speeches for charity public service announcements. The season finished in Beijing with the three finalists shooting a photo and commercial for Covergirl. The winner was Adrianne Curry of Joliet, Illinois.
At the start of Season 10 J. Alexander and Jay Manuel welcomed 35 girls and Paulina Porizkova the new judge was introduced. They competed on the runway, posed for class photos, and attended a conference with the judges and 14 finalists were chosen and moved into a New York City apartment. They modeled lingerie, meat products, posed in the water and networked amongst fashion industry moguls. Halfway through the season the remaining models flew to Rome and were presented the challenge of filming a commercial in Italian and did a shoot as gladiators with swords in an old Roman castle. The winner Whitney Thomson from Atlantic Beach, Florida won a contract with Elite Model Management and Covergirl, as well as a spread in Seventeen Magazine.
Cycle eleven saw 30 aspiring models cut back to 14 and in Europe the competition was whittled down to three who competed in a cosmetics commercial with the final two walking a winding runway to determine the winner. The challenge winner received an advertorial in Seventeen magazine. Supermodel Susan Holmes guided the models through a swimsuit-themed photo shoot. The winner Brittany “McKey” Sullivan received a management deal with Elite Model Management, a $100,000 contract with cosmetics company CoverGirl, and a cover story and six-page fashion spread in an issue of Seventeen magazine.
34 contestants arrived at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas at the beginning of cycle twelve and after a photo shoot competition, the judges chose 13 finalists who moved to the model loft in New York City where there was only room for 12. Toccara Jones, the winner of season 3 stopped by for a slumber party and to offer modeling business advice. They had have a photo shoot on stage with the singer Ciara and singer Clay Aiken appeared as a guest judge. In Säo Paulo, Brazil they learned how to samba with Paulina Porizkova and the final four were adorned as exotic birds for a photo shoot. The final three contestants competed in magazine photo shoot and a runway show and the winner Teyona Anderson of Woodstown, New Jersey won a $100,000 contract with Covergirl cosmetics and a 6-page spread in Seventeen magazine.
Cycle thirteen’s premiere in September 2009 quickly eliminated all but 14 of the competitors, this time the aspiring models were all five-foot seven or shorter. Numerous models appeared as guest judges as well as Kim Kardashian and Kirsty Hume making appearances as guest judges.
In Las Vegas the girls did a photo shoot inspired by Cirque du Soleil and then it was off to Hawaii where they took surfing lessons and jumped off cliffs during a photo shoot. The final four contestants took hula lessons to channel Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes.
The winner of cycle 13 was Nicole Fox and the runner up was Laura Kirkpatrick. Cycle 14 was won by Krista White with Raina Hein the runner up. Cycle 15 the winner was Ann Ward with runner up Chelsey Hersley.
On February 16, 2010, The CW renewed the show for a 15th and 16th cycle.