We’ve all been joking about who’s going to write King Lear in isolation, but Jay Manuel is actually doing the damn thing. The TV personality and former America’s Next Top Model judge is reportedly writing a satirical novel inspired by his experience on the hit reality-TV show. The novel will be out at the end of the summer and is titled The Wig, The Bitch & The Meltdown, a real missed opportunity to call it America’s Next Top Novel, but I’ll excuse it.
According to the press release, Manuel “has woven an unforgettable, satirical look behind the scenes of Model Muse, a fictional, reality model competition show, and a global phenomenon.” Sounds familiar enough, go on: “This twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, blackmail, mystery, and revenge is seen through the eyes of its moral compass — Pablo Michaels — the heart of production in the helter-skelter world of Model Muse — who fears he is losing his soul.” It may not literally be Shakespeare but it’s certainly high drama. I see Pablo Michaels as The Fool, Model Muse as King Lear, Blackmail and Revenge as Goneril and Regan, and Mystery as Cordelia.
Manuel said of his “metafictional work” that, while it’s “truly a work of fiction,” authors write what they know, and so does he. He added, “We all know reality television is not real, but what it does provide is a wonderful platform to understand essential themes about identity, in all people.”
Whether or not it was his intention, Manuel’s words can’t help but evoke the resurgence of ANTM-related drama this past week after a clip from a 2006 episode of the show went viral. In the clip, Tyra addresses contestant (and ultimately season six winner) Danielle Evans at judging, about an apparent choice she made not to get her tooth gap closed as Tyra requested. “Do you really think you can have a CoverGirl contract with a gap in your mouth?” said Tyra. Ultimately, Evans proposed a compromise: to get her gap closed part-way. The clip stoked anger at the show’s enforcement of rigid beauty standards.
It also prompted a response from Banks, who acknowledged some “really off choices” had been made at certain times in the show’s history. Evans also responded, in a lengthy Instagram video where she explained what was going on behind the scenes (she felt set up by producers who hadn’t told her of Tyra’s request to close the gap before she went in to judging) and that her decision to comply with the request reflected her desire to leave her home town and break into modeling, nothing more. “It doesn’t mater if you have a gap, stacked teeth, straight teeth, it matters not,” she said.
Another day, another rich vein of material for Jay Manuel’s metafictional debut.