There were “a whole bunch of things” that Tyra Banks and other members of the America’s Next Top Model team got wrong when it came to the show’s diversity and inclusion efforts, the former model and host said during her Wednesday appearance on The Tamron Hall Show.
“We were still operating in a world — I was still a model at the time, not a retired model yet, and still operating in this world that had so many rules,” Banks told Hall when asked about criticism of some of her work on the show. “It was this awful push and pull that we all had.”
Banks went on to say that there were “different categories of things we messed up” and that the show “did a whole bunch of things that we did mess up.” Banks attributed the show’s mistakes to her effort to break barriers while trying to avoid damaging contestants’ careers.
“I was trying to push boundaries but was also torn to try to make sure that these girls could work, so it was a balance,” Banks said. “It was like, ‘Oh, break beauty barriers,’ but yeah, I can break them all I want on the show, but they’ll graduate from the show, and they won’t work.”
The comments followed social media criticism of Banks earlier this year after recommendations she made about a contestant during a 2006 episode of the reality show resurfaced and went viral. In the trending clip, the new Dancing With the Stars host questioned cycle six winner Danielle Evans’ decision not to undergo dental work.
“Do you really think you can have a CoverGirl contract with a gap in your mouth?” the ANTM creator and executive producer told Evans after the young model refused to have the gap in her teeth closed by a dentist. Banks later apologized on Twitter for the statement.
“I had model agents here saying, ‘These three girls could really, really work, but this must change,’ so there was a whole behind-the-scenes thing happening,” Banks elaborated. “Instead of me saying, ‘You must change this,’ on TV, I think what I should have said is, ‘You’re beautiful.'”
Banks went on to say that while an agent was talking in her ear, instead of “telling somebody that they needed to change something” onscreen, she should have championed beauty, inclusivity and differences, and had agents handle whatever “fix” a model needed offscreen “after she wins.”
While the DWTS host admitted the modeling show had made missteps in its almost 20-year run, she defended the intention of her and fellow series developer Ken Mok’s work on it. America’s Next Top Model first debuted back in 2003 on UPN and moved to The CW, where it was canceled in 2015 before being revived shortly after on VH1.
“America’s Next Top Model was created — I created it — to introduce diversity and inclusion into a world that was pretty much not representing that or representing it in the most minute ways,” Banks said. “So that was the crux of why I created America’s Next Top Model. It’s why my partner Ken Mok and I, who’s Chinese American, got up every single day, and we made so many inroads.”
Watch the segment below.