An America’s Next Top Model Chemistry Tongue Twister

Leave it to America's Next Top Model to prop up stereotypes about women, science, and chemistry all in the same five minutes. The Tyra Banks produced reality TV show/marketing vehicle, now in its 17th cycle, featured a painful-to-watch segment last week that had contestants botching terms including "gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer" during a TV audition. The show's eleven ladies were vying for a role on C.S.I., and had to memorize a script about receiving toxicology results from the lab, which included results from the "gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer". Or the "grass chromatic meter", as one model-wannabe put it. I will set aside the fact that most practicing scientists would call that instrument a GC-MS. What I worry about is that the segment simultaneously projects the concepts "models are stupid" and "science is hard". It's easy to laugh at the contestants. I did a little of that myself. But then in reading the ensuing coverage I kept seeing phrases like these:
the challenge was made difficult on purpose with the use of extra lengthy, tongue-twisting medical jargon that literally only two girls could spit out. - Desiree Neall,
The challenge isn't the words on the paper, but rather, the technical and scientific terms that no one on this good Earth would able to pronounce. ... The impossible line they're supposed to memorize? "Gas chromatograph mass spectrometer."- David Yi, New York Daily News
My only consolation? Two of the eleven contestants did get their lines right. Now that's fierce.

Author: Carmen Drahl

Share This Post On


  1. To be honest I won’t expect a model to have encountered the phrase “gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer” before. That does not imply that she is stupid, but let’s face it, most models don’t really have the chops for chemistry graduate school. I take much greater issue with the news articles which don’t make any effort to explain how commonplace and widely used an instrument the GC-MS is and make it sound like some fancy Martian phenomenon. Does nothing to promote science literacy.

  2. How about ‘Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometer’? Then have some men try pronouncing it. Better yet, men with college degrees. Then, do not allow them to pick up their medication unless they can ask specifically for ‘sildenafil’.

  3. Oh dear, that is a shame. It wouldn’t have taken much to spin that it a positive science experience.

  4. like to be honest on todays show i was really pissed off about the fight between bianaca and lisa. first of all lisa needs to stay out of da buisness and second of all bianca didnt do anything wrong to make watever her name is cry. like all she asked was a simple question so yeah thats all i wanted to say