From 2003-2018, Tyra Banks’s hit reality competition TV Show America’s Next Top Model, which ran for 24 cycles, was one of our favorite shows growing up. During the show’s height, everyone wanted to be on top.
However, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down all walks of life, a lot of people spent their time stuck at home rewatching their favorite TV Shows. In early May, America’s Next Top Model made headlines after fans, who were rewatching the show (America’s Next Top Model is available for streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime) realized how problematic the show was.
The controversial and problematic moments that fans of America’s Next Top Model pointed out on Twitter vary from race, sexual orientation, disabilities, body image, controversial photoshoots, and even several contestants’ personal lives, to name a few.
Eventually, Banks responded to the criticisms on Twitter, writing: “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.” In response to her tweet, America’s Next Top Model co-creator Ken Mok said that some parts from the show made him “cringe”.
Now, with all of that being said, take a look down below and check out these 15 Moments from America’s Next Top Model That were Problematic AF:
1. Cycle 4: The “Got Milk?” Photoshoot:
One of the most controversial photoshoots in America’s Next Top Model history was the Got Milk? photo shoot from Cycle 4 (which aired in 2005). The remaining 11 models in Cycle 4 were each assigned a different ethnicity to portray for a “Got Milk?” campaign.
Tyra instructed that the girls have their appearance altered to appear to be of a different nationality, which, for multiple models, meant involving blackface and brownface as part of their makeup for that photoshoot.
Given the fact that racial tensions today are heightened in the wake of George Floyd’s death, how Tyra (who’s African-American) got away with doing blackface and brownface on America’s Next Top Model not just one time but THREE TIMES (See #2 and #3 below), is mind-blowing!
2. Cycle 13: The Biracial-Themed Photo Shoot:
Another one of the most questionable photoshoots in America’s Next Top Model history was the biracial-themed photoshoot. In Cycle 13, Banks had the six remaining models left in the competition participate in a photoshoot where they portrayed women of mixed ethnic heritage. Many wore thick makeup to make them appear as though they had darker skin (see the photo below).
3. Cycle 17 All-Stars: The Michael Jackson Photo Shoot:
Cycle 17 of America’ Next Top Model was the show’s only All-Star Cycle and allowed fans to see their favorite contestants compete again for the title of America’s Next Top Model. The All-Star Cycle provided a few controversies (two of which are featured in this article).
The first problematic moment occurred during the fifth episode of Cycle 17. The 10 All-Stars remaining participated in a Michael Jackson themed-photo shoot, which involved several of the models in blackface and brownface.
4. Cycle 16: Who Was Actually Part of The Cast and Who Wasn’t:
In Cycle 16 of America’s Next Top Model, Tyra decided to not do the traditional casting week for the premiere episode. Instead of showing us casting week, she decided that it would be fun to make the 14 girls (who were the actual Top 14) think they were going home, then later reveal it was a joke. The worst part? The top 14 they originally told were moving into the house were actually being sent home.
Last month, one of those “fake finalists” spilled the tea as to what happened all the other fake finalists after they were separated form the real finalists. Check out Laree Starke’s Twitter account @AlienRee to read all of the tea.
5. Cycle 6 – Tyra Ridiculing Danielle For Her Southern Accent and Appearance:
One of the most discussed problematic moments from America’s Next Top Model came in Season 6 where Tyra and the judges ridiculed the eventual winner Danielle for her Southern Accent and not wanting to get the gap in her front teeth closed. While Danielle eventually gave in, what makes this moment extremely upsetting is that a couple of cycles later in Cycle 15, Tyra had Chelsea (who eventually finished as the runner-up of Cycle 15) get the gap in her teeth WIDENED!
6. Cycle 5 – Tyra’s “No-So Welcoming” Response To A Contestant Who’s Openly Gay:
During Cycle 5 Casting Week (the premiere episode of each cycle of America’s Next Top Model), Contestant Kim Stolz (who made the cut and ultimately came in fifth place on Cycle 5) revealed to Tyra and The Jays that she was openly gay, stating: “I want to be out. Like, I’m gay and really proud of it.”
Tyra’s response to Stolz’s declaration was not so welcoming as she urged the model to tone it down: “I’m black and proud … but I’m not, like, walking down the red carpet [saying] ‘I’m black, I’m black.” Watch the entire interaction play out in the video below.
Nah how did Tyra get away with this LOL pic.twitter.com/XrguUvgWFh
— Tanya Compas (@TanyaCompas) May 2, 2020
7. Cycle 1 – When The Girls’ Weights Being Told To All of America:
Given the fact that Problematic Moment #7 happened during the first cycle of America’s Next Top Model, this incident low-key foreshadowed all of the other eyebrow-raising moments that were to come from the show’s following 23 cycles.
While filming the contestants being weighed on the scale is questionable, the aspect from this incident that’s apathetic is the trainer stating all of the contestants’ weights aloud for all of America to hear! For me, this entire scene blares out body-shaming!
8. Cycle 17 – Angelea’s Controversial Disqualification:
Of all the problematic moments from America’s Next Top Model included in this article, what makes #8 stand out from the rest is that most of the incident occurred off-camera! At judging panel after the final runway during the Cycle 17 finale (all of which took place in Crete), it was revealed that Angelea, one of the three finalists, was disqualified by production for unspecified reasons and that the judging was now back in Los Angeles. The revelation sparked multiple theories on social media during the months following the finale as to what exactly happened.
In September 2014, Angelea finally confirmed the rumors that she was the original winner of America’s Next Top Model: All-Stars and that reason why she was disqualified (and stripped of the title) was because she worked briefly as an escort (she told producers about this but they stripped decided to disqualify her only after she won the competition). Watch this interview that Angelea did with Daily Mail below on her disqualification.
9. Cycle 7 – Jadea Having to Work a Racist Male Model and How The Judges Handled The Matter:
Racism in any kind of working environment is not okay. In Cycle 7, Jadea was paired with a racist male model who told her that he didn’t like black women. This upset her and when she told Tyra and the judges at panel about this, they simply didn’t care. Check out the video below to see their appalling response.
10. Cycle 4 – What was really said during Tyra’s infamous rant to Tiffany:
Remember Tyra’s infamous “I was rooting for you, We were all rooting for you, How dare you?” rant to Tiffany in Cycle 4? While that incident (see it play out in the video below) remains one of the most iconic moments in the history of America’s Next Top Model, it turns out that the rant was much longer and offensive towards Tiffany than what was actually shown in the episode. According to a 2017 BuzzFeed article, it was reported that Tyra yelled at Tiffany, in front of everyone (it was later edited out): “You can go back to your house and sleep on your mattress on the floor with your baby.”
Click here to read the in-depth Buzzfeed Feature on the entire incident.
11. Cycle 4 – Using a Recent Tragedy of a Contestant for Ratings Part 1:
When there were seven contestants left on Cycle 4, eventual runner-up Kahlen Rondot learned that a close friend of hers from high school passed away in a car crash. She then had to participate in a photo shoot where she and the other six girls left each portrayed one of the seven deadly sins while posing in a casket at the bottom of a grave (which was eight feet deep).
12. Cycle 8 – Using a Recent Tragedy of a Contestant for Ratings Part 2:
Kahlen wasn’t the only America’s Next Top Model Contestant who had to go through something like that. In Cycle 8, contestant Jael Strauss had to pose a corpse in the crime-scene photoshoot just after learning that a friend back home died of an overdose.
13. Cycle 3 – Yaya Being Told to Tone Down Her “Africanness”:
Tyra loved to tell contestants what was and wasn’t attractive. During Cycle 3, the eventual runner-up Yaya DaCoasta was criticized by Tyra and the judges for her “overbearing” need to “prove her “Africanness” and was then forced to apologize.
14. Cycle 21 – Winnie Harlow Being Called a Panda:
During Cycle 21, Winnie Harlow got into a heated confrontation (see the video below) with Creative Director Yu Tsai after he kept calling her a “Panda”, which is an extremely offensive term to call someone like Harlow who lives with vitiligo, a skin condition where patches of skin lose their pigment.
15. Cycle 4 – The Show’s Handling of Sexual Assault Allegations:
One of the things that America’s Next Top Model has been criticized for was its handling of sexual assault allegations from the contestants. One of the most incidents came in Cycle 4, where during the photoshoot for the final four models, eventual third-place finisher Keenyah Hill stopped her shoot due to feeling uncomfortable after a male model kept touching her. He also moaned in her ear, took photos of her and harassed her repeatedly for her phone number. At judging panel, Tyra called Keenyah out for stopping shoot and not being assertive enough in controlling the incident.