After a series of clips from long-ago America’s Next Top Model cycles went viral, some viewers began to pile on host and lead judge Tyra Banks for what they saw as cruelty towards contestants and insensitive challenges. The show debuted in 2003, and the way models are treated and viewed has come a long way since then. So has what is considered beautiful. On May 8, Tyra responded to the criticism that had caused her name and ANTM to trend on Twitter, but didn’t go so far as to apologize.
“Been seeing the posts about the insensitivity of some past ANTM moments and I agree with you. Looking back, those were some really off choices. Appreciate your honest feedback and am sending so much love and virtual hugs,” the 46-year-old tweeted, along with a red heart emoji.
The show can be seen in Amazon Prime’s streaming catalog and parts of it have not held up well with the passage of time. Tyra was highly critical of some of the contestants’ physical appearances, which in today’s culture can come across as mean and shaming. Among the things that the former Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover model did was telling Cycle 6 contestant and eventual winner Dani Evans that she would ultimately need to fix a gap in her front teeth. Otherwise she wouldn’t be marketable for Cover Girl, one of the show’s sponsors who the eventual winner would work with.
“So Danielle, you went to the dentist but refused to have your gap closed,” Tyra told Dani. “Do you really think you can have a Cover Girl contract with the gap in your mouth? This is all people see. Easy, Breezy, Beautiful, Cover Girl. It’s not marketable,” Tyra said while putting her finger up to her front teeth to mock having a gap. Dani liked the way she looked and told Tyra, “A little bit is ok but I don’t want to completely close it.” Danielle eventually won her cycle, but did get work done to slightly close the gap in her front teeth.
Been seeing the posts about the insensitivity of some past ANTM moments and I agree with you. Looking back, those were some really off choices. Appreciate your honest feedback and am sending so much love and virtual hugs. ❤️
— Tyra Banks (@tyrabanks) May 9, 2020
Rihanna‘s Savage X Fenty lingerie brand model Slick Woods, 23, who herself is known for the large gap between her front teeth, posted the clip to her Instagram on May 5 and wrote about how watching that episode and the way Dani was treated traumatized her while growing up. “No one should ever talk to you like that @danievans1, that episode f***ed up little simone/slick so that’s how y’all feel @tyrabanks @miss_jalexander???” Slick wrote in the caption.
Another cringeworthy moment happened in Cycle 13, when for a “biracial-themed” shoot, six contestants had their skin darkened for a Hawaiian photo shoot in 2009. Tyra later unapologetically responded on her daytime talk show The Tyra Banks Show that, “I want to be very clear: I, in no way, put my ‘Top Models’ in blackface,” she said. “I’m a black woman. I am proud. I love my people and the struggle that we have gone through continues and the last thing that I would ever do is be a part of something that degraded my race.” Tyra was the host and lead judge on the show from its 2003 inception through Cycle 22. Rita Ora took over for Cycle 23 and Tyra returned for the following Cycle 24 in 2018.