When America's Next Top Model returns tonight (8 pm/ET on UPN), expect a bevy of very diverse beauties.
Among the 14 aspiring catwalkers vying for the show's title: Yaya, a 21-year-old graduate of Brown University who majored in African studies and speaks three languages; Toccara, a 22-year-old, 5-foot-9-inch, 180-lb. diva from New Jersey who's intent on becoming the first plus-size supermodel; Julie, a 19-year-old student from Kent, Wash., who hopes to change the image of East Indian women; and Nicole, a 21-year-old ex-punk rocker.
Then there's this year's Shandi: 19-year-old Norelle, a 5-foot-10 1/2, 118-lb. sales associate from Costa Mesa, Calif., who's rocking a set of braces. "It's not like we had this kind of girl before and we want it again," says host and executive producer Tyra Banks. "That's when you get bad casting because you're trying to top yourself. You just try to think new. We were wiping the slate clean from the past and just trying to think bare."
According to Banks, this time around the business of being beautiful will be uglier than ever. "We had no idea the [personalities] were gonna be this strong and that there was gonna be this much conflict," she says. "We sit in the editing room and go, 'Which fight should we show?'
"It's just a crazy cast and they frustrated the hell out of me a lot of times," Banks adds. "When I would get reports of things they were doing, I was like, 'They're spoiled. They don't realize [modeling success] takes years. And they're very lucky — the winner's gonna be famous in months.'"
However, she does point out that "these girls really want it badly. They're not gonna let this opportunity pass them by without a fight. Every one of them has the mentality [of] 'Believe me, I'm gonna be the last one standing.'"
Talk about model behavior.