Within the realm of reality competition shows, America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) remains as one of the most successful series in American television history. Whether or not you were a fashion fanatic, the show possessed so many qualities that appeal to a young audience thirsty for entertainment: the drama, intensity, beauty, and bizarre nature of its entire premise.
I, too, was guilty of obsessively consuming this content like a delicious chocolate cake. Barely a teenager, I was so heavily invested in the compelling storylines of the contestants, the wisdom of the judges, and the seemingly god-like presence of Tyra Banks, the show’s host. Yet this also led me to overlook several moments within this extensive series where things were far from okay.
With the recent boom of Tik Tok and perhaps the inevitable binge-watching of old shows from the boredom of quarantine, clips from previous seasons of this show have resurfaced on the internet. The shocking nature of these clips have led many to reassess the moral principles behind this show and whether its’ claims of “embracing all beauty” has any truth attached.
Here are some of the most problematic moments within this series that has returned to the spotlight:
The Mistreatment of Isis King
Isis King appeared first on the 11th cycle of ANTM and was also the first trans woman to join the competition. Although this was supposed to display ANTM’s “diversity” and acceptance of the LGBTQ community, her experience in the season was anything but easy. King was constantly ostracized by other contestants who were also her housemates during the time, with some openly displaying their discomfort and even deliberately calling her male pronouns. Some even went as far as to complain she didn’t belong in the competition and one contestant went as far to say she would “stomp the man right out of the competition.” None of the outwardly transphobic behavior and comments from the cis-female contestants received any consequences within the competition.
Yaya DaCosta Shamed for her African Culture
Yaya DaCosta appeared on the 3rd Cycle of ANTM as a young, vibrant model brimming with pride for her African and Latina roots. For one the challenges within this cycle, the contestants were given the task to style a unique look based on a hat. Yaya, chose a cowboy hat and embellished her look with jewelry and accessories connected to her heritage. This was, however, met with largely negative feedback from the judges. Instead of focusing on the outfit itself, judges commented that she looked like “she was about to ride a giraffe” and that she has an “intensity to prove her ‘Africanness’ and sometimes it’s overbearing.” When Yaya attempted to explain her choices, she was met with criticism for being “defensive” which was “not attractive.”
The Bi-Racial Photoshoot
Last but certainly not least, on the 13th Cycle of ANTM, contestants underwent a challenge essentially called the “Bi-Racial Photoshoot.” Contestants were assigned combination of ethnicities they had to transform into. Numerous Caucasian contestants were covered in thick layers of makeup to convey a darker skin tone –performing what is essentially referred today as “blackface.” This was perhaps one of the most horrifically failed attempts of Tyra trying to celebrate different cultures and races.
These scenes reflect only a few of the several moments during the series where contestants’ personal experiences and the design of the challenges themselves, were embedded in institutionalized racism, transphobia, and overall ignorance. For this reason, it is important to recognize the problematic nature of these incidents and hold the responsible individuals accountable for these actions. While ANTM is certainly at fault for permitting these occurrences, this also goes to show the more deeply-rooted issues within the overall fashion industry.
Feature Image Courtesy of Vogue