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Can Rita Ora and Ashley Graham Make America’s Next Top Model Great Again?

When the CW put America’s Next Top Model to bed last December after a 22-season run, its retirement seemed overdue. Reality shows that allowed outsiders a glimpse into the fashion world had saturated the market — Project Runway, What Not to Wear, Queer Eye, House of DVF, The Hills — to varying degrees of success. In the case of America’s Next Top Model, part of what made the show seem out of touch was the changing nature of the industry. Today’s models need a lot more than adaptive facial features, a confident walk and that first big Maybelline contract to gain relevance. They need a loyal social media following. They need a personality. If they want to generate serious buzz (and don’t come from a famous family), they need to bring something more to the table: diversity.

Conscious of these new realities, VH1, which has picked up the show for a (gulp) 23rd season, is giving ANTM a serious revamp. The new panel of of-the-moment judges will include model Ashley Graham, a symbol and advocate of body positivity, Drew Elliot, chief creative officer of indie glossy Paper and the man behind Kim Kardashian’s Internet-breaking cover, and stylist Law Roach, longtime associate of Zendaya and recent rebrander of Céline Dion. Pop sensation Rita Ora will take Tyra Banks’ place as host, bringing her star quality and millennial fan base to the mix.

Model mentor (and mediator) Tyra Banks said of the reboot: “It’s no longer just about having the highest cheekbones and best pout and the best hair. My goal is to really get into these girls’ heads that I’m not looking for some successful model and I’m not looking for some social-media star. I’m looking for both. I’m looking for a hybrid, because that’s where the world is.”

As fashion and pop culture are now more intertwined than ever, the new ANTM will include a weekly challenge that combines the two arenas. Ora, who designs for Adidas, sings and acts in between gracing magazine covers, shared her take on the current nature of the industry with USA Today: “The approach I wanted to have as a host and judge to the girls is what my career stands for at this moment in time, which is being a businesswoman and being able to do multiple things at the same time, whether it’s music or shooting (magazine covers) and being in movies and designing clothes.”

Sounds like the contestants have their work cut out for them. ANTM’s new formula seems to aim beyond creating top models to sculpting multi-faceted Renaissance women. All we can say is we’ll certainly be tuning in when the time comes, whenever that may be. (VH1’s premier cycle, set in New York City, is still in the filming stages and, yes, Tyra plans to make “a couple of appearances.”)

[ via USA Today ]