In the early 2000s, when Tyra Banks was given a talk show, she invited fellow supermodel Naomi Campbell onto the couch to discuss the decades-long rift that had existed between them.
As you can imagine, back in the nineties when opportunities for Black supermodels were few and far between, the arrival of Tyra Banks into the fashion model scene likely represented a threat to Ms. Campbell. And in her youth, she didn’t have the tools to handle it properly.
For years, because of her history with Tyra and some other things—which we’ll discuss later—Naomi was labelled the mean girl. And Tyra, with her roles in Disney movies, her constant presence on our television screens with “America’s Next Top Model (ANTM),” was a much more sympathetic figure.
I’m sure colorism—complete with Tyra’s light eyes—also played a role in the way the public gravitated to her over Naomi.
But now, that we’re more conscious about what we consume. Now that we recognize injustice more readily, people have sifted through old ANTM clips and have found that on more than a few occasions, Tyra also exhibited some mean girl behavior when it came to the women who stood before her each week on her reality competition show.
There are tons of cringeworthy moments. Tyra telling people to close their gaps. There were instances when she attempted to change a model’s race for the sake of a photoshoot—often utilizing blackface. There was fat-shaming, her discouraging a gay model from living out. A whole mess.
There were so many troubling clips people unearthed that Tyra Banks had to apologize for the way she acted all those years ago. And honestly, it was long overdue.
Even though standards were different when ANTM was on the air, it’s never too late to acknowledge the harmful impact your words and actions left on the world, especially since Tyra’s branding has been built on inclusivity.
I haven’t seen how Naomi interacts with models who desire to be where she is someday, but I can say I’m sure she wouldn’t have had nare person in no blackface.
And apparently, Naomi wanted y’all to know that too.
Recently, The Things, published an article claiming that perhaps we had it wrong all these years. And that Tyra was actually the mean girl all along.
Interestingly, Naomi shared the article in her Instagram stories.
I’d like to propose that this premise is half right. Tyra has her fair share of mean girl moments. And so has Naomi. It’s not fair to paint one of them as mean when they both have been.
Naomi is obviously still harboring deep-seated resentment toward Tyra, hence her decision to share this story with millions of people all these years later.
And Tyra’s history cannot be denied.
Furthermore, regardless of what may have happened with Naomi and Tyra decades ago, I won’t soon forget that Naomi had eight instances where she physically assaulted people in her employ.
Thankfully, she’s taken anger management courses, enrolled in rehab and from the outside looking in, seems to have grown from that time in her life. And from what I can tell, she seems to be doing better. Great. All any of us can ask is that one recognizes their shortcomings and work actively to do better.
Before y’all start, I’m not falling into the same trap the modeling industry did when Tyra came on the scene. I’m not pitting two legendary, talented and iconic Black women against one another when there has always been room for both of them–and several others.
I’m team Black women period. And both Naomi and Tyra have showed us how to win. At this point, decades later, we should be at a point where we can celebrate both of them for what they’ve contributed to fashion and culture without making it a contest of who’s worse. It’s the same dangerous game. And at this point, we should all recognize that it doesn’t benefit any Black woman to play it.
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