Taking over America’s Next Top Model hosting duties from Tyra Banks was an emotional challenge for Rita Ora. “Tyra warned me to be careful because you really start caring for these girls,” the pop star, actress and fashion muse explained. “I felt responsible for their lives, like an older sister. It was very difficult to say goodbye to one every week.”
Still, the 26-year-old had to think #topmodelgoals while shooting the revamped reality TV contest during a hectic six weeks in NYC last summer. “We had to find something bigger than just a model,” noted the single Brit. “With Instagram and Snapchat, these girls needed to be more. They needed to be a multitalented monster.”
The former judge for The Voice U.K. and The X Factor — who performs the same task on Top Model alongside model Ashley Graham, Paper magazine’s Drew Elliot and stylist Law Roach — tells Us the score.
Us Weekly: The show “ended” in 2015 on the CW. Why bring it back?
Rita Ora: It all started when I had lunch with the producer Ken Mok last year. He did the series for the full 22 seasons and asked for my input. I told him the fashion world is not about traditional models anymore. Look at Gigi and Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner: They have so much up their sleeves, from collaborations with top designers to movies. I said we could do this show again but find a global superstar who’s just everywhere. They [producers] were like, “That’s awesome!”
Us: Were you a fan of the original?
RO: Oh, yeah. It was the first TV show I watched that had anything to do with fashion, unless you count Absolutely Fabulous. Tyra was also the first model I’d seen who ventured out and became a businesswoman.
Us: Let’s be real, though: So few of the past winners have actually become top models.
RO: That’s a valid point. The metrics for success for models are self-defined, though. We’re just giving them the platform and the prizes [$100,000, a Rimmel London commercial, a spread in Paper and a one-year deal with VH1]. The rest is up to them to be in control of their own career and make themselves relevant. I’m on magazine covers all over the world, but my typical job isn’t being a supermodel. I carved out my own destiny, took the bull by the horns and kept riding.
Us: Very important: Please tell Us you still use the word smize.
RO: Obviously it’s so iconic that we referenced it a few times. It wouldn’t be ANTM without using that! We’ve made the show our own, with our own touch, but there are some things there’s no point in changing because they work so well. The makeover episode where we revamp the girls goes down a treat. Some of them just did not want to cooperate!
America’s Next Top Model premieres on VH1 Monday, December 12, at 10 p.m. ET.
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