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Cycle 19 brings a lot of changes to this aging reality competition. Nearly all of the judges have been replaced, the prizes and prize sponsors have changed, fan involvement has (confusingly) increased, and the show has a new theme. This season, we finally have another set of fresh girls. There’s no recycled contestants from past seasons or international spin-offs; this year features beautiful college students. In the past, it seemed like a big deal if a contestant left her education to compete, like Jane from Cycle 15 who studied at Princeton. This year, it was a requirement.
There were some big staff shake-ups this season. Long-term judge Nigel Barker was cut, as was creative director Jay Manual. Barker had been with the show since the second cycle; Manual since the first. I’ve got to admit, I’m pretty upset to not see them on the show. I never really got over Miss J. Alexander leaving after Cycle 13. The new judges seem all right, but I’m not in love yet. This season, “PR maven” Kelly Cutrone is joined at panel by male model Rob Evans and celebrity stylist Johnny Wujek (who will also be the new creative director at photo shoots). If you’re doing the math in your head, you’re right, there is a judge missing. The fourth judge is you!
Well, not really you…unless you have a time machine.
This season, viewers are lead to believe that they have a say in the competition. It’s not well explained, but it turns out that the voting has already happened. Fair enough; it’s not a live show. Voting for all eleven weeks happened in May and June. I watched every episode of Cycle 18 and I had no idea that this would be happening, so I’m sure that I’m not the only fan who missed out on voting. The photos that you could have voted on are still up on The CW’s website, and there is a photo for every contestant for each week. Do the eliminated women not return to the house, pack their bags, and go home when they’re eliminated? It looks like they had to stick around to finish every photo shoot. Posting all of the photos online in advance leaks some spoilers, like the results of the hair makeovers and that one contestant who left the competition early (guess she didn’t want to come back for weekly photo shoots).
Since this is the College Edition, each contestant must be a student in a post-secondary institution. This includes one student from the Aveda Institute and one from Liberty University, an online college. Like every year, there were some nutcases. One woman meowed a lot, one removed her false tooth and put her whole fist in her mouth, and one did an awkward dance that was reminiscent of Liz Lemon (of 30 Rock). None of those women made the cut from 30 to 13 contestants.
Some of the slightly nutty ladies who made the cut were Kristin, who has a history of getting into physical altercations and using way too much blush (maybe producers are trying to create more drama, but hopefully not a beauty trend), and Brittany, a Chandler-Gilbert College student who is SO PERKY and loves Disney. Footage of her Skype conversation with her family showed that her giddiness is hereditary. Some of the standouts so far are Jessie, a nerdy-cute USC girl with a bodacious bum (it’s so out of control that censors had to blur it when she was in a bathing suit), and Leila, a gap-toothed University of Rhode Island student. There are a couple of heartwarming stories of contestants who have come out of homelessness to compete, much like Angelea of Cycle 14. Destiny and Kiara have drive and backstories that should have fans pulling for them.
This cycle is notably less high-fashion than the last few. The girls walked the runway behind the sorority house-like lodging in bikinis and cut-up college t-shirts instead of couture. The fashion spread is in Nylon instead of Vogue; though Nylon is still a stylish magazine, it’s not quite a fashion bible like Vogue. CoverGirl is out, now the advertising deals are with Smashbox Cosmetics and Nine West.
ANTM is trying hard to be fresh, and it certainly is different from the last few seasons. So far, most of the changes are working, though the whole fan-voting thing is very weird and confusing. The judges will likely grow on all of us in time (Rob Evans’ sexy accent won’t hurt), but I can’t see this fan voting aspect being popular. Now that the changes have been explained, I can’t wait to jump in and start critiquing this new crop of girls on their judging panel looks while I wear an ultra-stylish Snuggie.