‘America’s Next Top Model’ Embraces Diversity With Ashley Graham And Rita Ora

America’s Next Top Model is shaking things up this season, beginning with tonight’s premiere, as it loses host Tyra Banks and brings in some fresh faces in an effort to revamp the series and increase its draw for younger audiences. Banks will still be connected with the series, but in an off camera capacity, serving as executive producer, while Ashley Graham and Rita Ora will join the series in Season 23. Graham opens up about bringing greater diversity to America’s Next Top Model, while Ora speaks about what it means for her to step up as the show’s new host.

Ashley Graham Wants To See A Plus Size Model Take The Prize

America's Next Top Model, Ashley Graham

An advocate for plus-size women and expanded diversity in the modeling industry, the New York Daily News reports that Graham is bringing her social justice ambitions to America’s Next Top Model, and that may be just what the competition needs after 22 seasons. Ashley joins the series as a judge, which will enable her to put her words into action, as she helps mold the coming season and the hard working competitors hoping to take home the ultimate prize.

As it turns out, Graham may have come to America’s Next Top Model a little late to bring some plus-size contestants to Season 23, but the new judge and fashion model isn’t giving up. She’s already looking forward to the next season of the show.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t happen this round,” Ms. Graham said of casting a plus-size model. “Hopefully for season two — I’m looking for the woman who wins to be plus size. I think it would be so epic.”

Bringing in plus size models wouldn’t necessarily be a barrier-breaking achievement, as Whitney Cunningham was a plus-size model in Season 8 and she did win that season of America’s Next Top Model, but, in 23 seasons, that was the only time a plus size model won. Ashley Graham hopes to make such possibilities far more common on the series.

“You do not see enough women of color on the runways just like you don’t see enough women my size on the runways, so this is very important to have it be a diverse group,” Ashley explained.

America’s Next Top Model Host Rita Ora Describes Her Ideal Contestant: “Brand, Boss, And Business”

America's Next Top Model, Rita Ora

Rita Ora knows the cards are stacked against her, as she takes up the hosting duties of America’s Next Top Model from Tyra Banks and, as People shares, the new host recognizes that her British origins may add to the negative reactions she may get from American audiences, but Rita says she won’t let any of that intimidate her. In fact, she says she has been a long-time fan of the show and is very excited about joining the line-up. It also helps that Tyra Banks has been “really supportive” in helping her get oriented as the new America’s Next Top Model host.

“She’s really happy with where it’s going,” Ora says of Tyra Banks opinion of season 23.

Rita adds that the new judge, Ashley Graham, is one of the toughest people to impress, while Ora, herself, admits to being a soft touch and easily impressed. It seems the judges and the new host will be as diverse in their temperaments as they hope their competing models will be in body style, ethnicity, and personality.

The big question remains. What is Rita Ora and her panel of judges looking for in a winning model?

“First and foremost, we want a girl that can carry on working after the show,” says Ora. “Basically, we want a triple-B girl: Brand, Boss and Business.”

Rita adds that anyone can be beautiful. While appearance is certainly important, America’s Next Top Model is looking for something more from their women. Ora says they’re looking for someone who can take the winning title and use it to brand herself in the real world, using social media to build upon her win.

Ora isn’t just speaking out of turn. Aside from taking on hosting duties on America’s Next Top Model, Rita models, herself, as well as pursuing careers as a fashion designer and a musician. In fact, as the show’s season 23 premieres, Rita Ora is set to release a new album.

“I would love for my new album to be out at the same time as the show,” says Ora. “It’ll be a great example of the multidimensionality I preach to the girls. And also, it’s about bloody time!”

[Featured Image by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images]