A Ranking Of Bizarre "America's Next Top Model" Runway Challenges, From Tame(ish) To Absolutely Absurd

For those who don't know, this month marks 20 years since the airing of the first episode of America's Next Top Model. Anyone else feeling super old right about now?

Tyra Banks saying "Hoe, but then make it fashion"

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It's no secret that ANTM has been called out in the past for being pretty problematic. From putting models in blackface to forcing them to relive past trauma, this show has faced its fair share of criticism over the past few years.

Tyra Banks screaming at a contestant "I was rooting for you, we were all rooting for you! How dare you?!"

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Some of the most unhinged moments happened during the infamous runway challenges throughout the seasons (referred to as "cycles"). So naturally, I wanted to go back and take a look at some of the bizarre runways contestants were forced to walk down. Here's my ranking of some of the wildest ones:

17.Let's start with the most "tame" one: Masquerade Ball (Cycle 20)

Two contestants walk down the runway together

At least this one wasn't unsafe, but it still made me SUPER uncomfortable. Cycle 20 was the first time male contestants were on the show, and it seems like producers wanted to take full advantage of that.

For this challenge, contestants had to choose a partner of the opposite sex and walk down the runway with them in lingerie and masquerade masks. Sounds pretty tame, right? Oh, except for the part where they had to make out with each other at the end of the runway. Some were thrilled, others were concerned, and all of them made me cringe.

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Please join me in my secondhand embarrassment over this rejection.

A contestant rejects a kiss from her runway partner
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There were also a few anti-trans remarks made during this challenge and the judging panel after. One contestant, Phil, is shown saying, "There's a 37% chance I kissed a dude" after kissing a transgender contestant, Stefanie.

Phil and Stefanie kiss at the end of the runway

The plain ignorance throughout this entire show is just baffling.

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16.Silly String (Cycle 21)

Two contestants covered in Silly String

We're starting to border on unsafe here, but mostly, I'm just confused by this choice. For this challenge, contestants were covered in their more *ahem* sensitive areas with Silly String in lieu of clothing.

They were then blasted with more Silly String as they walked down the runway. Contestant Kari is shown saying, "By the time I got to the end, I couldn't see anything." And many contestants ended up baring all, since, well, Silly String wasn't really designed for a high-fashion runway.

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I just don't get the creative vision here. I'm not really a fashion expert, but isn't the point of a runway show to present a designer's clothing? Are they promoting Silly String? I'm lost.

A contestant getting sprayed with Silly String on the runway

Bless the janitors who had to clean up this disaster.

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15.Turntable Runway (Cycle 20)

Two contestants walk on the turntable runway, one trips

In this Nylon magazine show, contestants had to walk on not one, but two turntables that were continuously spinning. The models would start on one, walk around, then hop onto the next, all while trying not to fall.

Some were more successful than others, and there were a few trips — but thankfully, no major injuries. I'm honestly just upset that the female contestants — who were forced to wear heels and naturally had more falls — were judged the same as the male ones.

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Not going to lie, I actually do kind of like the look of this one and can somewhat see the vision behind it.

The turntable runway
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14.From Mortals to Gods (Cycle 17, All-Stars)

Contestants in the pool

I'm cheating a little here because this is actually a final runway, not a challenge. It's still bonkers nonetheless. This Greece final is going to take some explaining, so bear with me!

The whole premise behind this is that the contestants would start as mortals and turn into gods. What did that process entail? So glad you asked. First, they walked into the water, swam a few feet, and emerged completely soaked. They followed that by going under a giant tarp, swapping with another model while they ran out the back to change, and then reappeared.

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But did they just reappear like normal humans? Nope! They were lifted up in a harness, floated around for a bit, then lowered onto the runway to strut to a song THEY WROTE. You can't make this stuff up.

One contestant floats in a harness and another walks the runway
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Not to mention, the conditions were horrendously windy, and the long wigs and masks caused some sight issues in the water.

A contestant is flustered after swimming the wrong way

They really couldn't have sprung for something a bit more luxe than a 99-cent Party City mask?

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13.Spinning Carousel (Cycle 17, All-Stars)

A contestant excitedly walks the carousel runway

Cycle 17 truly had some wild ones, didn't it? Contestants were sporting clothes from the Kardashian Kollection — with the Kardashians in attendance, of course — and had to show them off on a spinning carousel.

It's a playful idea in theory, and I guess some of the models had fun with it, but I'm once again struggling with the vision of the whole circus theme here. Also, this thing was going SO FAST.

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And you better believe they fell! I feel nauseated just watching them spin.

A model falls on the side of the carousel

"My biggest thing is just not falling" —Dominique, literal seconds before this moment

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12.High Heels (Cycle 6)

Contestants twist their ankles in very high heels

My ankles hurt just looking at this. The whole point of this mini challenge was to get the contestants used to walking in extremely high and uncomfortable heels. Tyra cited Vivienne Westwood as an example of a designer who has her models walk in shoes like this.

Half of the contestants ended up tripping or completely falling while their ankles twisted in every direction.

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One contestant, Danielle, had such a bad fall that she showed up to the judging panel on crutches. She still kept her cool the whole time. Personally, I would've cried and gone home.

A contestant walks in crutches
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11.Cobblestone High Heels (Cycle 7)

A contestant walks on cobblestone in heels and a masquerade mask

They just really loved watching contestants struggle with high heels on this show. For this challenge, former Cycle 5 contestant Bre was brought on to judge how the models walk on cobblestone with heels.

A piece of tape was put on the ground, and contestants were judged on how straight and composed their walk was. They were also given masks, for some reason, which one contestant said was impossible to see out of. You know, in case the challenge started to feel too easy.

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Just look at those ankles absolutely giving out:

Contestants twist their ankles on the cobblestone
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10.Moroccan Tray Balance (Cycle 16)

Contestants balance trays with candles and teapots on their heads

Oof, there's a lot to unpack with this one. In this Moroccan challenge, each contestant had to walk down the stairs and through a crowd of guests while balancing a tray of teacups and lit candles on their head.

The outfits were a bit culturally appropriative, and the whole concept just feels wholly unnecessary. When in the fashion world will they ever be tested to have this level of balance?! Why did they need more accessories in addition to lit candles?!

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Two contestants, Molly and Alexandria, ended up dropping their trays. I was truly terrified about a house fire. Miss J might've loved it, though.

Two contestants drop their trays

Molly's mishap was followed by her repeatedly cursing. Relatable, TBH.

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Sidenote: Did anyone else get super annoyed whenever the audience started laughing at the contestants' slipups? You try balancing a tray of fire on your head, Susan!

A woman laughs after a contestant trips

I'm sure this is an editing trick, but still.

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9.Four Stories High (Cycle 15)

A contestant walks a very high runway

The fact that this runway is only in the middle of the list should be a good indicator of what's to come. This Diane von Furstenberg show had the contestants attached to a harness as they essentially walked the plank, except the plank was four stories high and transparent, and the hope was that no one would fall off.

Contestants said they were "scared for their life," and one even fell (thankfully, it was at the end and not off the actual runway). Another contestant, Kacey, couldn't wear her glasses and was worried she wouldn't be able to see anything.

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There is absolutely no way I would trust this flimsy little harness to catch me if I fell. Who was holding this thing? Please tell me it wasn't Tyra.

A contestant grabs her harness as she prepares to walk down the runway
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Also, there's no chance the audience could get a good look at the clothes. They were straining their necks just to catch a little glimpse.

The audience looking up at the models on the runway
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8.Fire Hands (Cycle 16)

A contestant lights her hand on fire and proceeds to walk down the runway

Boy, did they love playing with fire in Cycle 16. Contestants had to literally light their hands ON FIRE for this runway challenge by putting on what I'm assuming were fire-resistant gloves with small coals attached.

The models would approach the runway and carefully touch their hands on two torches to ignite the coals, then would strut down the runway with their flaming hands as the main accessory. This goes against everything fire marshals taught us in elementary school.

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Also seems a little redundant to have both your runway and models set aflame. But hey, what do I know?

The runway engulfed in flames
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What I do know is that it's giving Aang and Zuko.

A clip from "Avatar the Last Airbender" of Aang and Zuko holding small flames

Except the former scenario didn't end with a wonderful friendship being born.

Nickelodeon / Via youtube.com

7.Cockroach Walk (Cycle 6)

A tray of bedazzled cockroaches and a contestant holding a cockroach on a leash

You might be wondering why I'm ranking this one above a dangerously high building and literal fire. Well, count yourself lucky if you've never had to deal with a cockroach infestation.

For this challenge, designer Jared Gold presented the contestants with a tray of LIVE bedazzled cockroaches, along with the explanation that models have to be ready for whatever designers throw at them. The models then walked down the runway with their new creepy-legged accessories, all while trying to keep their composure.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think designers are throwing this at anyone anytime soon. I don't remember seeing leashed cockroaches at fashion week.

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But I guess I did see one at the Met Gala. Cockroaches need some glam too, I suppose.

Hi y'all it's me, the #METGALACOCKROACH I'm here to curse out the photographer for stepping on me. He gave me a concussion #MetGala #MetGala2023 #fypシ pic.twitter.com/o1SHOKfYXs

— Met gala cockroach (@Met_gala_roach) May 2, 2023

@Met_gala_roach / tiktok.com / Via Twitter: @Met_gala_roach

Most contestants were understandably losing their shit. But one contestant got a little TOO friendly and actually kissed her nasty little companion.

A contestant kisses her cockroach

So glad we can all collectively have this photo burned in our brains.

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6.Blindfolded (Cycle 11)

Two contestants walk down the runway blindfolded

I don't think I fully grasped how dangerous this really was when I first watched this show. Pretty self-explanatory, but contestants had to walk down the runway completely blindfolded.

They did have sensors so they wouldn't walk off the edge, but still! Losing one of your main senses can completely disorient you, and I'm surprised there were no falls during this one.

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Again, this just seems completely unnecessary and purely for ratings.

A contestant walks down the runway blindfolded
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5.Wobbling Platform (Cycle 7)

Contestants struggle to walk on a wobbling platform, one falls

A runway in the middle of a pool? A bit scary. A runway that WOBBLES in the middle of a pool? Terrifying. Not only did the models have to walk on this thing without falling, but they also needed to keep their composure for the photo at the end.

I think the worst part of this whole thing was that the contestants had no idea that this thing actually moved until the first person walked out on it. There were definitely some stumbles, one major fall, and one wardrobe malfunction.

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I can't believe that Jay Manuel told the contestants, "I've walked it all afternoon and clearly I'm fine." Sir, that is simply untrue.

A contestant falls into the water
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4.Plastic Bubbles (Cycle 16)

Contestants walk down the runway in plastic bubbles, one falls

They just love their tiny water runways on this show. Contestants had to walk on this 12-inch-wide runway set over yet another pool. As if that weren't bad enough, they were also trapped inside giant plastic, glittery bubbles. Because why not?

There were a few falls — which I thought was to be expected, but was not appreciated by the judges. Honestly, I would love to see literally any of them attempt this.

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Worse than the actual fall, though, was getting up. I can imagine it isn't easy to stand up in water while floating in a giant bubble.

A contestant attempts to get out of the water while inside her bubble
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Also, look at Miss J just cackling at these poor women. They were completely set up to be humiliated.

Miss J and audience laughing after a contestant falls
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3.Swinging Pendulum

A contestant walks down a runway with two swinging pendulums

Imagine you're sitting in the audience for a fashion show and THIS is what you see: essentially a level through Waluigi's Mansion. Contestants had to nail their timing down the runway so they wouldn't run into not one, but TWO swinging pendulums on their way to the end.

This seemingly Mario Kart–inspired challenge caused problems with multiple contestants who ran into the pendulums. But even if they avoided them, the need to pause abruptly and continue the walk was just...awkward?

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Poor Alexandra fell twice during this challenge: once down the stairs, and again when she was knocked off the stage by a pendulum.

A contestant falls after getting hit by a pendulum

The judges critiqued her facial expressions for looking "angry" after the first fall. Guess not everyone wants to smize through the pain!

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2.Conveyor Belt (Cycle 15)

Contestants attempt to walk down a runway with a moving conveyor belt

There's a point where creativity gets pushed so far that it ceases to exist. This is one of those moments. Contestants were told that they would essentially be walking on a treadmill for this challenge, and in heels nonetheless. Oh, and did I mention they shut down a busy tunnel in downtown LA for this?

To make matters worse, experienced male models walked the runway first in SNEAKERS, something Miss J was very excited to point out. So not only were the contestants embarrassed by their own falls, but they were also shown up by someone who had a way less daunting walk ahead of them.

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To literally no one's surprise, nearly every contestant fell. Given the speed of this thing, and coupled with the outfit choices, it definitely felt intentional.

A contestant falling on the runway
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1.And lastly, the winner for the most absurd challenge: Vertical Runway (Cycle 20)

Contestants walk down the side of a building attached to a harness

This challenge looks like the trailer for a Marvel movie and tops the list for the most bonkers and dangerous runway ANTM has ever attempted. Contestants were told to scale down the side of the building while attached to a harness. They then had to continue their walk down a horizontal runway with their partner, as if they didn't just risk their lives.

Once again, the female contestants were wearing heels while the male contestants wore sneakers. Are we starting to see a pattern here? I don't think a single vertical walk looked graceful, as most of them, of course, fell back immediately.

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Backstage, contestants were told not to touch their hair (more directed at the women). It's literally in their face?? What are they supposed to do??

One contestant moves her hair out of her face while another falls back

They also made fun of contestants' walks. Again, please come up and attempt this yourself at any point.

The CW / Via youtube.com

Which ANTM runway challenges do you think were absolutely wild? Let us know in the comments!