The host of a reality competition is often a hybrid creature: a judge, a coach, a friend, a foe, an imparter of lessons, a decider of fates. No host, however, has played so many roles for her particular show as Tyra Banks has played for America’s Next Top Model—for which she has served not only as presenter, but also as creator and executive producer, as first mover and final force. Top Model, the Tyra Banks Show even before there was an actual Tyra Banks Show, has been infused with the supermodel at every level. Photos of her have decorated the rooms that have housed the contestants during their time on the show. Challenge winners have been rewarded for their successes with stays in the (similarly Banks-bedecked) “Tyra Suite.” Models have received communiques in the form of “Tyra Mail,” and have found themselves on the receiving end of “Ty-Ty tips.” They have used “fierce” as a noun. They have lived in—and invited the rest of us to enter—a Tyracentric universe.
Top Model, after 12 years and 22 seasons (or “cycles,” in the show’s fanciful parlance), was canceled in 2015; in February of this year, VH1, which had long served as a home for its reruns, announced that it had acquired the show—and that it would resurrect the series with one notable change: Banks would no longer be the show’s host. Instead, Top Model would be presented by Rita Ora, the singer/actor/model/personality/brand. It was a shakeup that would put Top Model’s distinctive physics to the test: Could the show continue intact, even without its center of gravity? Could Top Model keep on spinning, even without Tyra acting as its axis?