In a bout of spring cleaning, America’s Next Top Model is kicking three of its leading men off the runway. Longtime judge Nigel Barker, former judge and runway coach J. Alexander, and photo shoot creative director Jay Manuel will exit the series at the end of the 18th cycle (that’s Top Model parlance for “season”). Show creator and executive producer Tyra Banks confirmed their departures, tweeting, “Fierce & love 2 my @NigelBarker, @MrJayManuel & Miss J. #ANTM turned us in2 a family. Excited for what the future holds for us. XOXO TyTy.”
Banks, along with co-executive producer Ken Mok, also issued this statement: “Nigel Barker, Jay Manuel, and J. Alexander have been an integral part of the America’s Next Top Model brand and they helped turn this show into the household name it is today. They have been amazing assets to the show and will always be a part of the Top Model family. We will continue to actively work with each of them on future projects.”
Manuel and Alexander have been with the modeling competition since its inception, while Barker joined the team in season 2. There have been no reports about the status of Kelly Cutrone, the show’s most recent addition to the judging panel.
“Many of you have come to know me over the past eight years on the show,” Barker wrote on his blog. “This change will allow me to take on new projects and turn my attention to other business prospects in the worlds of fashion, beauty, and entertainment.”
Manuel also addressed the shake up on his site, posting: “From the first cycle you embraced us and nine years later, we still feel that love. Nigel, Miss J, and I had a great run, and now it’s time for us to move on.”
The show has been facing a ratings free fall this season, with its February premiere debuting at a meager 1.3 million viewers.
What will ANTM look like without these favorites? Could Banks, whose own talk show ended a five-year run in 2010, be moving toward a one-lady-band approach for ANTM? Will the show last without its founding forces, or might the injection of new blood bring it back to its glory days?