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America’s Next Top Model star says he ‘can’t really defend’ Tyra Banks over her problematic behaviour

Patrick Kelleher May 15, 2020
Tyra Banks America's Next Top Model

Tyra Banks (Paras Griffin/Getty)

America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) star Jay Manuel said he “can’t really defend” Tyra Banks over resurfaced clips from early cycles of the show.

Tyra Bank is feeling the heat at the moment as clips from old seasons of the show circulate social media, and fans call out some problematic moments.

The ANTM creator is facing significant criticism over a clip in which she tells a model that the gap between her front teeth is “not marketable”, and another in which she tells a lesbian contestant not to flaunt her sexuality.

Jay Manuel, the show’s former creative director, told Variety that he wasn’t inclined to defend Tyra.

“I do think it’s a little unfair for people to persecute Tyra now, especially because she has already taken heat for her past executive decisions in past years,” said Jay, who was infamously fired after 18 cycles of Next Top Model.

“However, I can’t really defend her either because when ratings were high and things were great, she remained a clear figurehead, because it was her show.”

America’s Next Top Model lesbian moment made Jay Manuel ‘uncomfortable’

While it was often claimed during ANTM’s heyday that creative decisions were made as a team to take the heat off Tyra Banks, Jay Manuel said that this wasn’t true.

He also spoke about the moment Tyra told a lesbian contestant to tone down her sexuality, saying he was “uncomfortable”.

“I was in the room, and I was sitting right next to her. I remember feeling a little uncomfortable with the statement.

“I could see Tyra trying to draw the parallel and what she was trying to illustrate, and I was confused by it because we ask these girls to come in the room and the producers remind the girls before they come in, ‘Tell them who you are. You’re not just a pretty face. You have to have a discussion about who you are.’

“These girls are coached to speak their truth and tell Tyra who they are, and then Tyra said that, so it seemed a bit unfair.”

ANTM star has ‘nothing but respect’ for Tyra Banks despite his misgivings.

When asked if he thought Tyra’s comment was inappropriate, he said it was “confusing”.

“At the time, I had not done reality TV, and I was also learning as I went along, and I was guided by Tyra and Ken [Mok, executive producer] and you have to trust your producers to follow their lead. It was a struggle to process some stuff at times.

Jay also said that the culture behind the scenes of America’s Next Top Model shifted over a period of time. He said it eventually became the case that staff could only speak their minds to a certain extent.

However, he closed out the interview by insisting that Tyra has been “a pioneer in many respects” and said he has “nothing but respect for her in everything that she’s accomplished in business”.

Tyra herself has acknowledged the criticism being levelled at her and “agrees” that the show was insensitive at times.

“Looking back, those were some really off choices,” she tweeted.

More: America's Next Top Model, Jay Manuel, Tyra Banks

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