News & Runway

Should ‘America’s Next Top Model’ Have Tried Harder to Include a Curvy Contestant?

It’s not just about a pretty face. All hail @theashleygraham. #ANTM

A photo posted by America’s Next Top Model (@antmvh1) on

Orange is the New Black’s Danielle Brooks, like Ashley Graham, is a Christian Siriano favorite. Like Graham, she’s not afraid to speak for the 67 percent of women who are effectively excluded from the fashion industry due to their size. Unlike Graham, she has not been offered a seat at the “high-end fashion people” table.

Last week, after the America’s Next Top Model reboot hit the airwaves, Brooks took to Twitter to express her disappointment with the contestant lineup. “This 1% thing is real. The world really disregards plus size. Watched #ANTM and not one contestant was plus, hell, not even a size 6 or 8.” Although Graham sits on the judging panel (one of those proverbial high-fashion tables), none of the current contestants remotely resemble the model (in terms of size, anyhow).

True, the show ticked off several other diversity boxes, as Brooks noted in an equally exasperated Instagram post. “A curvy judge but no curvy contestants? Out of all 28 girls not one was plus. You had an Asian, African, a redhead, transgender, an androgynous sister, even twins… (much love for that) but not 1 plus size woman — when 67% of women are plus in the US??” wrote the actress.

[This is not a bashing of any sort but an observation that wouldn’t allow me to hold my ] As a plus woman being seen only 1% of the time is a real thing. Period. After watching #ANTM last night I was super excited to see my girl Ashley Graham but bummed out not to see any plus contestants. A curvy judge but no curvy contestants? Out of all 28 girls not one was plus. You had an Asian, African, a red head, transgender, an androgynous sister, even twins…(much love for that) but not 1 plus size woman-when 67% of women are plus in the US?? This could’ve been a perfect opportunity for them to highlight fabulous designers that also do plus fashion or highlight strictly plus designers that rarely get any shine. They could’ve also highlighted the struggles that come with being plus. We could’ve at least gotten to 2%. The plus competitor would’ve been able to lean on the fact that a reflection of herself (Ashley Graham) was in the room reminding her that her dream IS possible. All these things still would’ve moved us forward, and would’ve done more than me posting an IG post. Regardless, We are worth these incredible opportunities. We deserve to be seen. I’m going to continue to push back and speak up for that young girl that wants to model, wants to act, wants to be upfront and needs to be reminded that she is just as deserving as anyone else. #seethe67 #voiceofthecurves

A photo posted by Danielle Brooks (@daniebb3) on

“This could’ve been a perfect opportunity for them to highlight fabulous designers that also do plus fashion or highlight strictly plus designers that rarely get any shine. They could’ve also highlighted the struggles that come with being plus,” she continued. “The plus competitor would’ve been able to lean on the fact that a reflection of herself (Ashley Graham) was in the room reminding her that her dream IS possible.”

One day prior, Graham herself addressed the issue during an interview with E! News. However, she took a decidedly more optimistic stance: “Unfortunately, it didn’t happen for this round, but that’s alright,” Graham told E!. “Hopefully for season two — I’m looking for the woman who wins to be plus size. I think it would be so epic.”

According to ANTM judge Law Roach, colleague to Ashley, best friend and stylist to Zendaya, plus-size contestants weren’t deliberately excluded, there simply weren’t any compelling candidates at the castings. “They just weren’t the right fit,” Roach told Mic. “It’s not like we were like ‘Oh, we have to have the plus size girl.’ Ashley Graham was disappointed about that, but if it doesn’t happen organically and it’s not authentic, then you’re going to turn the viewer off.”

Ashley Graham has had the luxury of moving past the plus-size label. That said, she still stands for women size 12 and above. Problem is, though the industry likes to tout Ashley as a symbol of its inclusivity, other curvy women who don’t have Graham’s hourglass figure, prominent cheekbones and slim face are still excluded. Hence Brooks’ indignation at the fact that not even one aspiring plus model was given the chance to learn and grow via the show.

“We are worth these incredible opportunities,” Brooks wrote. “We deserve to be seen. I’m going to continue to push back and speak up for that young girl that wants to model, wants to act, wants to be upfront and needs to be reminded that she is just as deserving as anyone else.”

What do you think? Should the show have one designated slot for plus contestants, a sort of affirmative action for the eternally underrepresented group? Or would that, as Roach suggests, kill its authenticity? Sound off in the comments below.

[ via Mic ]