An explosive exposé on America’s Next Top Model has brought all of the online discussions about the unsavory parts of the series together in one article.
Business Insider reports after talking to many of the contestants and crew that America’s Next Top Model was insistent on creating the most drama and caused several contestants distress and trauma.
One contestant, Eugena Washington, said that the producers intentionally asked divers to loosen the bolts connecting planks–serving as a runway–to a pool.
The goal was to have the contestants' struggle walking, despite the lack of safety making the entire endeavor dangerous.
The producers wanted “the most drama,” said Washington, adding, “We were all nervous, because we didn’t know what the f— was going on. It was dangerous.” Washington said she was wearing 6-inch heels, two corsets and a pencil skirt. She said walking the runway in the clothes became an “impossible task,” especially with the planks. She said she still has scars from when she fell down while walking, cracking her knee. She said she felt “like my life was being put on the line for ratings.”
Another contestant, AJ Stewart, said "I just kept thinking, this isn't just for show. Someone could get hurt. Someone could break an ankle."
Someone else who worked on the show said he began believing America’s Next Top Model would place contestants in a “harmful environment for the sake of TV.”
He described Banks as not actually giving the contestants an uplifting experience, saying, “You’re not looking at lifting women up. You’re not looking at giving them a real opportunity. You’re looking at trying to pit them against each other in a barrel for a crabs that are all trying to claw their way out.”
On top of that, the contestants were purposely made to feel off-kilter, with the producers introducing "an element of fear" into photoshoots, according to creative head Andrew Patterson, such as pairing a contestant with an animal they were afraid of in a photoshoot.
The makeovers also left some contestants traumatized, such as Michelle Deighton having open sores on her scalp after getting her hair bleached, or Brittany Hatch developing welts because of a weave, or Mikaela Schipani having to go to the emergency room off camera after receiving weave due to “a severe rash” and bleeding sores. She wrote on Tumblr that producers wouldn’t allow her to have her weave removed until she received a doctor-approved.
Aminat Ayinde said to Insider she said she lost her respect for host Tyra Banks after she was forced to get a hair relaxer despite being allergic. When she tried talking to the stylist, the stylist said “This is what Tyra wants–this is how we have to do” it. Banks also wasn’t on set that day.
“This is when I understood: Tyra doesn’t give a f—,” Ayinde said, adding that she went ahead with the makeover for fear of getting eliminated. But after she made it to third place in the competition and was eliminated, she removed the extensions that were part of the makeover and saw that she had a two-inch bald spot. She said it took her three years to grow her hair back, and that the expeirence “really left the most disgusting taste in my mouth.”
Contestants were also only given $38 a day, and in 2014, Angela Preston alleged that the all-star season of the series, the show's 17th season, once had the contestants film from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. without meals.
She also alleged that a moment during filming, producers withheld medical attention from a contestant having a panic attack for at least 10 minutes “to capture the raw, human drama on film, and thus make for better television.”
Lisa D’Amato, who also competed on the all-star season, said she lost 15 pounds and that many contestants refused the on-set catering to avoid gaining weight, and that many also also tried avoiding spending their daily alowance on groceries since it was the only money they got for competiting on the show.
Producers were notorious for pushing the contestants to their limits, asking contestants about information previously brought up in their psychological evaluations in order to make the contestants' confessionals as emotional as possible.
The infamous episodes featuring contestants being forced to don blackface and other racially-insensitive makeup was also discussed in the article, with contestants voicing their concerns and discomfort at donning other races via makeup. Lluvy Gomez said that she and the other contestants voted on whether they should address the photoshoot idea to producers, but Gomez was outvoted because the majority felt like maybe it was okay since Banks herself was Black.
Other Black contestants also said they felt Banks and other judges would critique them harsher than others, and felt that the series perpetuated harmful stereotypes and narratives about Black femininity and beauty. YaYa DaCosta, for example, wrote in a now-deleted tweet how it “took a lot of work to heal” from her ordeal on America’s Next Top Model, which included being told she was doing too much to “prove” her “Africanness.”
When talking to Insider, Ebony Haith said that she felt the judging panel didn't know what to do with her, a darker-skinned, gay Black woman
Black contestants also had to have their hair redone by Black stylists off camera after another stylist would have ruined their hair because of their lack of ethnic hair care knowledge. Haith also felt Banks was particularly harsh when she told Haith during judging that she had “rough” skin in a photo. The photo led to Haith getting eliminated. Haith said the comment “floored” her.
“I think in that moment, I felt like there was no compassion towards the plight of all of us,” she said to Insider, “all the things we’ve been through.”
Many more stories of trauma and horror abound in the Insider article, including accusations of ableism during photoshoots, sizeism, and more. Meanwhile, Banks didn’t respond for comment and, instead, deleted her Twitter account around the time of the article’s release.