“Germany’s Next Top Model” with Heidi Klum has been running regularly on ProSieben for 17 years and there has been criticism of this show for just as long: the image of women is problematic, the ideal of beauty too – and ex-participants raised allegations of manipulation.

Most recently, the model Tessa Bergmeier did. The 33-year-old claimed in a whisper, but of course it was clearly audible for millions of viewers at the campfire of the RTL “jungle camp”, the scene in which she stretched her middle finger into the camera after leaving the “GNTM” season of 2009 – like so many things – taken out of context: “They made a monster out of me.”

Heidi makes a sweeping attack

So far, Klum has largely accepted all of this criticism stoically, let it roll off, and smiled at it. But now her collar seems to have burst: At the start of season 18 on Thursday evening, she made a sweeping attack and said what she had wanted to say for a long time.

“After I had to listen to so many things, especially last year, I would like to take a stand now, dear viewers,” the 49-year-old opens her ten-minute defense speech. For this purpose, headlines from critical media reports are faded in, which criticize a dogmatic ideal of beauty or accuse the show of only appearing to promote the topic of “diversity”, i.e. physical diversity.

The parent guide “Flimmo” was also very critical of the show before the current season: “Above all, external appearances and self-expression, competition and adaptation count,” according to the verdict. “And even though different body shapes are now being shown, a very one-sided ideal of beauty is being propagated overall.”

The ratings are falling

The whole thing is really a matter of the heart for her, Klum counters these allegations – also from her own dismay. “I come from a time when the industry worked very differently,” says the mother of four. Anyone who didn’t fit in a size 34 could go home – that’s what she often did herself.

There are also interview excerpts from her early days as a model, in which she talks about being simply too curvy for many jobs. “That was my school,” she says. “Fortunately, times are different today.”

The fact that the participants in her show are only allowed to eat a little is nonsense. “There’s catering on set and the fridge is always stocked,” she says. “My models don’t have to starve.”

And it’s not manipulated either: “We can only portray a person as they are. So we don’t create another person with the help of the image cut,” emphasizes Klum, thus also responding to allegations by the former top model candidate Lijana Kaggwa, who last year – shortly before the finale of the 2022 season – stated in a YouTube video, among other things, that the production would influence who fell on the catwalk and therefore put cream on the feet of some candidates.

“We are a reality show and show exactly what’s happening,” says Klum in her defense speech, which incidentally could only be seen on the first TV broadcast at 8:15 p.m. – not in the stream and not in the repeat of the show the night.

“Some things don’t repeat themselves in life. And for others, 8:15 p.m. on ProSieben is the best time,” says station spokesman Christoph Körfer.

Nevertheless, the number of viewers remained behind those of the previous year: an average of 1.73 million viewers watched the start of the season. This corresponded to a market share of 7.3 percent in the total audience. A year ago, around 300,000 more watched the start, two years ago even around 600,000.

Information about the Flimmo show on GNTM