Yesterday, we learned that former America’s Next Top Model contestant Jael Strauss is living on the streets and struggling with addiction to crystal meth. When Gawker picked up the story, another Top Model contestant came forward… in the comment thread. CariDee English, who won Cycle 7 (to Jael’s Cycle 8) took to Gawker’s comments and levied blame on television executives only concerned with the bottom line; those willing to cast anyone–no matter how fragile or uneven–if they’ll make for compelling TV:
“Poor girl. Having problems and then getting a hint of fame only make an addiction rise. They should have evaluated her a lot more before letting her on the show. All they saw was a personality good for television. Well, this hopefully will save at least her life and someone watching. Everything happens for a reason.”
She goes on to say–though careful not to bite that hand that fed her–that Top Model was its own mindfuck, regardless of the opportunities it gave contestants.
“Tyra won’t do anything. She provided a wonderful platform for girls to have a chance at their dream, but, after there is no “Tyra Mail”. I had to guide myself, and even though I won a model competition I still had no idea what the modeling BUSINESS was like. I had no idea what the industry was really like. I was famous, but no one wanted to take my picture. And critics and industry love to give us all shit for not being the next big supermodel. We all have done well, and we all had to do it on our own. I am not complaining, I am simply defending. I love love what I have made for myself since my win, but mentally, its horrific. And any girl who has been on ANTM can back me up. No one wants to take us serious as models. I am sure the show lost its credibility in producing a top model somewhere btwn making 3 cycles a year and posing on roller coasters. Tyra wasn’t there when the cameras stopped rolling, nor did she reach out. I got reached out by her “camp” asking if I would do a “All Star” cycle… I said “Whats the prize? Because last time the only thing I didn’t win was being taken seriously as a top model…”
We’re not convinced it’s the show’s responsibility to intervene and offer help, but we are completely convinced that reality television exploits people. And fucks them up. And makes adjusting to normal life tricky.
We also find it sad and not terribly surprising that all of this will play out on television. Dr. Phil, specifically.