Tyra Banks has been called many names during her career — supermodel, actress, Emmy Award winner, pioneer — but the latest is the most unfamiliar for the supermodel. Problematic?
Someone dug up a throwback clip from America’s Next Top Model showing Tyra engaging in mean girl behavior as she berated one of her contestants for choosing not to fix her gap teeth. “Do you really think you can have a Covergirl contract with a gap in your mouth?” she asked before mocking the aspiring model. “It’s not marketable.” She’s being accused of judging the darker skin modes more harshly than others.
Banks struts in a supermodel lane all by herself. Of the aforementioned, pioneer is most recognizable. She is the first Black model to grace the covers of GQ and Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue. Her caramel skin and hazel eyes could be seen on runways from Paris to Milan to New York. She’s acted alongside Will Smith, Omar Epps, Sanaa Lathan. She even had her own talk show that was oddly enjoyable. At the height of America’s Next Top Model, it was the highest-rated show on The CW from 2007 to 2010.
Banks created America’s Next Top Model to give aspiring model the tools to succeed. At least that’s how I always viewed the longtime running reality competition series.
Another clip shows Tyra calling YaYa Acosta defensive while she defended her Afrocentrism. “You’re being defensive and it’s not attractive.” She added, “I’m all about expressing yourself and your culture done in a fashion way.”
And the cringeworthy Tweets continue.
Damn. I do remember all of that.
We can all recall her damaging “We were rooting for you” rant against Tiffany Richardson. When Tiffany didn’t cry upon being eliminated, Tyra scolded the hopeful. In a 2017 interview with Buzzfeed, Tiffany revealed how Tyra, her once idol, had fallen from grace in her heart. “I went into it thinking Tyra was fucking God. … To actually see her and the vibe is completely different. It was just weird.”
ANTM exposed the racist, sexist and superficial world of modeling. Half of the sh*t Tyra said was regular rhetoric she ingested after years of being the industry and repeated. And that’s what sucks the most about it — it was true. We didn’t see gapped-tooth Black women on the covers of magazines. Afrocentrism was seen as a threat. Back then, having Toccarra, a plus size model, on the show was controversial. Tyra, and all her Eurocentric features, had been allowed to succeed in an industry that otherwise gave a sh*t about Black women besides Naomi Campbell. Tyra was one of the few acceptable Black women they allowed to walk their runway. She was accustom to the white-washed criticism because she lived it. Could it be Tyra was harder on the Black models because she knew the ins and ugly outs of the industry so deeply.
The ANTM memories continue down a long winding Twitter thread, with Internet enthusiasts demanding an explanation. Tyra has yet to respond and we’re sure she’ll be in her corn rows giving us Black girl realness.