Jay Manuel Revealed The “America’s Next Top Model” Moments He Felt Uncomfortable With
Even if you’ve only watched a couple of seasons of America’s Next Top Model, you probably recall that the show had plenty of moments that didn’t age well.
Pottle Productions Inc/The CW
From making a model close the gap between her teeth to having models don blackface in two photoshoots, there are so many decisions that wouldn’t fly today.
Recently, Tyra Banks addressed those problematic moments on social media, taking accountability for the show’s questionable decisions.
Been seeing the posts about the insensitivity of some past ANTM moments and I agree with you. Looking back, those were some really off choices. Appreciate your honest feedback and am sending so much love and virtual hugs. ❤️
12:16 AM – 09 May 2020
People had mixed feelings about her response, pointing out that she didn’t explain why those choices were made in the first place and didn’t actually apologize.
The show’s co-creator Ken Mok also gave his own apology:
Want to reiterate what @tyrabanks said. I look at some of those #ANTM moments and cringe. Just a FYI – the entire creative team made the choices in those shows – not just Tyra. So please feel free to yell at me for some of the worst moments in ANTM history! Apologies to all. https://t.co/OzoqqXrDoU
02:07 AM – 09 May 2020
Now, in an interview with Variety while promoting his satirical novel based on his time on the show, Jay Manuel shared how he feels about those cringe-worthy moments and didn’t hold back.
“Many times when you’re working in an environment like that, you have to listen to your executive producers, and ultimately the two voices at the top were Ken and Tyra. There were sometimes several objections by other producers and myself about layers that were added to creative, and we were just told to execute,” he alleged.
Gregg Deguire / WireImage via Getty
“I think it’s a little unfair to throw the whole team under the bus. The whole team wasn’t there on the front side when they were making decisions about the show in its heyday. The team wasn’t really supported, so to speak.”
Jay was also asked about his thoughts on the Cycle 5 moment where Tyra told contestant Kim, who is gay, that she should tone down her queerness to succeed as a model.
“I was in the room, and I was sitting right next to her. I remember feeling a little uncomfortable with the statement,” he recalled.
“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. You can see it on that model’s face, like, ‘Wait a minute, I was told to say everything about myself, and now you’re telling me to not say this?'”
He also said that the race-swap episode from Cycle 4 made him “very uncomfortable.”
“I was so, so, so uncomfortable with this. I was never scripted for my intros or anything, and I didn’t know how I was going to be able to set this up — I was so afraid that I would wear this because I was the creative director, but it was not my idea,” he said.
“That swapped race was a layer added in. It was supposed to be a different concept. I remember that very, very clearly. I was basically told that I had to execute the creative, and it made me very uncomfortable.”
He noted that the race-swapping wasn’t part of the original plan for the challenge, so the decision took him by surprise.
“The original concept was to always do something with the girl holding the baby doll, and we knew we were going to do the Got Milk part. The layer of swapping races was something that I remember being added in a pre-production meeting,” he claimed.
“Initially, I didn’t speak up. I was slightly horrified. I’m biracial, but I grew up identifying as black. My parents grew up under Apartheid in South Africa. So, to me, with understanding our own country’s history around race, I thought, ‘We’re really doing this?'”
“There were just certain people working on the show in a senior position where several producers, not just myself, became very scared to speak up. I actually brought my concern first to another co-executive producer because I was too scared to even take it up higher to an executive producer,” he said.
You can read the whole interview here.