This season of America’s Next Top Model is the most diverse one yet

The hit CW Network show America’s Next Top Model is back and crazier than ever—with arguably the most diverse cast the reality show has ever seen.

Cycle 22 premiered on Aug. 5, leaving us all shocked by how different each and every contestant on this season is.  For the first time in ANTM history, host Tyra Banks made the decision to remove the height requirement for contestants—allowing for a wider variety of aspiring models to try out for the 16th season.  Also for the third season in a row, the show has displayed a cast of both male and female contestants—adding a little extra drama to the competition.

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While thousands auditioned, Banks alongside her fellow judges, runway coach J. Alexander and fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone, narrowed down the competition to a group of 14 contestants.

Shockingly, it’s hard to bet on one contestant over another this cycle—as it really does seem as though every model-in-the-making has a shot at winning the competition.  Although this cast features your usual high-fashion expectancies with all their awkward poses and dramatic features, there have been a few curve-ball contestants, such as Nyle DiMarco, a Washington, D.C. native and ANTM’s first legally deaf contestant.

Now that the much-anticipated makeover episode has passed, it’s becoming a bit clearer who’s excelling above the rest and who has to step up their game for a shot at the grand prize, a modeling contract with NEXT Model Management, a spread in Nylon magazine, and a $100,000 contract with Zappos Couture.

While the elimination process no longer includes social media scores as it has for the past three seasons, the competition is as tough as ever.  Already this season, Delanie Dischert, Stephano Churchill, Dustin McNeer and Ava Capra have been eliminated from the show.

The judges claimed that Delanie failed to put her beautiful face to use and lacked intensity in the best shot from her “bound by” photo shoot with Nyle.  On the other hand, while the judges were fans of Stephano’s look, he was eliminated. He consistently photographed poorly from week to week.  Similarly, Dustin was eliminated the following week after delivering another sub-par best photo in his Oppo cell phone photo shoot.  Most recently, Ava was sent home due to her struggles on the set of the “SimplyBe” photo shoot.

With these four contestants aside, the competition has gotten tougher, and there are some clear front-runners.

From the premiere episode, it was clear that Maryland native Mamé Adjei would excel in the competition.  Shoot after shoot, Mamé continues to deliver great film—even winning several challenges already this season.  Most similar to Mamé is Ashley Molina, who has also delivered impressive photos from week to week.  After being given the “Ty-Ty chop” on the makeover episode, Molina seems to be advancing in the competition.

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Also, competing neck-and-neck are Bello Sánchez and Devin Clark—two of the most high-fashion contestants.  Bello, with his natural piercing blue eyes and Devin, with his angular bone structure, are what ANTM is all about: individuality.

While Bello has consistently done well, Devin struggled a bit in the beginning of the competition—as the judges found his pictures more frightening than fashion-friendly.  Despite these struggles, Devin has been improving every episode and is proving that he’s a major force in the competition.

Aside from Devin and Bello, Courtney and Michael “Mikey” Heverly have trademark looks of their own.  Courtney, with a pronounced gap in her teeth, and Mikey, with long blonde hair, have trademark looks that give them a competitive edge in the competition.  Both of them have ironically started up an interesting off-camera relationship, despite being close-running competitors.

While Courtney has no modeling experience other than taking selfies on her iPad, she seems to be one of the underdogs in the group.  On the other hand, Mikey has a fair share of modeling experience and seems, perhaps, over-confident in everything he does.

Hadassah Richardson, an ex-pageant girl from Houston, Texas has consistently struggled throughout the competition, as she has a tough time saying goodbye to her pageant past and embracing her newly half-shaved head.  Overall, Hadassah seems to be one of the weaker competitors—despite her undeniable natural beauty.

Justin Kim and Lacey Rogers have been tough competitors since the premiere episode.  The judges find Justin marketable in both the U.S. and foreign markets, especially Asia.  Likewise, Lacey’s edgy post-makeover haircut made her a more versatile competitor.  However, after recent weight-loss, Lacey often struggles with confidently modeling her new body.  Chances are, if she’s able to accept her new body and give the photo shoots her all, she will likely succeed in the competition.

Lastly, Nyle DiMarco appears to not only be a fan favorite, but one of the judges’ favorites as well.  Despite being the only deaf contestant in ANTM history, DiMarco’s interactions on set and final shots seem unaffected by his inability to hear.  Although the judges have told him to work on toning his physique, there hasn’t seemed to be any heavy criticism of Nyle thus far.

Nyle is ANTM’s first deaf contestant.
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While there’s no betting on who will win the competition just yet, we can all look forward to upcoming episodes.  As the judges weed through the contestants eliminating them one by one, viewers will get an easier understanding of who’s likely to be named “America’s Next Top Model.”

-Liam McGurl

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