André Leon Talley has already finished filming the fourteenth season of America's Next Top Model. He replaces J. Alexander on the judging panel. (Miss J will return to fixing the contestants' busted runway walks.) Talley signed on for three seasons of the show, and tells WWD that Vogue editor Anna Wintour had "no hesitation at all" about him appearing on it, even though neither of them had ever watched an episode. But now, Wintour's going to start:
“Her reaction,” said Talley, “was, ‘Fine, André. Just let me know when you’re going to do it and how it’s going.’” (Reached for comment, Wintour said through her spokesman, “André is always onto new things on television, and I think his latest adventure sounds like a lot of fun and I look forward to watching him on the program.”)
Talley believes the winner is a Vogue-quality model, but could not confirm she would appear in the magazine. "That’s not my decision, that’s Ms. Wintour’s," he told WWD.
Tyra Banks tried to get Talley on the show before it even started. They had lunch, discussed Tyra and the reality show she planned to start, and then probably talked about Tyra some more. Talley said no because he didn't know if the show would succeed or how it would turn out.
But after thirteen seasons, Talley believed he could bring something different to the program. And that doesn't stop at the thirteen Chado Ralph Rucci graduation robes Talley had custom made, and which ought to be worth tuning in for alone, Tyra's crazy aside.
“I went to Ralph Rucci when I started this thing,” Talley said. “We came up with these wonderful designs that are based on 17th-century Edo samurai tunic-coats. And Ralph, who is extraordinarily gifted, understood my desire to have something that would pop on TV.”
So Talley is finally bringing to this program what it has lacked in the entirety of its thirteen-season history: high fashion. Also, eyes that not only judge a bulging abdomen or a stumpy neck or thin frog lips or a horribly obnoxious personality, but the clothes people wear. Even Tyra Banks felt intimidated.
“This is the most clean you will ever see me in the history of ‘Top Model,’” she said. “I am wearing a chignon every single day. I went back to Yves Saint Laurent 1991, honey. I said, ‘This is André Leon Talley! No earrings, no nothing. Just me and the gahhment.’”
Talley said he took his role as a reality star "very seriously." And no such role is complete without a catchphrase. His is "dreckitude":
... a melding of dreck, one of his “favorite” words, and “quackitude,” a term he’d heard on Rachel Maddow use on her show. “‘Dreckitude’ was whipped out when I thought the challenge was not met or if [the contestants] showed up in perhaps an outfit that I just couldn’t wrap my mind around,” he explained. Such as? “I was constantly repulsed by the complete popularity of what I call the Cult of the Ugly Shoe — that is, a very clodhopper, high platform-y, clunky-clunk sort of shoe, which they would favor. And I kept saying to them, ‘You can also be very elegant in a Sabrina flat.’”
Such wise words. But perhaps a little too wise. What are the chances that the America's Next Top Model contestants know what dreck means? Or understand the quirky intellect of a late-night cable-television news host? Do they even grasp the meaning of cult? Smize has gone global. Dreckitude might not even catch on. But this is only Talley's first season. We can't expect him to craft made-up words worthy of their own superheroes just yet.