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Business Lessons From America's Next Top Model

The modeling industry is cut-throat and nothing highlights this as much as America’s Next Top Model, the original reality show which sees hopefuls compete to win a coveted modeling contract.  The show is currently in it’s 21st cycle and host Tyra Banks is her usual sassy self, full of energetic quips and no-nonsense advice for the fresh-faced contestants. Watching the drama and bitchiness unfold makes for great TV, but there are also some valuable business lessons to be gained from the show.

Lesson 1 - Mix it up           

The show has first debuted in 2003, so it’s a concern that the format may have been getting a little tired. That’s why Tyra, who is the show’s executive producer as well as presenter and judge, ensures that she keeps things fresh by introducing changes to the format. For cycle 19, “College Edition” was created which is, you guessed it, aimed at finding contestants at college. And Tyra didn’t just stop there - she recruited some new judges and made the show interactive, using social media to encourage viewers to vote for which girls were their favourite. The business lesson here is always keep things fresh. There’s a saying “Why fix what is not broken,” but at the same time, if improvements can be made, why not take advantage of them? Always introduce changes and keep up with trends which will help keep you at the cutting edge of the industry.

Lesson 2 – Bring a great attitude to everything you do

No one can say that Tyra doesn’t have attitude. She’s had to overcome a lot to get to where she is and she exudes confidence and self-worth. This is something she looks for in the contestants - if you have a bad attitude, or worse still, no attitude, Tyra doesn’t want to know you.  However, that isn’t a problem with most of the contestants, who are not short of confidence. As one of the hopefuls of Cycle 19, Kristin says, “If I need to put someone in their place I have no problem doing that.” It’s important to adopt this approach to your career. Bring a sense of determination and a great attitude to what you do and people will respect you for it.

Lesson 3 - There are no friends in the business world

Everyone on the show is there for one reason only – to win. They will stop at nothing until they achieve their dream and if they need to walk over their “friends” along the way, so be it. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Top Model house is home to some bitchy contestants and many of them have found themselves on the receiving end of some backstabbing from the other girls. Victoria, a naïve 18 year old contestant from Cycle 19 was upset to hear the other girls talking about her behind her back. In business, you have to learn that people you may think are your friends can turn against you, and similarly you may need to turn against them. However, it’s important to hold your head high and not let it bring you down. As Victoria said, “I’m not going to let anything the other girls say get under my skin.”

Lesson 4 - Give honest and direct feedback

Tyra doesn’t mince her words. She’s been in the industry too long to skirt around issues, so gives honest feedback which is straight to the point, although some might call it harsh. “Miss Jay, you’ve put on weight” was one of her more brutally honest assessments of a candidate and she isn’t shy about giving the girls a makeover if she thinks they will benefit from it. In addition, as part of the “interactive” part of the show, the models have the added humiliation of having comments left on Facebook read out to them, which is harsh but helps them to develop a thick skin. It’s a good lesson to learn in business. Although giving feedback can be difficult, ensure that you are upfront from the start. Keep your feedback constructive and you will be respected for it.

Lesson 5 - You can overcome the worst to be a success

Tyra’s vision for the show was always to present a different type of beauty and throughout the different cycles, we’ve seen hopefuls whose lives are far from perfect. In Cycle 19, there was a girl who was homeless and forced to dumpster dive in order to find food, and currently in Cycle 21 one of the finalists was close to suicide before entering the competition. Tyra says, “We want to provide people with an escape and help them find joy.” Watching the contestants deal with their situations and achieve their dreams shows that you can be at your lowest and pull yourself back up to achieve business success through belief, strength and determination. As Tyra would say, “You need to paint on your game face, and show the industry your true colours.”

So there we have it – some valuable lessons from America’s Next Top Model which are useful no matter which industry you are in. The show may be a guilty pleasure, but it is proof that we can do what we want with our lives as long as we are willing to put the work in. As Tyra says, “Chase that dream – work to the extreme.”

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