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Revisiting America’s Next Top Model’s wildest makeovers and worst meltdowns

Tears, tantrums, and teeth shaving

After launching all the way back in 2003, there have now been 24 seasons (sorry, *cycles) of America’s Next Top Model. While there have been more changes to the line-up of judges than the Sugababes – Twiggy, Paulina Porizkova, André Leon Talley, Janice Dickinson, and Kelly Cutrone to name a few – the one thing that has remained constant is Tyra’s penchant for making girls cry with her mandatory makeovers. 

With the promise of a supermodel stardom at the end, the transformations could be better seen as Tyra’s revenge on white women at large, always choosing the chop for their luscious locks. Usually with tears following, understandably, when you take into account the emotional connection we have with our hair. It wasn’t all bad though, sometimes the transformations were much-needed to turn regular girls into actual models. Or there was the joy when Tyra gave the ultimate gift, ass-grazing extensions. Usually met with extreme envy from the aforementioned girls who were given Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby cuts – Tyra’s fave reference. 

To reminisce, we’ve rounded up some of the wildest transformations and the meltdowns that followed shortly afterwards. Enjoy. 


Starting off with a strong contender for the strangest makeover, cycle 18 saw the British invasion with Tyra pitting British models against their US counterparts. Unsurprisingly, the season was filled with drama, including the showdown between contestant Louise Watts and judge and PR maven Kelly Cutrone (as well at guest judge Cat Deeley for some reason) and then quitting the show promptly afterwards. We’re here to talk about hair though, specifically the hair of one of the American models – Laura LaFrate, who was given a patriotic style. To salute the US flag, her hair was bleached platinum, before red and blue clip-ins were added. Yes, really. She didn’t let the hair stop her from going all the way to the final though, just missing out on the title of America’s Next Top Model to British model Sophie Sumner, who became the first non-American to take the title. 


You probably read the above and were confused, just as confused as we were watching the episode when it first aired in 2010. Chelsey Hersley was thrilled to find out that she would just be getting platinum blonde hair, rather than the dreaded pixie cut, but that was only one part of her makeover. The second part saw her go to the dentist to get the gap in her front teeth widened, to give her a Lauren Hutton appeal. The worst part is that after making it all the way to the final, she didn’t even win. 


For cycle 16, Tyra pondered the question ‘What if Diana Ross was a blonde?’. A question that should have remained unanswered, but sadly didn’t. Molly O’Connell was the unwilling victim of the ‘do and it was all fun and games at first, with the weave expert creating a basket design out of her actual hair, before beginning to sew in track after track of blond locks. Six hours later and the explosion of ringlets on her head almost encompassed her whole head. Instead of getting upset though, Molly got mad and bitched throughout the shoot and the whole car ride home. It didn’t stop her making the top two though, missing out on the top spot to Brittani Kline and her sensible bob. 


From cycle 20, men were introduced to the competition, giving them a chance to compete for the title of America’s Next Top Model as well as becoming prey to Tyra’s wildest makeover dreams. In cycle 21, it was Denzel Wells who was the guinea pig for a beard weave. Now, we’ve investigated male weaves before, but the beard weave was a concotion of Tyra’s own. To give Denzel a fuller beard, he had a lace front beard glued to his face. Glued. To. His. Face. His mother didn’t approve and neither do we. 


The biggest ANTM makeover meltdown of all time has to go to Cassandra Whitehead. After making it through the first three episodes unscathed, then came the makeovers. Tyra goes down the line explaining each of the different looks the girls will be getting before telling Cassandra she’ll be getting a cropped pixie cut à la Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. Cassandra immediately bursts into tears, explaining that she loves her long brown hair. She says goodbye to it, crying throughout her chop, but making peace with it. Only to have Mr Jay tell her the next day on set that Tyra wants it shorter. It’s the straw (or snip) that breaks the camels back, and she quits the show. :( 


In cycle 8, Brittany Hatch was relieved to hear she wasn’t getting the chop, unlike some of her fellow models, but her relief quickly evaporated hours later when she was still in the chair having big red curls sewn into her hair. Not knowing how to maintain it, weeks later the hair began to get out of control and was aptly described by Tyra as “the hamster that died on her head”. Brittany quickly went back to her shorter style, but not before she gave us her legendary meltdown after returning late on the go-see challenge, prompting the iconic line from fellow late model Natasha Galkina: “I just want to let you know... some people have war in their countries.”


Jael Strauss – who sadly passed away in 2018 – also featured on cycle 8. Like Brittany, she was also promised long hair to transform her from the short cut that she entered the competition with. After sitting in the chair for hours having extensions sewn in, Mr Jay told her that Tyra had called and wasn’t happy with the style, so they decided to cut all the extensions out and cut more of her hair off. While Jael cried throughout, she explained it wasn’t because of the short hair, but the pain of sitting in the chair for hours, only to have it changed at the last minute. 


Jaeda Young made the biggest mistake on cycle 7 of ANTM – she told Tyra and the Jays that she was always the prettiest girl in high school and everyone had always told her that. Fastforward to the makeovers and Tyra is going down the line assigning the looks to the girls. Weave for you, weave for you, extensions for you. And now Jaeda. Inspired by Halle Berry circa 2002, Jaeda was given a cute crop. Unable to compute short hair with being pretty, Jaeda cried. Then cried some more. And more. In fact, she hated the hair throughout the competition, up until she was eliminated. She did win something though, taking home the award for the Biggest Meltdown Makeover at The Fiercee Awards (hosted by Tyra) in 2008. 


The first cycle to introduce men, Tyra decided to put them through it for her first round of male makeovers. First, she made leg waxing mandatory for all of them. Then, she shaved Cory Wade’s head completely. For Phil Sullivan, she wanted to go in a different direction. With his regular jock looks, she decided he needed to be transformed with extensions. Phil wasn’t overly happy with the look, describing himself as ‘Jesus-surfer-Tarzan’ and we’d have to agree.


Ahead of her time, Tyra actually predicted a hair trend that wouldn’t seem out of place on IG famous girls today for Shei Phan on cycle 21. Bleaching half of her hair and dyeing the other jet black, this makeover actually was quite fab? The only strange part about it was that Tyra decided Shei’s eyebrows also needed to match her half-and-half hair so bleached the right one, making it look like it was missing entirely.