Slate asks the question: is Tyra Banks racist (I think "ashamed of her race" is the term they were looking for)? The answer is no; she's just unhinged. Apparently, for the sake of being deep, Slate tries to analyze Tyra's odd behavior towards some of the black contestants on America's Next Top Model:
On camera, many of the black ANTM contestants talk about how thrilled they are to be in Tyra's presence; how her success as a black supermodel inspired them, helping them see themselves as beautiful for the first time. But how does she repay their adoration? By trying to eradicate ethnic idiosyncrasies in their personality and appearance. Tyra tells the aspiring models that they need to develop a thick skin. But she seems to think dark skin should be tougher than light.
Tyra's behavior towards the girls competing for the top prize on her show is as unpredictable as a slot machine. It almost seems as though the girls should learn to do the opposite of what Tyra advises them to do, because when they follow her advice, they typically end up being criticized for it.
As for her supposedly mistreating the black girls, Tyra seems to be attempting to prepare them for the highstakes world of modeling, but one wonders, just how important behavior, diction, and other traits not strictly related to physical appearance really are to a model's career. Tyra and her team try to make it all sound so complex and multifaceted, but, honestly, how much do we really pay attention to models, outside of being slightly distracted by their images in numerous print ads in magazines and elsewhere?
Since UPN's programming caters to a black audience, it makes sense that Tyra, the first black woman to grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, is at the helm. But lately, the supermodel has seemed disapproving of the trappings of black American culture. Though she illustrates her allegiance to the sisterhood by making loving references to her booty, for the past few cycles Tyra has been discouraging any behavior that could be considered "too black."
… "I don't want another black bitch," said Tyra to potential contestant Eva Pigford, confronting what had long remained subtext on reality TV. Eva, who was sometimes referred to as "Eva the Diva," experienced a significant attitude adjustment while under Tyra's tutelage and went on to win. But as Eva's star rose, Tyra's patience with her dark-skinned contestants began to wane. Tyra criticized Cycle 3 runner-up Yaya's "Afro-centric" head wraps, and in Cycle 4, she threw a spectacular hissy fit at Tiffany, a black mother from Miami. At the end of each episode of ANTM, one would-be model is sent home. When Tiffany, who sported tattoos and got into a bar fight on-camera, shrugged at the news of her elimination, Tyra exploded…
This season, the offending black contestant was Danielle, a gap-toothed beauty from Little Rock, Ark. From the beginning, Danielle took strong pictures, whether standing nearly naked in a freezer or hanging upside down in a fisherman's net. On ANTM, models are judged on their photographs, personality, personal style, and runway walk; if nothing else, the show convinces viewers that modeling is hard work that requires a willingness to take direction and endure physical discomfort for long periods of time. Danielle excelled at all of this. In fact, UPN viewers voted her "Cover Girl of the Week" several times—but Tyra seemed unimpressed.
Although Tyra had several problems with Danielle—at one point bullying her to close the Lauren Hutton-esque gap in her smile—she was particularly unhappy about Danielle's "country" accent. Danielle does speak the way one might expect a young black woman from Arkansas to speak, but the lilting, syrupy sound of her voice is a huge part of her charm. All the judges—except Tyra—acknowledged this. While no one found it problematic that Jade (the "biracial butterfly"—her words—from New York City) peppered her speech with made-up words like "analystic," "dwelve," and "releasement," Tyra seemed unable to bear the fact that Danielle (who, incidentally, properly used the word cantankerous to describe herself when she gets pissy) had regional inflection in her voice. Even more to the point, Nnenna, the recently booted stunner from Nigeria, also spoke with a thick accent, which Tyra and the rest of the judges found fetching. Evidently, an African accent is fine, but not an African-American one. At last week's judging, Tyra told Danielle the judges "didn't trust her when she opened her mouth." But the truth is that the other judges loved Danielle, especially when she spoke, because she was articulate, modest, and hugely charismatic.
A model's diction is the last thing that matters. If her looks are the desired commodity, who cares if she has a Southern accent, a speech impediment, or if she peppers her sentences with words that don't really exist? We are only looking, not listening. We save that for the half talented singers and actors who are steadily taking more jobs away from the "professional models" .
Competing on Tyra's show should not be advised for any girl who has self-esteem problems, that's for sure. Only the girls who can handle a good mindfuck should even attempt to go up against Tyra and her ego. That's the real competition on the show– the other models don't even matter; the real test is making it through Tyra's ever changing mind, and her strange moods.