Back in 2004 I was doing what a lot of kids try out: modeling.
I stumbled upon this show called "America's Next Top Model" and fell in love with the format of the show, and watching these beautiful women take beautiful photos. As a kid, I would pretend with my neighbors and family that we were doing ANTM photo shoots all the time.
Now that I'm an adult, ANTM has just finished its 22nd cycle and possibly it's last, and I still get teased for loving this show. There are many reasons people think I'm weird for still watching this show, whose prime seasons were around 2007-2008. It's overly dramatic, a lot of the people seem over the top or very immature, tears on tears on tears, hook-ups, and overall insanity sometimes.
While that is all true, can't the same thing be said about most reality TV competitions? What makes ANTM stand out to me is that Tyra made these women look strong and feel beautiful. She has always had a message of acceptance and beauty in the "weird" or "unconventional" and it's something that has stuck with me even though I no longer model.
Cycle 3's Toccara Jones was the first plus-size model on the show and made me feel better about myself and my family not being stick skinny like other girls.
You've probably seen this gif or video if you're anywhere on Facebook, Tumblr, social media in general. Cycle 4 brought us an angry Tyra, that showed she cares for these girls, what it means to have a good attitude and how to take responsibility for yourself.
Kim Stolz was the first openly gay contestant in 2005. She reminds me of today's Ruby Rose, beautifully between masculine and feminine.
Jaslene Gonzales and Anchal Joseph showed me that people that looked like me could be beautiful too. Growing up in a predominantly white suburb of Chicago, it wasn't very often that I saw myself represented in magazines.
In 2008, before Caitlyn Jenner and before Lavern Cox, Isis King competed on ANTM's 11th cycle to bring awareness to the transgender issues in the United States.
Chantelle Brown-Young has Vitiligo. She has proven that beauty comes in all forms, that if life throws you obstacles you can overcome them if you believe.
There have been moms...
Weird and quirky...
An entire season for too short...
And this year's winner, the sexy Nyle DiMarco, who is deaf!
There were always going to be the typically beautiful models that I appreciate too, but it was the ability to have so many different faces and people on the show that kept me watching (and the pictures at the end, always love looking at the pictures).
ANTM has gone through different formats, a bunch of judges, mixing countries, and inspired other Top Model competitions around the world. Some my favorites have won, some have lost, but Tyra has always brought together different people in the world, given them confidence and shown them how to do what they all aspire to do.
This show is, yes, filled with madness, but so is real life. ANTM has given me a platform to see different people get beautiful pictures taken of themselves, but it has also helped me see the beauty in everyone.
I'm sad this is coming to an end, but it will always have a spot in my heart.