[This post contains some spoilers about this week's episode.]
The moment came during judging, as two contestants tried to convince Naomi that they each deserved to stay in the competition. Both aspiring models pulled a tactic straight from the reality TV playbook, and one which works particularly well on Tyra: they told Naomi about all they'd been through, how much they struggled; they told her they deserved to stay in the competition because they had overcome all these obstacles to get to where they are today (which is, for the record, standing in the bottom two on a reality show). This is obviously insane logic (a skills and talent competition always discredits itself the second it turns into a likability contest), but it's logic that we've come to expect from our terrible reality television.
Tyra always treated sob stories like the pinnacle of achievement on America's Next Top Model, and probably for good reason: as the show's winners were never able to live up to their title, ANTM very quickly devolved from an actual competition to a vehicle for Tyra's self-branding. The sob stories on America's Next Top Model didn't just make for good TV, they also satisfied Tyra's morality, a morality which hinges on victimization as virtue. Tyra mythologizes herself as this epic heroine who found success despite all odds, no matter how many people tried to stand in her way, and she praises people when they construct the same narratives about themselves — even though in her case (and in most cases), the victim myth is utter bullshit. Sure, Tyra wasn't like, Brian Williams' daughter — some rich girl who grew up in Manhattan and spent her life ensconced in elite private schools — but she had a loving mother who was enormously invested in her daughter's success and also the genetic material of a supermodel. Tyra has not had to "overcome all odds!" sry.
I've watched almost every episode of every season of ANTM, but all the prattle about suffering was one of the (not few) things that made the show insufferable. But it's been such an entrenched part of Tyra's series and the reality TV conventions she helped set, that I never even thought to hope that The Face could be different. But then, this happened:
"Nobody is your friend in a competition, no one. I did not appear on the first September Issue of Anna Wintour's American Vogue by going in front of Anna Wintour and saying to her, "This has been my life story, I've never met my father."
No. She doesn't want to hear it!
We've all got stories, everyone in the world has different stories. Both of you are trying to play on my heartstrings. That is not what's going to make me decide who goes and who stays.
The awesome series of GIFs is by (I believe, but I'm sure you'll let me know if I'm miscrediting) NaomiHitMe.Tumblr.com (woah that Tumblr name!).
Image via WENN
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- The Face's Naomi Campbell: "I Am Different. I Am Before Tyra."
- Naomi Campbell is Looking for THE FACE
- Tyra Banks Fires Nigel Barker and the Jays from ANTM!
- Tyra Banks to Ruin ANTM with New Judges, Voting Component
- Ugh Fine, I'll Start Watching ANTM Again: Boys to Join Top Model
[The Face is a sponsor of The Fashion Spot but not of this post, which is purely editorial.]