America’s Subsequent High Mannequin was by no means an actual arbiter of style. Regardless of Tyra Banks asserting that her actuality competitors show was designed to comb by means of the nation’s most promising beauties and pluck out the following massive identify in vogue, ANTM by no means did that in any significant sense. What it did do was present bountiful leisure throughout 25 seasons of manipulative challenges, provoked catfights, doled out relentlessly private critiques, and cursed women with some unhealthy, unhealthy haircuts. A lot of this enjoyable got here from the contestants, who have been largely twentysomethings with a aptitude for the dramatic and penchant for waterworks. However simply as a lot of it was bestowed upon us viewers by Banks and her panel of judges—who have been additionally the one ones who got here near granting ANTM high-fashion cred, since none of its winners ever did.
Whereas the self-declared “world’s first supermodel,” Janice Dickinson, offered a few of the most watchable asshole-ry ever aired on TV, and famous vogue photographer Nigel Barker equipped a steely British accent, neither provided a lot in the best way of transferring the ANTM couture needle in the best route. Dickinson was brash and merciless; Barker was a no-name outdoors of the show. The beloved Miss J. and Mr. Jay have been extra comedian reduction and unhealthy cop than trusted sources of tastemaking. It took till the 14th season for Banks to get her act collectively and introduce somebody with precise vogue bona fides into her solid: the late, nice André Leon Talley, an immeasurably influential icon with a resume so lengthy, it made the opposite judges seem like amateurs.
By time he died Wednesday at 73, Talley had been working in vogue for practically 47 years. He’d labored with Andy Warhol, turn out to be Vogue’s first Black artistic director, styled Michelle Obama, written three books, starred in a documentary about his life, and even live-blogged the Trump inauguration. When folks speak concerning the excessive vogue world, they’re speaking about folks like Talley.
Talley’s tenure on ANTM was one thing else, and he virtually leapt from the tv for younger viewers like me. It lasted simply 4 seasons, but it surely was a much-needed wake-up name for a show that had exhausted its welcome in Season 9, when the girl topped Subsequent High Mannequin was a 21-year-old with a private connection to Tyra. Talley instantly introduced a way of gravitas, coupled with an infectious, innate love for the style world. In his assessments of the ladies, he didn’t maintain again from the occasional barbs that any good actuality show character should drop—he recurrently dubbed appears and photographs as exuding “dreckitude,” most memorably. However he additionally had a way more eloquent aptitude: He had “cauldrons of affection” for one lady; one other appeared like “an ice cap-covered mountain.” Principally, although, he walked in with a fedora and a cap, laughed a giant giggle, praised the ladies for trying like palace courtesans of their pictures, and stated that he wished to hold their photographs in his salon. He saved fan-favorite contestants from elimination that the opposite judges discovered forgettable, however which Talley and viewers may always remember. (If you happen to’ve seen that one GIF of a woman crying and fist-pumping, the context is that Talley had simply voted for her to remain for an additional week.) He even introduced the ladies bouquets of flowers and drank Cognac with them of their resort room.
When visitor judges like Alek Wek, Patrick Demarchelier, and Franca Sozzani stopped by—all of whom large within the high-fashion world and due to this fact atypical of the cheesy ANTM—Talley’s presence made their high-fashion fame really feel not misplaced however constant. These have been folks he’d labored with on shoots or stylings, who may comfortably sit subsequent to them at vogue reveals internationally. It solely made sense that, throughout Talley’s time on the show, Banks shifted the prize from a Seventeen photograph unfold to at least one in Italian Vogue, what these within the know have a tendency to think about probably the most glamorous of all Vogue editions.
I solely know any of those names from watching ANTM within the first place. The show prompted younger viewers like me develop an obsession with modeling—not simply the will to be as stunning and tall as these ladies, however the understanding of a great photograph, runway stroll, or industrial shoot. However the true vogue side of the show by no means felt earned till Talley arrived. For all that Banks bragged concerning the reveals her judges walked in and photographers they labored with, it was nonetheless a community show aimed resolutely on the middlebrow; none of those women have been truly making waves with the costly manufacturers all of us lusted over. For these of us who have been falling in love with couture by means of ANTM, we needed to put in a number of the legwork on our personal. It wasn’t till Talley graced the desk with a mix of indeniable know-how and an unintimidating presence that each one of Tyra’s speak felt like greater than phrases. Beneath Talley’s discerning eye, the show felt prefer it may slot in with the modern shops it strived to be one among. Possibly Tyra Banks was the particular person with a knack for locating High Fashions, in any case—the editor-at-large of Vogue stated so, all whereas carrying a smile and a really stylish, very costly cape besides.