With a lot of time on our hand’s people have turned to watching their favourite old TV shows to kill some time, reminisce and laugh at some old cringe tv moments. Well, some of these moments are definitely not funny and people are offended and shocked by some of the things we heard from our favourite tv show personalities. If you haven’t already guessed the show receiving extreme backlash on social media is America’s Next Top Model with Tyra Banks as the star of the show. America’s Next Top Model is pretty much what it says on the tin, Tyra Banks amongst other judges help train and critique, up and coming models as they compete to win a cash prize and a modelling contract, as well as the infamous label as America’s Next Top Model, jump-starting their career.
A lot of the backlash of the show and Tyra Banks, critiques Tyra’s treatment of the models labelling her as a Villain for some of the comments she made to previous contestants. One that has been frequently brought up is her comment on Danielle’s gap in the front of her teeth. People feel this was uncalled for and hypocritical as she then went on in season 15 to ask a white contestant to get her gap widened in order to look more like a particular model. Another issue that has been present in ANTM is the push for black models to adhere more to the white standard of beauty and dull down themselves in order to be more ‘ marketable’. With Tyra herself being a black woman many people were disappointed to hear this back and watch as Tyra allowed other judges to belittle African American contestants based on their way of being as black women. Not to mention the blackface shoot where models replicated people from another culture. Something we know to be extremely offensive and outrageous.
Despite all these twitter comments being completely understandable and right to feel disappointed in Tyra, perhaps saying shes going to hell and should be cancelled is going too far. There is a deeper level to al this and some reflection on the context of society and the industry during that time should be taken into consideration. Although the things Tyra said and did were unacceptable and contributed to some of our insecurities growing up, we have to acknowledge this is the harsh and anti-black industry she had to climb through to become a successful supermodel and perhaps this is just what she was preparing the models for. This is the reality she knew and all the comments she heard a thousand times, she constantly saw her white counterparts getting booked for jobs over her despite working just as hard if not 10 times harder. Constantly going through this and hearing the same critique based on her black features surely took a toll and led to internalised racism and being heavily critical. Can we really judge when in those times a lot of us didn’t know any different? If not Tyra it would have been someone else we had to ‘cancel’ in fact we should cancel the whole industry for promoting an unachievable standard of beauty with a lot of black women facing the harshest criticism.
The modelling industry is known for its harsh criticism leading models to have eating disorders, mental health disorders and low self-esteem which at the time of ANTM was not openly discussed in the media, it really was a different time for the industry. Modelling is certainly not for the faint-hearted, particularly in those times.
We have somewhat progressed, with a lot more of a diverse range of models being celebrated, models of different skin tones, shapes, sizes and unique hair, skin and … teeth. Some of these unique elements have even been a trend, making models born with these traits stand out and celebrated but unfortunately in the fashion and beauty industry body and facial features go in and out of style and we still have a lot of work to do in terms of racism, colourism, texturism and body positivity. Although it may not be enough Tyra has used her fame and inside knowledge of the fashion industry to advocate for anti-bullying campaigns as well as promoting body positivity while receiving criticism on her weight gain and helping women who look different get into the modelling world. Yet despite all she has done to show she has learnt and changed from ANTM, people still feel she is a villain.
“This is for everybody that has been told that they are not good enough because of their body, their age, their everything. #BanX is here to tell you that you ARE friggin’ fierce no matter what anybody says! Drop mic now!” – Tyra Banks
This seems to be another case of expecting black women to be invincible. Despite all black women go through and have to deal with, society constantly expects black women to be exceptional, to be perfect and make no mistakes, one mistake and are heads are ready to be burnt at the stake, we saw this recently with Nella Rose being dragged for colourist tweets made more than 7 years ago at the age of 12/13 and now its Tyra people are directing their rage towards.
Although Tyra was the host of the show and the creator, there were many producers and other people involved in the production of ANTM, not every decision was down to her and plenty of people within the fashion industry, agencies, brands, model scouts, editors etc participated in making the industry so toxic. I think what we need to be angry and raging at, is the system, the system that has caused us to internalise the belief that black is not beautiful. It’s poisoned all of us and pointing fingers at the very same people who went through and suffered the exact same thing is not progressive and is doing nothing but turning us against each other. How far are we going to take cancel culture till we finally see we are fighting all the wrong people.