5 Things You Can Learn From America’s Next Top Model

Although acting and modeling aren’t exactly the same thing, they share many similarities. And even though I've never had much experience working in the modeling world, other than a few modely type commercials, and a few print auditions, I still find myself oddly addicted to ANTM! Why? Well, I think it’s because it reminds me so much of the whole experience of acting professionally. Also, I am constantly impressed with the dedication Tyra Banks shows to the young women in her show. She is a compassionate and supportive teacher and role model to so many young women, and she believes in helping future models understand the truth and reality of making it in the modeling world. That, and she’s so darned BRILLIANT!

I’m sure many of you reading this post will agree, that if you’re into acting, you’re probably into modeling. Many of us who get into theater love to be photographed -- and even though most of us (especially me!) are in no way model types -- that is -- we are not all 6 feet tall, and size 2, we secretly love to “Pony Walk” our fabulous selves down every hallway and make grand, gorgeous entrances into every room! So with this spirit in mind, I wanted to give you 5 things I think all actors (men and women of all ages) can learn from Tyra Banks and her fabulous America’s Next Top Model TV Show.

1. Be Yourself

So many actors and actresses seem to forget to bring their own personalities into auditions. It is really important just to be you. I’ve noticed that all of the winners of each cycle of America’s Next Top Model are just themselves. They aren't perfect. In fact, most winners are the first ones to admit when they are wrong. On top of that, the judges, and Tyra, continually tell the models to “Bring their personalities!” to the judging. This doesn’t mean, bring your insanity, but it does mean, bring energy! Don’t let your nerves get the best of you in auditions. Just be your fun, smiley, bright and happy self -- even if you are tired or hung over or unhappy or late. Admit when you are wrong, and listen. And if you feel like laughing, laugh. Too many actors try to be perfect, or charming, or poised, or funny. Just relax, and be you, that’s what casting directors are looking for: the person most comfortable in their own skin. That, and acting chops!

2. Humility Goes A Long Way

When you’re on a TV or Film shoot, or at an audition, or a theater rehearsal, it’s important to remember to leave your ego at the door, and listen. No professional wants to work with someone who thinks they know it all, or talks back. Even if you think the casting director or director or agent is wrong, do not argue with them. The truth is probably that they are right! After all, they are the expert, and you have come to them for help. So keep your mouth shut, smile, and listen to what they are saying. If a working professional, that’s older than you, and more experienced than you, is willing to give you advice, then you’re lucky. I’m not saying that all acting teachers are right, or that you have to do everything someone tells you, I’m just saying, don’t let your embarrassment over making a mistake make you defensive. Just take the new direction with grace, and swallow your pride. You can always cry later! As you can see from America’s Next Top Model, the models on that show that talk back to the judges, the stylists, or the photographers, usually get cut first. And believe me, they won’t be getting jobs in the future. Attitude is never attractive. You can be intelligent and fun and kind, while still staying self-confident. A lack of self confidence, or even cockiness, is usually just a mask for insecurity.

3. Don’t Gossip

When the girls on ANTM gossip about each other, it’s just plain tacky. We all love the drama when we’re watching a reality show; and every producer of these kinds of shows loves the conflict, because it makes for good TV -- but -- gossiping makes those models look really insecure, and really immature. It’s important when you are working on a play or in a commercial or TV show or Film, for you to be supportive and helpful to coworkers. Being a “better person”, learning to not react to others, learning to not lower oneself to the level of engaging with anger or resentment, not get involved in “getting back” at people who’ve hurt you -- all of these situations present important life lessons. And I’ll tell you, I don’t care how big a star you think you are, if you act like a mean vindictive gossip on a set, you will NEVER be hired by that director or producer again. And the crew and other actors will make sure everyone they work with in the future knows that you’re immature and mean. Gossiping about other people behind their backs means that you can’t be trusted. What you see on set, should remain there too, and in your head. Along those lines, don’t go telling other actors how “terrible” a particular camera man or producer or director was. It doesn’t help anyone. This business is hard enough as it is, without making it harder on everyone else. Think about being “classy” at all times, and you’ll never go wrong.

4. Be On Time

As Tyra demonstrates time and time again on ANTM, it's so important that you never be late. I know this is so obvious, but I can not stress this enough. In so many of the challenges on ANTM, the contestants dilly and dally around during their go-sees, and don’t give themselves enough time, and then they’re late. They are immediately disqualified. These businesses, both acting and modeling, are very expensive ones. In both industries, time equals money! So if you are late, you have just wasted the casting director’s, or producer’s, or an entire film production’s money. I produced a film once where the actor just never arrived on his day of shooting. Not good! The only reason we didn't fire him is that we already had many days with him in the can. But he made us lose time and money, and I'll never hire him again! Your being late could have a ripple effect over an entire day’s shoot that loses a studio thousands of dollars -- not good. My motto always is, be at least half an hour to an hour early -- no matter where you go or what you do. That way you’re not searching for parking, panicking, running out of gas, trying to find the address, or running to the bathroom at the last minute. Like a model, as a professional actor, you will be expected to come into that room and blow people away! Come early, so you can be relaxed and poised and prepared for all eventualities, whether you’re arriving to a cold call, an audition, reading, rehearsal, meeting, or film set. I always liked to come to casting director's offices and just relax for 15 minutes before auditioning, and breathe, and do some relaxation exercises. I'd even go into the bathroom if I was early and sit in the booth and do breathing exercises. Auditions are not parties -- don't waste your energy talking to the other actors. Remember, they are your competition -- just like on ANTM!

5. Do Your Research When Working With Someone New

When I’m watching ANTM, one thing that always astounds me is the lack of knowledge of the fashion industry the models have. As a filmmaker and theater director, I would absolutely expect the actors I work with to know my work or the work of other filmmakers. Whether it’s the world of modeling, or the world of acting, you need to educate yourself. You may be young, but everything is learnable. I will always remember the scene in Cycle 5 I think it was, where the girls are brought to London, and they know nothing about who Twiggy was, or what the “Carnaby Street Fashion Scene” did for fashion in the 1960s. I understand that these girls were young, but they didn’t even know what “Mod” meant, or what “Bollywood” was. If you’re going to audition for a director, do your research. Learn what other plays or films they’ve directed lately. If you’re working with a well known director, producer, writer, or DP, know who they are. Read their plays. Watch their films. Read IMDB. Go online, Google them, and read their bios. The same is true for agents and casting directors. If you’re being called in to audition for “Suzie Jones”, a famous casting director, you might want to know that she loves soap opera types, or grungy types, or opera singers, or wacky character types. Then you can dress and act accordingly. You are a professional! It’s your job to know about whom you are meeting and working. And then, most importantly, show that person respect! Don’t have an attitude. Show this person you are honored to meet them and that you’ll learn something from them.

About Kirsten Tretbar

Kirsten Tretbar is an acting teacher, filmmaker, and former actress. She received her MFA in Acting from USC in Los Angeles, where she acted professionally for many years.

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