For Gen Z TV consumers, it can be hard to imagine a beloved contest show in which women are forced to weigh themselves in front of their cast mates (and therefore the world), radically face each other. at their tearful calls, don blackface for a challenge, are instructed by the show’s judges to lose weight, and advised to wear extra makeup if they are not white. Believe it or not, these were once occasional if not frequent occurrences on The next American top model, a show that could only thrive in an era before social media and the widespread adoption of social justice rhetoric on the internet.Last May, Banks apologized in a Tweeter after clips illustrating the lack of sensitivity towards the breed and certain competitors on ANTM resurfaced. And a few months later, in an interview with Tamron Hall, she admitted that the show would “screw up” when it comes to the show’s exclusive casting. Unfortunately for the Dancing with the stars host, there is no reliable way to pin the review online. As long as the source is still readily available online, people will continue to dissect and share it for their own entertainment or for more serious analysis. Likewise, a new video currently touring cycle 3 of the series which features Banks and the show’s jury, including photographer Nigel Barker and model Janice Dickinson, has raised new accusations of anti-darkness, colourism and bullying pure and simple.
The viral clip, which is taken from a compilation titled “Black Ant Models Getting Judged For 4 Minutes” on YouTube, shows the panel evaluating untouched and retouched portraits of contestants Yaya DaCosta and Kelle Jacob. The premise of the photoshoot alone is baffling, in that the women are apparently judged for how well their natural faces match the airbrushed versions of the photos. AT some users, the exercise felt like a smokescreen to allow the judges to point out what they saw as women’s flaws – one flaw, according to Barker, being DaCosta’s skin, which looks perfectly smooth and flawless on both photos, but obviously a few shades lighter in the edited version. Banks assures her that she “can do it.”
Even more baffling is the judge’s assessment of Jacob’s photo, as Banks tells him that women of color need to wear more makeup because “we don’t reflect the light.” Perhaps the show’s meanest judge Dickinson then moves on to an animated moment, with the producers alternating between his untouched and retouched photos, likening them to a Hitchcock movie and mimicking the violin screams of ‘horror movie. When Jacob retorts that she has “great skin,” Banks interrupts her and scolds her for “blaming” the photographer.
This has led Twitter users to descend into a rabbit hole over some of the show’s other controversies, including a lawsuit brought by former contestant Angelea Preston, who claimed her cycle star season award. 14 was revoked after the production found out she was a former escort, and a Cycle 4 episode in which a contestant named Keenyah Hill claimed she was inappropriately touched by a male model during a photo shoot, and the judges insisted she should have been in control. These disturbing incidents – in addition to the clip – demonstrate just how toxic and cruel nature that has come to define ANTM was a collective effort by producers, judges and others working behind the scenes in addition to Banks’ own contributions. It’s also a direct reflection of the ruthless state of the fashion industry and the mistreatment models are expected to endure, a topic that has come to light in recent years thanks to the #MeToo movement. Nonetheless, Banks, who also served as an executive producer, will always be the unmistakable face of the show, and has enough problematic sound clips that the internet will map most of the show’s ethical failures to him.
“It’s also a direct reflection of the ruthless state of the fashion industry and the mistreatment models are expected to endure, a topic that has come to light in recent years thanks to the #MeToo movement.“
The inescapable nature of Banks’ missteps on ANTM and his daytime talk show Tyra, which is another bottomless pit of mind-boggling and offensive moments, are interesting to discuss in connection with one of his more recent career endeavors. In 2020, she announced a new theme park called ModelLand, which borrows the name from her 2011 novel which, as described on her website, features “fashion and beauty, photoshoots and catwalks, shopping and theater”. While the Santa Monica attraction has yet to be opened in light of the pandemic, the website is promoting a space for people of all shapes, sizes, genders and races to receive the supermodel treatment. .
Most would argue that monetizing the fantasy of equality for marginalized people in the beauty and fashion space is not the same as dismantling oppressive beauty standards, and there’s even an obvious argument here. that it is an exploitation. Nonetheless, the move is, at the very least, an expression of Banks’ new values as a beauty mogul, whether or not she makes a difference in the modeling industry. These beliefs are certainly not radical in 2021, when nearly all fashion brands are offering plus sizes and incorporating body positivity language into their marketing. But like all brands that try to stay relevant in the age of inclusiveness, it simply has no choice but to evolve.
Still, it’s fair to say that the legacy Banks has built on television looms large in her modeling career for most millennials and especially Gen Z, whose primary benchmark for her is arguably the memes and reaction videos. One can imagine that the cycle of discovering and reacting to the worst moments of his career on social media repeats itself every year or so.
The banks took a daring risk by betting on her bravery, and it looks like she will continue to pay the price for years to come.