Two beautiful Tyra Banks stories are before me, across my entire Twitter timeline. First, the story of an underdog supermodel who has turned into a fairy, helping young women follow their own model dreams; the other, the story of a tyrant disguised in the lingerie of a Victoria’s Secret Angel.
And only one of these stories will become the story of one of America’s top models of all time.
A swirling combination of quarantine boredom, Amazon Prime’s streaming catalog, and the power of the Internet to bring us closer together, the blazing divide between which of these two storylines could be the truth behind Tyra Banks is a phenomenon for all of us – everyone online, not just fans of her TV shows – to watch.
This week “Tyra” became one of them Twitter’s most popular trending topics. But the iconic Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover-up model, the pioneer of the reality competition genre and the daytime talk show host hadn’t been part of “ new ” news.
Tyra’s increase in search interest was the result of people pointing out how, in retrospect, America’s next top model and The Tyra Banks Show were crazy, strange and embarrassing at best. At worst, they perpetuated the toxicity, the unhealthy body image and the confusing understanding of race and sexuality.
The common factor between these shows, in addition to their problematic content, is the woman at the helm. Tyra claimed she wanted to disrupt the fashion industry she knew so well (with ANTM, it has walked 24 seasons) and to address a series of issues that were important to her (with The Tyra Banks Show, it ran from 2005 to 2011). But looking back, both provocative programs seemed to clumsily enforce the worst features of the fashion and entertainment industry.
And if this shows that Tyra has put her reputation and career on the line, has not stood the test of time, what about everything else Tyra has told us? What will happen to Tyra’s own image? How does that hold up?
Was Tyra Banks the bad guy all along?
Watching movies and television shows again is a national pastime, aided by the advent of streaming. And we keep watching our old favorite shows and movies because they make us feel good.
There is also another but equally powerful form of satisfaction that comes from watching something that doesn’t quite hold up or reveals a new twist after the spirit of the age has faded.
A popular example of a rewatch revelation is The devil is wearing Prada, the 2006 movie starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. With each rewatch of that movie, it becomes clearer that the “devil” Miranda Priestly (Streep), Runway’s discerning editor, wants only the best for the magazine. Meanwhile, Nate (Adrian Grenier), Andy’s (Hathaway) stuffed potato boyfriend that we are expected to love is a not supportive joke that suppresses his girlfriend’s career – the real villain of the story.
That ‘real’ reading of the movie and its real ‘villain’ is now popular enough to become a meme:
J.K. Rowling is the real villain of The Devil Wears Prada.
– Devil Wears Prada Villain of the Day (@RealTDWPVillain) March 23, 2020
These express realizations about infamous villains all over the media are common. We as a culture have also revised our readings of famously maligned women in real life, such as the six women of Henry the Eighth, Monica Lewinsky, Taylor Swift, and Marcia Clark, because in retrospect it has made it possible to recognize the different prejudices that played a role in their public perception.
It says a lot about society that many women are demonized first, but only fall victim to their own stories and scandals many years later. And Tyra Banks’ television oeuvre is now undergoing such a retrospective analysis.
It’s hard to figure out the exact ‘why’ of what particularly caused a deeper investigation of Tyra Banks in the past week, but several seasons of Tyra’s reality match show, America’s top model, streamed on Amazon Prime. And since the new coronavirus pandemic keeps people at home, it makes sense that we all stream more than usual.
Clips from ANTM and responses began to go viral on TikTok and Twitter in early May, as one of Tyra told a gay contestant during the fifth season of ANTM how to make her homosexuality acceptable. Tyra says to the contestant, “I’m black and proud … but I don’t like walking the red carpet [saying] “I’m black, I’m black.”
It’s hard to look at without shrinking, especially today. Kim Stolz, the participant who gives Tyra lectures in the above clip, wrote for MTV in 2008 about her experience on the show.
“How much to applaud the subversive topics that ‘ANTM’ has dealt with so far – physical and sexual abuse, homelessness, female circumcision, homosexuality (hi !!) – we must also accept that there were times when those issues were clearly exploited for entertainment value, ”wrote Stolz, prior to a season with the show’s first transgender model. “Maybe we can’t blame Tyra for this – after all, it’s business, right?”
A heterosexual person who tells a gay person not to emphasize their sexual orientation in order to be pleasantly received by society is not a great look. But without leaving Tyra – that one GLAAD award for LGBTQ representation and inclusion in 2009 – completely off the hook, it’s important to remember this episode from ANTM broadcast in 2005, and the way society talks about LGBTQ people and tolerance, as well as masculinity and femininity, has progressed in a way many hadn’t considered 15 years ago.
That said, the sudden resurgence of clips like this urged people to dig further back into the archives of ANTM and Tyra’s talk show. Was this offensive moment of ANTM one-off? Was it part of a larger trend of biased language? And if this happened on a show where Tyra promised to help protect future models from an exploitative industry, was Tyra the evil stepmother of her fairytale promise?
America’s next top model is definitely not well aged. And Tyra is a big reason why.
Growing up realizes that Tyra Banks was the villain and not Naomi
– ella (@EllaDecember) May 5, 2020
I’m not afraid to admit that I was absolutely obsessed with it America’s next top model. I was a fan who watched the show, searched for spoilers, rewrote episodes on YouTube and read the read FourFour resumes religious.
I can also say without a doubt that there are parts of it ANTM that would not be broadcast today without complaints or heavy editing. I think many of the questionable or downright deplorable elements are easier to spot because people have learned how to better respect and talk about race and women’s sexuality. Challenging biased language and promote inclusivity is more mainstream now than it was when Tyra Banks shows were at their peak.
There were at least two copies on the show – in cycle 4 of 2005 and cycle 13 from 2009 – where the photo shoots darkened girls’ skin so they could portray races other than their own:
Tyra then said she had no intention of offending.
“I’m sorry to everyone who watched Top model and was offended by the pictures because they didn’t understand the real story behind it or even if you did see the whole episode and you were still offended, I really apologize for not intending that, ” Tyra said in an interview in 2009. “I intend to spread beauty and break through barriers.”
Also in cycle 4, a contestant, Keenyah, complained that he had been improperly touched by a male model, and Tyra wiped it because the contestant was not assertive enough to control the situation. Likewise, another participant in cycle 7 said that a male model she was paired with was racist against her, and Tyra and her jury panel replied that it was her job to kiss him and find a way to work together.
There were also cases of weight disgrace. Keenyah was spoken to with her diet during filming and encouraged to eat better to compensate for her weight gain. In photo shoots, she had to dress like the deadly sin of gluttony and a elephant, while the show played sound effects and zoomed in on her stomach. She was scolded for the amount of retouching deemed necessary in her photos. In Cycle 7, another participant had a storyline devoted to her weight and needed a ‘giant lady“Circus freak and Oprah in photo shoots.
Another story that will be re-examined is the criticism from cycle 6 winner Danielle, who chose Tyra for her heavy accent and the gap between her front teeth.
ANTM also dived into some sticky, exploitative moments, as a photo shoot performed the day after a participant was informed that a friend of theirs had died; broadcast the conversation between a participant her friend after the participant admitted to cheat at him; and a lot of makeovers with endless roles of young women crying on film.
All of these clips are currently available for streaming, making them easily accessible to revisit and discuss. While Tyra herself may not have directly covered the sad trombone sounds on a zoomed-in recording of Keenyah’s stomach, she was one of the creators of the show and was credited as the executive producer from 2003 to 2015. If she had a problem with something, she probably could have taken it off the show.
Off screenANTM and Tyra has reportedly punished hopeful people for their personal life choices. That’s what Jeana, a participant in the most recent, 24th cycle in 2018, said Tyra and the judges were ashamed of her for posing for Playboy. Angelea, a two-time contestant and cast member of the all-star season, filed a lawsuit against Tyra in 2014 claiming she disqualified for revealing that she worked as an escort.
Former judges of the show have said they also had unpleasant experiences working with Tyra. When asked about their statements (below), Tyra declines to reply directly:
On The Tyra Banks Show, Tyra conducted several thoughtless social experiments. These are inclusive a thick suit to experience life as a fat person and bring in teenagers to confront other teenagers are mean girls, and putting a black man in a white face, as shown below:
Many things that could have passed as barely acceptable 17 years ago, at least for a reality TV show, just don’t hold up in today’s world, such as some of the ill-conceived photo shoots or telling a contestant to fill the gap. their teeth.
Unsurprisingly, a show about the already controversial modeling was problematic when discussing women’s looks and behavior. But there was some expectation that Tyra would make a show that would produce an American supermodel while challenging the industry about his views.
Like Stolz be on it later in her MTV piece, Tyra’s goal with ANTM would be subversive. She covered topics such as race, inequality, sexuality and gender on the show in ways that many reality television and the fashion industry did not do back then.
But as much as Tyra defended her show as a violation of the beauty standards by presenting different models by age, race, gender, size and sexual orientation, the show exploited many of them, perhaps unintentionally, for ratings. And now, after many years, it is easier to look back and see the mistakes.
In 2020, we learned that Tyra’s nemesis may not have been the villain she should be.
With the knowledge of how terrible ANTM could be for the participants, the next question is: how realistic was Tyra’s image as a loving mentor and supportive host?
Much of her origin story as the supermodel next door was that Naomi Campbell, the world’s preeminent black supermodel in the ’90s, essentially bullied Tyra out of the high fashion business because Tyra was the heir to Naomi’s status as the main black star in a predominantly white company. It should be remembered that modeling remains to this day taking into account the lack of diversity, and the possibilities for black models were then small.
Tyra’s story was consistent with other stories about Naomi She threw her phone at one of her employees and reportedly received blood diamonds – who painted the model as a narcissistic, beautiful terror. This became the predominant story of Naomi and Tyra and was clearly preferred as one of many victims.
In 2005Tyra held a very special episode of her talk show dedicated to confronting Naomi about their rivalry and how Tyra felt Naomi treated her. Both in this interview and since then, Naomi has maintained that she never bullied Tyra.
But in context, knowing how crazy some of the stunts Tyra continued ANTM participants were, what if Tyra’s claims about Naomi’s treatment of hair were more contrived than Tyra made her seem? Maybe Naomi isn’t entirely innocent of the terrible behavior she’s been accused of over the years, but maybe some of the things we’ve heard about her were not the whole truth.
Maybe she wasn’t a bully, but rather someone who didn’t think about Tyra as much as Tyra fixed on her. Tyra has talked about it the feud directly in interviews and at an angle ANTM and many other times over the years, while Naomi has rarely referred to it.
In recent years, Naomi has also been more open about her anger issues, her substance abuse and how drugs and alcoholism are rampant in the modeling world.
“Whatever I’ve done in my life – drugs, sex, rock and roll – I’ve enjoyed my life. I’m happy where I am now. I don’t want to go back,” she said in a 2013 interview during a promotional tour for the reality game she played with back then, The face.“At the age of 29, I realized I didn’t like myself the way I was. And that was it.”
This is in no way an excuse for Naomi’s fleeting and abusive behavior. But it is growing that she can recognize her mistakes and her problems.
Naomi’s has also undergone a recent cultural revaluation, coupled with its own competitive fashion show, Make the cut. The show had its finale two weeks ago (also on Amazon Prime) and Naomi is being touted as the best thing about the. There is also a strong role in the desire of fans to put a more positive spin on Naomi’s public image, at the expense of re-imagining Tyra, her biggest opponent. (That dynamic is also part of an unfortunate mindset in the culture of putting women against each other, a topic worthy of its own article.)
The yikes-worthy stuff on ANTM and Tyra’s talk show will continue, and cringey clips will continue to be shared and labeled shockingly bad shape. But Tyra herself has done well off-screen, just like her T-Zone Camp (which became a public charity in 2005) that provides funds to girls and young women. Tyra is also one lasting advocate for diversity and positivity of the body.
But as Stolz says, the hard thing for Tyra is that her good intentions are part of her business.
Perhaps it is testament to Tyra’s ability to pitch herself as a force for good while remaining in the public eye that this wave of backlash against her self-created untouchable character is now occurring. It’s been 17 years since the first episode of ANTM, 15 years since Tyras Victoria’s Secret’s last runway, and several years after she was hailed as one hero and pioneer. It is a bit surprising that this tumult never came before.
As some have noted, Tyra is not just a mortal that can be canceled by conventional means:
You try to cancel Tyra every 25 working days, as Naomi hadn’t warned us in the 90’s. Give it up, 20 year olds close the window to close her like in 2012.
– Alexis “Bring Back Bunheads” Wilson (@sassyblackdiva) May 5, 2020
The theory is that Tyra should have been canceled already, and people who were devoted followers of her career have repeatedly labeled her antics as problematic. Still, like the setting sun in the west and the boiling water of 212 ° F, it is one of the constants of this world. And it is not hard to imagine that in the future we will re-examine who is the real villain or victim in Tyra’s story, and whether Tyra is the hero she introduces herself over and over.