How Did We Not Realize What A Nightmare 'ANTM' Was?

Written by on May 7, 2020

Apparently, Tyra Banks was the villain all alongside. 

Social media found as a lot this week, because the model-slash-entrepreneur’s identify started trending on Twitter when consumer @OladapoAisha posted 2006 a clip from Cycle 6 of model-search actuality present “America’s Subsequent High Mannequin.” Within the clip, Banks and her panel of judges criticize contestant Danielle Evans for refusing to shut the hole in her enamel. 

“Do you actually suppose you possibly can have a CoverGirl contract with a spot in your mouth?” Banks says within the clip, referencing one of many prizes for the season’s winner. “It’s not marketable.”   

The 14-year-old clip rapidly started making the rounds, which prompted social media customers to seek out and put up much more cringe-inducing — and offensive — moments from “ANTM’s” previous. 

Simply a few of the most egregious issues: Cycle Four contestant Kahlen Rondot being compelled to pose in a casket after studying her finest good friend had died. In Cycle 15, mannequin Kayla Ferrel revealed she was uncomfortable with doing a horny shoot with a male mannequin as a result of she had been molested as a baby  — addressing the abuse for the primary time in her life. Judges instructed her to suck it up. In Cycle 7, Black contestant Jaeda Younger needed to work with (and kiss) a male mannequin who instructed her he didn’t need to work together with her as a result of she was Black — even after she instructed Banks it made her uncomfortable. In Cycle 3, mannequin Yaya DaCosta was chewed out by Banks for being too “Afro-centric.” In Cycle 5, Banks instructed lesbian contestant Kim Stolz to tone down her homosexual satisfaction. There was additionally an incident the place Cycle 17 mannequin Angelea Preston was disqualified when producers discovered she had been an escort. After which, in fact, all through the collection there have been quite a few incidents of blackface, yellowface and cultural appropriation of every kind. 

The recollection of those heinous, usually problematic moments has led to a reevaluation of Banks, who together with her “smizing” and theatrical antics turned a sort of innocent if barely odd meme via her time on the decades-spanning actuality collection. Out of the blue, somewhat than a benevolent, kooky character, she’s been given a brand new function of a calculating, out-of-touch villainess, a tormenter of small-town ladies with gaps of their mouths.

“America’s Subsequent High Mannequin” is likely one of the most profitable actuality tv present franchises in historical past, spawning numerous worldwide spinoffs in over 30 nations. Produced by Ken Mok and Kenya Barris (whom chances are you’ll know because the creator of “Black-ish” and “#BlackAF”), “ANTM” premiered on UPN in 2003, the place it turned one of many community’s tentpole exhibits. 

When UPN later turned the CW, the collection was its highest-rated present between 2007 and 2010. Advertisers reportedly paid over $60,000 for business spots through the present’s 2011 season, the most important asking value for any present on the community. Sure, “America’s Subsequent High Mannequin” was a well-liked, beloved present. It additionally, arguably, was the catalyst for a complete style of actuality TV, the progenitor of exhibits resembling “Mission Runway” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” 

One of the vital compelling issues about popular culture historical past is the truth that it’s at all times altering, progressing as society progresses. In flip, it serves as an enchanting portrait of the instances. Banks and associates have been certainly terrible, nevertheless it have to be stated: We have been sort of terrible, too. Yearly, it appears as if we uncover yet one more cultural artifact that’s truly problematic in hindsight.

The reevaluation of “Mates” is a latest instance of this. We discover one thing we as soon as mindlessly consumed, uncover the methods by which it was dangerous, after which choose away in any respect these imperfections till all that’s left is the carcass with out context. However in reevaluating Banks and her fully bonkers present, we should additionally reevaluate ourselves, part of the “Look how offensive this factor all of us beloved was!” frenzy that always will get missed. 

Banks has but to touch upon any of the backlash; it’s doubtless that she won’t. However on Wednesday, contestant Danielle Evans, who now goes by Dani, posted a video on her Instagram by which she responded to the dialog surrounding the clip of Tyra confronting her about her hole. Within the seven-minute clip, Evans defined that the women have been taken to a dentist, the place she was initially requested if she needed her hole closed and he or she declined. Later, through the elimination ceremony, Tyra requested her why her hole wasn’t closed.

“I’m like, huh? She’s like, ‘I instructed you to get your hole closed.’ I’m like, ‘No you didn’t.’ She appears to be like offstage to manufacturing … In that second, I knew what was occurring. I knew that I used to be mainly arrange and never being instructed that Tyra desires me to get my hole closed in order that it’s good for TV,” Evans explains within the video. 

 This, maybe, is essentially the most insidious factor about all of the offensive antics on “America’s Subsequent High Mannequin.” It wasn’t simply ignorance, however calculated ignorance. The whole lot — the blackface, forcing contestants to do issues that made them genuinely uncomfortable or that performed on real-life insecurities and traumas — was achieved not out of mere early- and mid-2000s naïveté however out of a concerted effort to make “good TV.” 

It’s not simply alarming that it occurred. It’s additionally alarming that we ate it up. And it raises the query of what are we consuming now that in 20 years goes to make us ask, “Why was this allowed to air?”

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