Judging the Best Judges of America's Next Top Model
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America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) is back, but without a model at it’s helm. It’s nearly unthinkable to have an ANTM without Tyra, but if we’re honest as ANTM-fans, the show hasn’t been worth watching for several years, even with Tyra as host. I haven’t seen the
seasons AHEM cycles where men compete and also have terrible weaves forced on them, though I will because I'm an ANTM completist. But for my money, cycle 15 was the last good cycle (and it was very good), though any cycle that had André Leon Talley would have some redeeming qualities. That’s because a good judge can make a season. But what happens when all the ANTM judges are gone?
Cycle 23 is premiering tonight, but there’s no way I’ll watch it because all my favorite characters will be gone. The judges were always the driving and stabilizing force of the show, and without a Mr. or Miss Jay, a Nigel Barker, an André Leon Talley, and, yes, without a Tyra, how is it America’s Next Top Model? If Rita Ora wants to have herself a modeling competition, she can graciously retire the ANTM name and pick, I dunno, “Model Contest Show,” or something more dynamic.
I’ve been depressed lately due to recent events, which has manifested itself as sitting at home and re-watching old episodes. I’ve been bouncing around from cycle to cycle, taking in various moments, fights, and photoshoots, and considering how various judges approach their judging and their interaction with Tyra. Some did it well, some were just set decoration, and still others were André Leon Talley.
In that spirit, in a VERY specific order, here’s our ranked list of America’s Next Top Model Judges, from worst (sorry Nolé Marin) to best.
Note: I found out during my research that some of the judges are VERY tall (and not just the ex-models), so I’ve included that information in the hopes that your mind is blown as much as mine was (Miss Jay is 6’5”, and he's not even the tallest judge to ever judge someone who is one step closer towards becoming America’s Next Top Model*).
Second note: I won't be judging any of the later additions, like Kelly Cutrone or, shudder, BryanBoy. Just assume that if I had considered them, they wouldn't even be on the list, but rather miles below the surface, residing at our molten core.
* That phrasing has always driven me crazy. Why did they keep it through so many cycles?
12. Nolé Marin
Nolé Marin was sort of mean and not fabulous, and he didn’t bring much to judging, apart from a small dog that looked like it had definitely suffered repetitive brain injuries.
He battled with Janice, and that is not something I condone. He was also amazingly outmatched by her. After he questioned her fabulousness and authority to speak, Janie retorted: "I was Versace's muse, I was Azzanine's muse, I was Valentino's muse. I don't know why you're laughing, I don't know whose muse you were." See? This paragraph about Nolé Marin has just become a musing on how hilarious Janice was on ANTM. Sorry Nolé.
Cycles as a Primary Judge: 3-4
Profession on ANTM: Prominent fashion editor and stylist
Notable Post ANTM Career: A stint on Canada’s Next Top Model as Judge and Creative Director, appearances on Tyra’s other show, and, lately, contracting gout and swindling models out of thousands.
11. Eric Nicholson
Eric seemed sweet and sincere. Unfortunately that, and being on just one season, doesn’t get you high on this list.
Height: Unknown (best guess = 5'8")
Cycles as a Primary Judge: 2
Profession on ANTM: The Senior Fashion Editor at Jane magazine
Notable Post ANTM Career: According to a LinkedIn page that is almost certainly not his, Eric Nicholson is currently “Managing Director at BMO Capital Markets.”
10. Beau Quillian
Edging out Eric Nicholson by only the barest margins for no real reason that I can determine, although maybe it's because he was on the first season, which was the most interesting season (most entertaining is up for debate).
Height: Unknown (best guess = 5'9")
Cycles as a Primary Judge: 1
Profession on ANTM: The Fashion Editor at Marie Claire magazine
Notable Post ANTM Career: His website was copyrighted in 2009, and it looks like it. He's still an editor and stylist, and apparently once broke a toe, which was later re-set. More as this story develops.
9. Kimora Lee Simmons
I don’t really remember much about Kimora’s tenure at ANTM, apart from her ragging on Elyse for being thin (nearly unthinkable for a model). She was also a one-season judge, and one-season judges are one-season judges for a reason (™) (trademark pending).
Cycles as a Primary Judge: 1
Profession on ANTM: The Owner and Creative Director of Baby Phat Fashions
Twiggy was sweet and just wanted everyone to do well. She used phrases like “her eyes pierce into my soul" when describing the girl's photos, aka it was nice to have a judge who wasn't already jaded by the whole process.
While I appreciated her anti-fur stance, there was just no way she could fill the Janice-sized hole so recently left in the show. She was afraid of Jade, which was hilarious.
Cycles as a Primary Judge: 5-9
Profession on ANTM: Legendary Fashion Icon
Notable Post ANTM Career: Oh I dunno....releasing “Romantically Yours,” a surprisingly well-reviewed (by 5 customers) album of love ballads. Sample review:
"Twiggy is a truly fine singer. Yes, I am referring to THE Twiggy who was a model in the 60s."
7. Paulina Porizkova
It’s impossible to objectively view Paulina’s time on the show without considering her insistence on talking a mile of shit about Tyra any chance she got. With that considered, she should rank higher on this list, but I’m trying to limit my decision to her work on ANTM. She fulfilled the other model judge role vacated by Janice and Twiggy. She wasn’t as nice as Twiggy and she wasn’t as cutting as Janice or as willing to go along with Tyra’s nonsense as the rest of the judges. She was pretty harsh on the girls which, considering she was usually speaking realistically and from experience, was actually fair.
Cycles as a Primary Judge: 10-12
Profession on ANTM: Legendary supermodel
Notable Post ANTM Career: Author and Blogger. She was also a guest judge on Ru Paul’s Drag Race and talked smack about how Ru Paul was much nicer than Tyra (double duh). She was on the same panel as Coco, and Paulina could barely restrain her judgement. Come on, Paulina. No one is going to invite you back if you don't learn to get along with your fellow judges!
6. Miss Jay
This may be a controversial choice, but as fabulous as Miss Jay is (and seeing all 6'5” of him PLUS heels strutting down the runway was pretty fab), I have never felt like he added much to judging. He mostly echoed what Tyra said and didn’t seem to care much about the girls (fair). He was obsessed with “that broken down doll” look, which all the judges were crazy about and could kind of be the ANTM motto: "Broken and Passive, the ANTM story."
He was also very odd about Kim’s (Season 5) masculine look, and I’ve never understood that or got over it.
Cycles as a Primary Judge: 5-13, 21-22 (with additional guest judging)
Profession on ANTM: Runway Diva Coach Extraordinaire
Notable Post ANTM Career: While googling "Jay+Alexander," I kept running into pictures of this guy:
And for a confounding few seconds I honestly thought it was some absurd performance art piece, similar to when Snoop Dog unveiled Snoop Todd to the world. I'm fairly certain they are different people, though I'll be keeping an eye on the situation.
5. Mr. Jay
Mr. Jay feels as integral to the show as Tyra, and I’ve always believed that he was more sincere than the many legends who have walked these halls. Considering that he was present for all of the girl’s photoshoots (ranging from merely ridiculous to ridiculously offensive), the fact that he was able to keep any sort of sincerity and affection for the contestants is quite a feat. He also wears things like this, which have to be seen to be believed:
Nigel has been on so many cycles of ANTM that it's hard to remember that he wasn't an original judge. He somehow imbued the show with class and a steadying presence over many seasons, and, most impressively, managed to say all of the dumb shit that the producers made him say while making us believe that he truly believed they were making high fashion editorial art. He was nearly incapable of hiding which of the girls he wanted to bone (see the "Cycle 2, April" file for evidence).
I conducted a very scientific poll of my friends to determine if Nigel is better looking with hair or as a baldy.
The responses were overwhelmingly pro BALD, aka the way he looked on ANTM, with one respondent demanding "NO HAIR ANYWHERE ON HIS BODY!"
Weirdly no one preferred this look, which I can only assume was a Halloween costume called "total creep."
As I ponder the placement of the top spots, I’m watching an episode where Tyra is showing the contestants how she signs her autographs (with a heart and her name, in case you are interested). It's actually just as boring as it sounds. And a lot of stuff on the show that Tyra created was boring or weird. She reached new heights of egomania with every cycle, and yet it's so obvious that the show would have never been a success without her unique levels of Tyra-absurdity. My least favorite moments were when she tried to pretend she's still "real" and chats with the girls about whatever stereotype she's pigeoned-holed them in. I prefer my Tyra weird and inaccessible, with a history of bananas behavior, terribly ill-conceived ideas and a commendable and totally healthy love of vaseline.
Cycles as a Primary Judge: 1-22
Profession on ANTM: Professional Tyra
Notable Post ANTM Career: ALSO a published author! Her 2011 hit, Modelland, is about a young girl, and I'm not making this up even a little, named "Tookie De La Crème," who has "untamable hair, large forehead, and gawky body." AKA it's Tyra. She never stops talking about her five-head. Duh. At one time she was developing a "comedy" show about her childhood called, you guessed it, "Fivehead." Unclear where we are with production on that one.
She also managed to stop by Drag Race's Snatch Game!
2. André Leon Talley
I LOVE ALT. He elevated the show at a time when the show did not deserve it. He was sweet and funny, and I truly love the way he discussed salons as if they exist in every American household.
Height: 6'6" (!!!!!!!!)
Cycles as a Primary Judge: 14-17
Profession on ANTM: One of THE most influential people in ALL of the fashion industry
1. Janice Dickinson
The show was never better than when Janice was at the judge’s table. She was unpredictable and she could be harsh, but she was also hilarious and unapologetic about who she was. Tyra infamously read Janice's terrific autobiography and immediately asked her to be a judge, so you can't say Tyra didn't know what she was getting herself into.
Cycles as a Primary Judge: 1-4 (with additional guest judging)
Profession on ANTM: The World's First Supermodel (if Tyra was feeling generous, otherwise it was "One of the World's First Supermodels")
Notable Post ANTM Career: Possessing the world's best driver's license:
And several unfortunate reality show choices, but let’s remember the good times, shall we?
Can you imagine Tyra unleashing that kind of fierce realness? I don't think so.