Tyra Banks has apologized for America’s Next Top Model’s lack of inclusivity and diversity.
“We were still operating in a world—I was still a model at the time, not a retired model yet, and still operating in this world that had so many rules,” the former model said on the Tamron Hall Show on Wednesday, in regards to the criticism she’s faced about the series. “It was this awful push and pull that we all had.”
Banks said there were “different categories of things we messed up” and that Top Model had "a whole bunch of things that we did mess up.” Banks sees the show’s missteps as her attempt to avoid hurting the contestants’ careers.
“I was trying to push boundaries but was also torn to try to make sure that these girls could work, so it was a balance,” Banks said. “It was like, 'Oh, break beauty barriers,' but yeah, I can break them all I want on the show, but they'll graduate from the show, and they won't work.”
Banks decided to address the series' issues after a suggestion she made to a 2006 contestant resurfaced and went viral online. In the clip, she doubted cycle six winner Danielle Evans’ choice not to close the gap in her front teeth.
“Do you really think you can have a CoverGirl contract with a gap in your mouth?” Banks said after Evans decided against dental work. Banks later issued an apology on Twitter.
“I had model agents here saying, 'These three girls could really, really work, but this must change,' so there was a whole behind-the-scenes thing happening,” Banks said. “Instead of me saying, 'You must change this,' on TV, I think what I should have said is, 'You're beautiful.'”
She also said that she had agents in her ear, telling her what the models needed to change about their physical appearances if they wanted to win. However, she has continually defended the intentions of ANTM, which she created alongside developer Ken Mok.
“America's Next Top Model was created—I created it—to introduce diversity and inclusion into a world that was pretty much not representing that or representing it in the most minute ways,” Banks said. “So that was the crux of why I created America's Next Top Model. It's why my partner Ken Mok and I, who's Chinese American, got up every single day, and we made so many inroads.”
Top Model debuted in 2003 on UPN and later moved to the CW, where it ran until it was canceled in 2015. It was later rebooted on VH1.
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