It was but eleven short years ago when Tyra Banks, a supermodel previously known best for covering Sports Illustrated and being a star, introduced us all to the wonder of America’s Next Top Model.
First broadcast on the now-defunct UPN, premiering its 21st cycle on the CW tonight, ANTM has remained a gift long beyond its glory days. Tyra has spent her prime teaching us how to smize, how to be on top, and how to make everything about ourselves.
But not all cycles have been created equal. (And yes, they are cycles, not seasons. Know this.) Which had the best villains? Which had the best judges – in other words, which had André Leon Talley? To settle this, we’ve ranked all 20 previous cycles. Let’s see who’s still in the running towards becoming America’s next top America’s Next Top Model cycle.
20. Cycle 19 (2012)
Winner: Laura James
Favorite Model: Nastasia Scott
Cycle Villain: Let's come back to this one in a second.
Judging panel changes: This cycle was Judgepocalypse Now. Miss J? Gone. Jay Manuel as creative director? Gone. In exchange, we got Rob Evans – who was a big ol' nothing – and the execrable addition of Bryanboy, who was supposed to represent the fans through social media. Cycle 19 (along with Cycle 20) has the single worst judging lineup in series history.
Destination: Ocho Rios, Jamaica
What a failure. The so-called "College Edition" was a non-starter, and all the best remaining members of the show's cast were summarily dismissed. The social media component was also weak and served little purpose. In this way, the cycle's worst villain was Tyra herself: a producer who lost vision of what her own show should be, taking out friends and angering fans in the process. — KO
19. Cycle 13 (2009)
Winner: Nicole Fox
Favorite Model: Erin Wagner
Cycle Villain: Erin Wagner
Judging panel changes: Tyra, J. Alexander (Miss J) and Nigel, the holy trinity of judges
This was the "under 5'7" cycle, and everything about it came up a little short. Erin was the "villain" but only in the sense that she complained the most and played a little dirty during one of the challenges. But as far as drama went, this season left a lot to be desired. — AJ
18. Cycle 17 (2011)
Winner: Lisa D'Amato
Favorite Model: Allison Harvard
Cycle Villain: Alexandria Everett
Judging panel changes: This was the last year for ANTM's greatest power trio: Tyra herself, photographer Nigel Barker, and the divine Vogue editor-at-large André Leon Talley. The panel stayed the same from Cycle 14 through this one, and there were times throughout their history that they were the only great part of the show.
Destination: Crete, Greece
This all-stars edition was something of a mess. Some standout alumni didn't return (Tocarra Jones, we missed you), and others who did return maybe should have stayed home (hello, Alexandria). The competition itself was a snooze – several of the girls just weren't as sharp as in their original cycles – and the ending turned into a train wreck when original winner Angelea Preston from Cycle 14 was disqualified under mysterious circumstances. The final decision had to be hastily reshot with the final two: Cycle 12 favorite Allison, and Cycle 5's Lisa. – KO
Fun extra bit: The Wikipedia page for this cycle was clearly edited by a very annoyed Angelea stan. Enjoy your default win, Lisa. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Represent that 716, Angelea. — JR]
17. Cycle 12
Winner: Teyona Anderson
Favorite Model: Allison Harvard
Cycle Villain: Natalie Pack
Judging panel changes: Still Tyra, Miss J, Nigel and Paulina.
Destination: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Allison was the sole standout from the season. She was probably the creepiest person to ever crawl onto Top Model like a woodland nymph set free from the woods, but she was also the rare awkward and sweet character. Still, maybe don't tell Tyra that you think nose bleeds are great because blood is beautiful. Just a thought. – AJ
16. Cycle 16
Winner: Brittani Kline
Favorite Model: Molly O'Connell
Cycle Villain: Alexandria Everett, welcome back to the villain's circle!
Judging panel changes: Same power trio from throughout the Cycle 14-17 stretch: Tyra, Barker, Talley.
Destination: Marrakech, Morocco
Alexandria has the dubious honor of being the only two-cycle villain on this list, but she definitely deserves it. In the third episode, Tyra said her bad attitude wouldn't get her far in the competition. What happened, then? She got fourth, and was invited back for Cycle 17. All for being arrogant and whiny. Bah. The rest of the cycle couldn't recover from her nonsense. (Still loved André Leon Talley.) — KO
15. Cycle 5
Winner: Nicole Linkletter
Favorite Model: Kim Stolz
Cycle Villain: Bre Scullark & Lisa D'Amato
Judging panel changes: Janice Dickinson and Nole Marin were replaced by Twiggy and J. Alexander, aka Miss J, and nothing was ever the same.
Destination: London, United Kingdom
Honestly, this season had a decent amount of drama for how low it's ranked. Bre terrorized Nicole for allegedly eating her cereal bars. Cassandra, after being the recipient of one of Tyra's many disastrous failed attempts at giving one of her girls a pixie cut, decided to go home instead of letting them take another inch. Lisa, who'd later go on to win the All-Star season (by default), had an episode dedicated to her special brand of bizarre — "The Girl Who Loves Bubbles." — AJ
14. Cycle 14
Winner: Krista White
Model Judge: André Leon Talley
Cycle Villain: Alexandra Underwood
Judging panel changes: J. Alexander was bumped back down to runway coach after a couple of seasons as judge. Who replaced him? Three glorious words: André. Leon. Talley.
Destination: Auckland and Queenstown, New Zealand
There was probably a lot of really interesting stuff in this cycle (there was not), but all we want to talk about was the introduction of André Leon Talley. What charity did we all do in our past lives to deserve such a divine creature? The man wears a range of capes throughout his four-cycle stint as a judge. He uses words like "dreckitude." He offers to buy Tyra a salon (said with every bit of accent that the italics imply), and you kind of think he's going to do it. He's the best member of a reality show judging panel since Michael Kors exhaled his first "underwhelmed" sigh on Project Runway's first season. Cycle 14 may not be a classic, but it introduced the show's late-series saving grace. For that, we can only be grateful. — KO
13. Cycle 10
Winner: Whitney Thompson
Favorite Model: Katarzyna Dolinska
Cycle Villain: Dominique Reighard
Judging panel changes: Twiggy out, Paulina Porizkova in. Which model judge you prefer is kind of a coin toss. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Keep those coins in your pockets. The choice is Paulina, if only for how very much Tyra hated her. — JR]
Destination: Rome, Italy
Cycle 10 is fine, but that's about the best that could be said about it. It's most notable for far-and-away frontrunner Katarzyna losing to constant bottom two dweller Whitney. Katarzyna got fifth. Whitney won the cycle. Still, Whitney went on to be fairly successful after the show, so who's to begrudge the judges' decision? A mild, fine cycle. — KO
12. Cycle 9
Winner: Saleisha Stowers
Favorite Model: Saleisha Stowers
Cycle Villain: Bianca Golden
Judging panel changes: This was the last Twiggy season.
Destination: Shanghai and Beijing, China
The most memorable models from this season were Heather and Bianca, both for their awful people and communication skills. In Heather's case she had Aspergers syndrome and ADHD. Biance was just a villain. — AJ
11. Cycle 1
Winner: Adrienne Curry
Favorite Model: Elyse Sewell
Cycle Villain: Ebony Haith, with one hell of an asterisk
Judging panel changes: The original panel included Beau Quillian, who would go on to guest judge a couple of times, and Kimora Lee Simmons, who is a person.
Destination: Paris, France
Ah, Cycle 1. Much like Project Runway, Cycle 1 of ANTM was a bit shaggier than the rest. Winner Adrianne Curry, who pissed Tyra off something fierce and has been all but erased from the show's canon, married Christopher Knight of The Brady Bunch after meeting on The Surreal Life. They did another show called My Fair Brady ...
... and that kind of sums things up, to be honest. Oh, and Ebony, the show's first lesbian model, wasn't so much a "villain" as passionate about herself. When two of the other girls avoided meeting Ebony's girlfriend, preferring to stay in their rooms and read the Bible (which is a scene that may never happen on reality TV today), she called them out on it. Funny that what made her a "villain" then would likely make her a fan favorite now. — KO
10. Cycle 2
Winner: Yoanna House
Favorite Model: Yoanna House
Cycle Villain: Camille McDonald: "This is my signature walk, and this what's gonna make me famous."
Judging panel changes: This was the first and last season judged by Eric Nicholson.
Destination: Milan, Italy
The tagline for this season could have easily been "What Happens in Milan Doesn't Stay in Milan." Poor Shandi went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows when she hooked up with a hot Italian model, then remembered she had a boyfriend back home, wished she was dead, and called him. He didn't take it well. — AJ
9. Cycle 8
Winner: Jaslene Gonzalez
Favorite Model: Natasha Galkina
Cycle Villain: Renee Alway
Judging panel changes: Same as Cycle 7 — Tyra, Twiggy, Miss J and Nigel.
Destination: Syndey, Australia
Renee was the villain, but Brittany was the most annoying. Anyone who has ever had a weave will have negative sympathy for Brittany's inability to handle or take care of hers. But the worst Brittany moment happens during the go-sees, when Brittany and Natasha realize they've returned too late to be eligible to win the prize. As the judges try to announce the winner with Brittany's meltdown echoing in the background, Natasha utters one of her best lines: “I just want to tell you that some people have war in their countries.” – AJ
8. Cycle 7
Winner: CariDee English
Favorite Model: CariDee English
Cycle Villains: Melrose Bickerstaff and Monique Calhoun
Judging panel changes: No changes.
Destination: Barcelona, Spain
Melrose is perhaps the greatest love-her-or-hate-her contestant in series history. Was she a beautiful, impressive model? Or was she all of these things while also carrying around an ego the size of Spain? Monique is one of the all-time great villains, but she was eliminated early – Melrose's dreckitude, to quote André Leon Talley, was a permanent fixture during the cycle. Even a strong winner in CariDee couldn't overcome the lasting impact Melrose had on the cycle. — KO
7. Cycle 18
Winner: Sophie Sumner
Favorite Model: Sophie Sumner (aka Emma Watson's friend)
Cycle Villain: Seymone Cohen-Fobish
Judging panel changes: We lost André Leon Talley and gained ... Kelly Cutrone?
Destination: Hong Kong, China
The whole theme of this season was that the British were coming, but the truth is the British models were much better. Below, the U.S. girls' "Stop, Drop & Tooch" and the British girls' "We'll Mash You Up," which is a much better song, like a rejected Spice Girls reunion track – AJ
6. Cycle 15
Winner: Ann Ward
Favorite Model: Ann Ward
Cycle Villain: Anamarina Mirdita
Judging panel changes: No changes in the main judging trio from Cycle 14, but the guest judges were a serious cut above previous cycles.
Destination: A tour of Italy, including stops in Venice, Milan, Como, and Verona
This was the cycle where Tyra and the team really made an effort to give more of a high-fashion vibe. Vogue Italia became a major force within the show, becoming the prize fashion spread over Seventeen. The guest judges were also stellar across the board, from Diane Von Furstenburg to Zac Posen to Roberto Cavalli. Winning girl Ann from Texas was incredibly appealing. But once again, the best part of the cycle was André Leon Talley, he of the capes and the spontaneous desire to put girls' photos up in his salon. Miss you, ALT. —KO
5. Cycle 20
Winner: Jourdan Miller
Favorite Model: Renee Bhagwandeen
Cycle Villain: Jourdan Miller*
Judging panel changes: No changes, unfortunately (we're talking about you, Bryanboy).
After 19 cycles, Tyra had run out of gimmicks. No one liked the shortie season, she'd done college, she's done British Invasion, and she'd done an all-star season comprised mostly of B-level villains. But adding male contestants completely revitalized the show. There was Mike, the not-that-talented ice cream truck guy discovered by Tyra in Los Angeles. There was Phil, the formerly homeless guy with a girlfriend back home who kept hitting on Bianca. (His makeover was a weave that made him look like Jesus.) There was Don, who was just really pretty. And there was Starvin' Marvin, who hit on a number of girls with varying success. The girls were actually pretty boring. (*Cycle 20 didn't have villains so much as annoying characters.) —AJ
4. Cycle 11
Winner: McKey Sullivan
Favorite Model: Analeigh Tipton
Cycle Villain: Clark Gilmer
Judging panel changes: Nope. This was during the panel's most stable period.
This cycle is notable for the overall strength of the girls. Even fairly early rejects like Joslyn were great contenders. The diversity of the girls led to some really fascinating schisms over nationality – America vs. Europe was a pretty consistent theme. It also notably featured Isis, the series' first transgender contestant, and Clark, who was a transphobic bigot. Standout model Analeigh Tipton would go on to star in Crazy, Stupid, Love and Warm Bodies, making her one of the show's most successful alums. —KO
3. Cycle 6
Winner: Danielle Evans
Favorite Model: Danielle Evans
Cycle Villain: Jade Cole
Judging panel changes: Same as season 5.
When Jade declared, "I am the undiscovered supermodel," she raised the Top Model diva bar exponentially. Not since the first wannabe diva uttered "I'm not here to make friends" has someone said something so obnoxious with such seriousness. Jade's villainy is the stuff of legend. Later in the season, when Nick Cannon of the now defunct Wild 'N Out visits the set, he gets them rapping and Jade goes in on Furonda's bad skin. And then there was her train wreck Cover Girl commercial, which must be seen to be believed. —AJ
2. Cycle 4
Winner: Naima Mora
Favorite Model: Brittany Brower
Cycle Villain: Brandy Rusher
Judging panel changes: This was Nolé Marin's last year, which would make way for the divine J. Alexander to join the panel next cycle. Janice Dickinson was also fired after this cycle, but she came back a few times over the next three as a guest.
Destination: Cape Town, South Africa, where the girls met Nelson Mandela (!)
Cycle 4 is one of the classics for so many reasons, but let's not joke here. We're here for Tyra's batshit meltdown at Tiffany.
This is hands down the most notable moment in ANTM history. It's been GIF'd to death, and for good reason. It perfectly encapsulates the blend of insanity and passion that the show had at its best. This episode was already notable for the disastrous teleprompter challenge and for including the first double elimination in series history. Hearing Tyra scream "LEARN SOMETHING FROM THIS" was just the icing on the cake. (Also, shout-out to also-eliminated Rebecca, who was also the girl that spontaneously fainted in an early episode. Rebecca knew how to bring that must-see TV.) —KO
1. Cycle 3
Winner: Eva "in y'all tall bitches faces" Pigford
Favorite Model: Yaya DaCosta
Cycle Villain: There was a lot of internal debate over this one, with Yaya, Eva, and Amanda "oh, right, nobody stole my crystals after all" Swafford each presenting as villains at some point or another. Take your pick, really.
Judging panel changes: Cute Eric Nicholson was swapped out for Nolé Marin, who fought with Janice more.
Destination: Tokyo, Japan
Whenever you're trying to remember what cycle your favorite top model was from, odds are it's cycle 3. That's when we saw Amanda, the model with the beautiful blue eyes who was going blind, and when Ann carved "CLEAN UP YOUR SHIT" into Cassie's cake. Cassie, meanwhile, had an eating disorder. It's the season Toccara became Top Model's first fiercely real girl. It was the season one of the judges told Yaya her need to prove her Africanness was "overbearing" and made her apologize to a fake African hat:
And it was the season of Eva, the short model who could. Eva won, but Yaya got a movie career.— AJ