Idol Chatter

I can’t pass up marathons of “America’s Next Top Model” (darn you, Tyra Banks for creating such addictive ephemera), so when I saw a listing for BBC America’s “Britain’s Missing Top Model,” an ANTM-type competition featuring eight disabled models, I was curious. The show, which was a controversial hit in Britain, aims to prove that disability should be a part of fashion just as it is a part of life.
There have been a number of women on ANTM with disabilities–think Cycle Three’s Amanda who revealed she was legally blind–but BMTM is a totally different and engrossing enterprise as it attempts to change the perception of these women from that of being damaged to that of simply being beautiful. Hailing from the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Netherlands, the contestants have disabilities that range from profound deafness to debilitating hereditary diseases to loss of limbs and movement.
In last week’s premiere episode, the girls criticized the judges for not being harsh enough in their critiques; that they were, perhaps, holding back criticism they would have readily given fully abled models. (A concern one of the judges had expressed earlier in the show.) But, not to worry, former model, television presenter, and judge Lara Masters, who suffers from a degenerative disease and is wheel chair bound, had enough criticism about the judges’ choice for the first cut. Masters argued that keeping one of the deaf contestants over Rebecca, who has a prosthetic leg, wouldn’t send a strong enough message to the public and the fashion industry as the disability of deafness does not translate visually. (Rebecca was eventually voted off.)
Teasers for upcoming episodes promise the usual name-calling and back-stabbing surrounding the photoshoots found on ANTM, but that’s what makes this show so fascinating: on one hand, these models are just like ordinary models we see vying for contracts on reality tv (which is really the point of the show), but on the other hand, they are extraordinarily brave role models.
“Britain’s Missing Top Model” airs Tuesday nights at 9:00 p.m. on BBCAmerica.

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