Want to be at the top of your game? 

The runway was awash with hundreds of thousands upon thousands of rookie runway runners for 24 seasons straight (sorry cycles). Leggy natives of Joliet, Illinois and Grand Forks, North Dakota turned up to theAmerica’s Next Top Model set to the learn the art of the smize and the booty touch and, most importantly, how to build a career in fashion á la host Tyra Banks, who very much dominated the field from 1996 (the year she first appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue) onward. 

As a long-term creative director Jay Manuel has recently highlighted, some of the critiques and challenges certainly feel off-putting now—and were every bit as questionable in the early 2000s. Banks will agree that Blackface is unacceptable in any form. having tweeted“Looking back on it, these were some very wrong choices.” 

But when the reality series premiered more than 17 years ago, first on the now-defunct UPN, then The CW and, most recently, VH1, it dominated, at one point netting upwards of 6 million viewers eager to watch wannabe cover girls sob through their pixie cut “Ty-over” and attempt to nail the perfect commercial for LashBlast Mascara.