Cycle 1 was the 2003 documentary-esque cycle like no other.
Like many people during quarantine, I started binge-ing ANTM. I saw hairstylist Brad Mondo reacting to their makeovers on YouTube, and so I got started re-watching with Cycle 1 Episode 1 for the first time since it came out. Little did I know that I was about to go on a journey back to 2003 when TVs were square, lip gloss was poppin’ and Tyra Banks was queen B.
Watching this cycle took me on a roller coaster of emotion — of course, it’s fabulous, hilarious, and in retrospect, the absurdity of the fashion is fun to take in. But I was 14 when this show came out, and 15 when I started modeling. I auditioned for the show a few years later and actually went to callbacks in Atlanta (during which I bombed). Like a lot of you who were viewers back in 2003, I watched it with my family (my mom and lil sis) weekly, and it could not be missed. I would be doing my 8-minute-ab routine (which I had memorized) on the floor of my living room while watching the judges critique other young girls’ bodies…
So re-watching this show was like watching a tape of what someone else had programmed my memory with 17 years prior. I bet many of you who were around the same impressionable age when watching this may feel the same thing upon re-watching and I’d love to know if so.
Just a tiny sampling of comments from judges that went into our psyches:
- Comments about Robin Manning being plus size and too old (and therefore awful), who was 26 years old, 5’9″ and 165 lbs
- Suggestions that Shannon Stewart get teeth removed because her smile is too big
- Cycle Two – Constantly berating (I’m looking at you, Nigel Barker) size-two Yoanna House for “needing to work on her body” when she’d been on a weight loss journey of like 60 lbs before the show, and the cameras zooming in on her “muffin top”
It was interesting now for me to be able to hear these comments now and realize how truly ludicrous they are thanks myself being older and wiser, and to the passage of time making those critiques actually out of fashion even if you wanted to take them to heart (one basic example of this is the rise of popularity of the big booty in fashion since the stick thin days of 2003).
The low production cost of the first cycle is apparent, making it seem less like Tyra’s over-the-top brainchild competition and more like a documentary of the time. This makes for a much more intimate look into what was happening than future cycles. In once scene, for instance, the models go to makeup artist Jay Manuel’s house and make dinner for him, Tyra, and their friends. Tyra is the photographer for one of the shoots (as she would come to do regularly in other seasons) I believe not because it’s a cute idea but because it would save on production costs. You get a feel for what it was really like to be a part of this project that had just been thought up, and because it was so new, it seemed like they really could learn a lot from being almost a part of Tyra’s world.
Everyone was desperate for approval, and to be given a chance. I am so glad that now we have the internet, social media, and the ability to share our own thoughts rather than take fashion from a handful of people who dictate it. I love watching and reminiscing about ANTM, and I am so glad to have survived 2003.
Adrianne Curry and Shannon Steward did an Instagram live yesterday talking all about Top Model! In it, they answered a bunch of questions Jessica and I had in our video.
- Adrianne and Elyse did make it to Jim Morrison’s grave, but it wasn’t shown on the show because you have to get permission and I think she said the French police were there. While they were distracted with the camera crew, she grabbed a few rocks from his grave and she had them with her in every elimination after that!
- Adrianne was good friends with contestant Kesse Wallace until about 5 years ago when she kind of disappeared (not actually, but they lost touch). So we are still wondering what happened to Kesse. I hope she is doing well.
- Shannon did not refuse to go meet Ebony’s girlfriend who came to visit because Ebony was from New York. They edited it to make it look like the whole “bible room” didn’t say hi to her. In reality it wasn’t Kesse and Shannon who wouldn’t say hi to her, but just Robin (of course lol).
Here is Elyse showing her Paris portfolio (with many of her Hong Kong shoots) on her YouTube channel in 2007. If she would’ve been just a few years later I’m sure her channel of her post-ANTM modeling adventures (that’s right, she skipped med school, and kept modeling!) would’ve had tons of subscribers.
Here is the link to Elyse’s livejournal from years ago. This post I’m linking to contains tons of interesting information regarding filming, continuity, talking heads, and how that all actually went:
Adrianne has been out of Hollywood for a bit — she and her voiceover actor husband moved to the mountains and she sells Avon and seems very happy. Want to shop with her? Adrienne will actually help you shop for your products (I’ve been an Avon rep so I know how it works and she seems really nice)!
Here is Adrianne’s blog – she updated as recently as last week with an interesting post about why she didn’t continue modeling.
Here is a link to a blog where she says what happened between her and Elyse and why they aren’t friends anymore. It’s not her actual blog, I couldn’t find that exact link but this has what she said, plus Elyse’s blog post which came before it as well.
I’ll be coming back to add in some more show notes, and more answers that I discovered since we filmed this. If you have any specific questions let me know!