Respecting body image: The problematic nature of America’s Next Top Model Cycle 18’s androgyne Azmarie Livingston’s elimination
First off, I don’t usually watch America’s Next Top Model (this is me desperately trying to salvage some dignity from this situation, but hear me out!), but I did watch an episode of cycle 18 and was entranced by an androgynous model called Azmarie. Episode after episode she performed well and she seemed to be on track to win the competition, but she was eliminated as early as episode 6, which was incredibly surprising to me.
Why? Because of her self-respect. In the episode, the models were forced to wear a body modifier to facilitate Tyra’s ego. That sounds harsh (and weird) out of context, but basically Tyra declared that to be a ‘true’ model a woman had to be able to stick out her butt and pose which, whilst perhaps valid, was obviously a transparent attempt to create the new buzzword ‘Booty Tooch’ in the dictionary of modelling as she had with ‘Smize’. And so, she forced all the competitors to wear butt pads and do an eponymous dance called ‘Stop Drop and Tooch.’ Ah, modelling.
With Azmarie as an androgynous, bi-sexual woman, it’s so clear to me why she felt uncomfortable doing it. Even in today’s society gender is still regarded as binary - everyone has to fit in the category of being either ‘male’ or ‘female’ - and for someone who as part of her identity needed to break these barriers and faced the challenges of finding self-respect in a world that has so little room for the different, putting on the butt modifiers and doing the dance would only compromise her respect for herself and people’s respect for her image, an image so hard-won in having to transcend gender stereotypes.
Yet, Tyra eliminated her saying that Azmarie showed disrespect to a potential client, by refusing to put on the body modifiers that she’d repeatedly told Tyra she was uncomfortable wearing.
What kind of message does Tyra, a woman who has so many followers in social media, on a show that has millions of viewers, send out about the modelling world here? Not a good one. She sends out the message that it models should compromise their own respect, that models should let client force them to do things they don’t feel comfortable doing.
She sends out the same message Terry Richardson sends out, the same message Coco Rocha has been trying to fight and the same message that is the problem with the entire modelling industry in the exploitation of girls.
People still take ANTM seriously - at least 3 million+ do. But this is one of countless reasons to begin reconsidering that.