This season of America's Next Top Model has a unique twist (well, unique if you've never seen Make Me A Supermodel) - the contestants include guys as well as girls. It's a great addition to the show and one that has been severely lacking for at least the last five years, but is the show really utilising the addition of men in the best way possible? Well no, not really, but so far the show has been plodding along nicely enough.
For those of us who are long time fans and know how Tyra Banks' brain works, I'm sure we have all been waiting with baited breath for the upcoming gimmicks that are bound to ensue. It is no surprise then that this week's episode saw the models switching gender identities as the men were dressed up as overly-foundationed cartoon prostitutes and the girls donned Eric McCormack wigs.
The task was an almost impossible one, as rather than have a photo shoot, the whole process was judged on the end result of a fake TV commercial for a unisex perfume - and there really is no escaping a rolling videotape.
The majority of the models gave it their absolute best effort, despite being heckled by Kelly Cuntrone for being "too drag." Tell me about it KC, too drag is always a concern when squeezing one's hairy size twelves in to a pair of cute Mary Janes. Whilst some of the girls succeeded in embodying the role of a man, others were scolded for not having "enough swag" or whatever super cool and super out-of-date terminology was rolling out of Bryanboy's mouth.
Whilst the episode was handled with relatively good humour, which in one respect was appropriate, I can't help but find myself annoyed at the fact they did it in such light hearted and silly manner.
At the beginning of this season there was a transgendered contestant, Virgg, who had to leave the show as she was finding it far more emotionally challenging than anticipated with the chemical changes going on in her body. How then would Virgg have reacted when Tyra & Co. rolled this week's challenge out? Undoubtedly with much physical and emotional stress and heartache, thus creating a nervous breakdown for her and fantastic TV ratings for The CW. I find it hard to believe that this challenge would have been crossed off the agenda if Virgg had indeed stayed - ANTM is always looking for the next girl who can't swim to throw in a 20 ft pool.
The rest of the episode kept up a similarly frivolous and insensitive tone with opportunistic soul mates Perez Hilton and Bryanboy feeding vitriol in to the models' earpieces as they acted as fashion correspondants on Hollywood and Vine. The remaining models interviewed passers by on what they were wearing, with 19 year old contestant Jeremy Rohmer being told by Perez Hilton to take off his shirt and pants and strip down to his briefs in the street. As ever, integrity is at the pinnacle of Top Model's mission statement.
Someone who did retain their integrity was Marvin, who refused to acknowledge many of the acidic instructions in his ear for fear of hurting the feelings of the innocent people he was interviewing. Noting how Perez earned his fortune through disrespecting people and humiliating anyone he could, Marvin stated that he would rather have nothing than have everything through causing upset and offense. Go Marvin!
Moving on from the gender bending gimmicks of Top Model, let's take a moment to appreciate some of the ways in which transsexuality is really being explored and celebrated in the working world of fashion.
1) Andrej Pejic
The January 2013 issue of Elle Serbia saw transgendered model Andrej Pejic take the cover and a full editorial spread dressed as both a man and a woman. Pejic shot to fame after walking both the men's and women's runways for Jean Paul Gaultier.
Succeeding in what ANTM desperately failed to show, Serbian Elle and Pejic have created a truly ground breaking moment in fashion in their handling of the balance between masculine and feminine identity, creating an editorial that accurately depicts the ever blurring lines between fashion, gender and convention.
2) American Apparel call for transgendered models in open call casting
3) Pina Newman
- Olly Cromack is a freelance writer, film graduate and fashion fan living in Liverpool, UK. When not working as editor for Blog on the Rails, he is writing creatively, walking his pug and working through DVD box sets. For work enquiries contact firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @BlogontheRails.