Ever so often, we watch a television series or movie from the past and we realize how highly problematic it was. Among those shows is “America’s Next Top Model.” Although the show was created with the intention of fostering inclusivity within the fashion industry, the show’s creator, Tyra Banks, says that she and the producers missed the mark.
“America’s Next Top Model was created — I created it — to introduce diversity and inclusion into a world that was pretty much not representing that or representing it in the most minute ways. So that was the crux of why I created America’s Next Top Model. It’s why my partner Ken Mok and I, who’s Chinese American, got up every single day, and we made so many inroads,” Banks shared during an appearance on “The Tamron Hall Show.”
“We were still operating in a world — I was still a model at the time, not a retired model yet, and still operating in this world that had so many rules,” she went on. “It was this awful push and pull that we all had.”
Banks admits that “different categories of things we messed up,” adding that the show “did a whole bunch of things that we did mess up.” One of those things is telling the girls that they had to “fix” certain things about themselves, such as the time she came down on cycle six winner Danielle Evans for refusing to have her gap closed.
“Do you really think you can have a CoverGirl contract with a gap in your mouth?” Banks asked Evans in the 2006 episode. Something for which she later apologized.
Banks told Hall that she was in a difficult position as the creator of ANTM because she “was trying to push boundaries but was also torn to try to make sure that these girls could work, so it was a balance,. It was like, ‘Oh, break beauty barriers,’ but yeah, I can break them all I want on the show, but they’ll graduate from the show, and they won’t work.”
In hindsight, the retired supermodel says that she could have handled things much differently.
“I had model agents here saying, ‘These three girls could really, really work, but this must change,’ so there was a whole behind-the-scenes thing happening,” Banks went on. “Instead of me saying, ‘You must change this,’ on TV, I think what I should have said is, ‘You’re beautiful.'”