Ann Ward and 'ANTM': Promoting Unhealthy Bodies?

(Warning: spoilery-TV talk ahead.)

America's Next Top Model contestant Ann Ward has been the subject of controversy since August when the show ran a promo that highlighted her extremely thin body. Ward, who is 6'2", has a Barbie-sized waist, which an adult's hands can easily fit around—as demonstrated in a trailer released before the beginning of the season.

The promo showed host Tyra Banks seeing Ward for the first time and exclaiming over her body, saying, "You have the smallest waist in the world! Look at that waist!"

Ward has said that she was mercilessly teased for her unusual appearance when she was younger, and one can only guess at what her tormentors thought about last night's show when Tyra Banks named her the 15th winner of ANTM. Ward walks away with a yearlong modeling gig, a spread in Italian Vogue, and a $100,000 Cover Girl cosmetics contract.


Some are questioning whether the show is sending the right message by awarding the win to such an underweight young woman. I have to say, I have mixed feelings about this girl—on the one hand, I believe that's her natural body, and I believe she's probably endured a lot of struggles as the result of being so thin. I don't understand enough about modeling to have a strong opinion on whether she had what it took to win, but I'm happy for Ward and the boost of confidence this has hopefully given her.

On the other hand, I find the fashion-spread images of her to be borderline disturbing to look at, and I can't quite wrap my head around the idea that her body should be used to represent a beauty ideal—especially when 8 million Americans are estimated to have an eating disorder.

On the OTHER other hand, what if she was overweight? Would any of us have the right to question whether she deserved to win?

Tyra Banks spoke out about the question of whether ANTM promotes unrealistic or unhealthy body sizes:

I am committed to expanding the definition of beauty which includes ALL shapes, sizes, and proportions, from skinny to curvy and everything in between. It’s about women telling the world to KISS their ... skinny, wide, droopy, flat, cellulite-covered, or FAT ... you know what!"

Does Tyra Banks and ANTM "expand the definition of beauty," or further cement existing beauty myths? I'm not sure. All I know is I want to give Ms. Ward a hug and a milkshake, maybe not necessarily in that order.

What do you think about Ann Ward winning ANTM? Do you think it sends a negative message, or a positive one?

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