Does Tyra Banks Like Black People?

Tyra Banks  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. 

"The Racial Politics of America's Next Top Model"  [Slate]


43 Responses to Does Tyra Banks Like Black People?

  1. Regina says:

    Can I get an Amen!!! Well written! This article states how so many of us felt in regards to Tyra’s behavior on the show. It seems like a form of self-hatred, it was disheartening to watch. Tyra has no idea how ugly her behavior makes her look. I’ve always admired her until now. She obviously has some serious issues she needs to work out.

  2. Joe says:

    I disagree with you saying that models don’t really have to talk. I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’re not that knowledgeable on the fashion industry. The show is called “Top Model” but in essence they’re really looking for the next “supermodel”… There is a difference between the two. Back in the days of say… Twiggy, Iman, Beverly Johnson, Janice Dickinson, Gia; models were either one thing. You were a print model or runway model. Beverly Johnson talked about this once on Tyra’s talk show; stating that, “When she made her transition from a print model to runway a lot of the girls had it out for her. But Janice comes along and coins the term “supermodel”. She isn’t techanically the first, however she is credited for creating that term. A supermodel was a model who was not only doing print but also runway. These days that is pretty much the job objection for all qaulifying models (Some models can’t do runway because of height issues, although Kate Moss being only 5’6 or 5’7 is a big runway star). Supermodels also move on to movies, television and other venues after or during their modeling career. Many in the fashion industry say Tyra is not a supermodel due to the fact that Supermodels like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and Linda Evangelista work in high fashion. Tyra has done few high fashion shows, gotten few fashion covers, but the majority of her work came from appearing in men’s magazines and walking for Victoria’s Secret. If anything Tyra is a commercial model (top model), people know her name, know her voice, she’s a house-hold name. Others like these are Heidi Klum, Adriana Lima, etc. Theses girls aren’t so much know for high fashion, but if you walked up to someone on the street and showed someone their picture that person will more than likely be able to name her… Anyway I know I just said a lot there, but my main point is that the “Top Model” has to speak, has to have a personality, has to be able to carry an interview, has to be able to transition to another forum of entertainment, and still has to keep their model skills for the fashion industry. These are all the qualities a top model needs, and the ones that are able to create a long lasting career in fashion and other venues are gone on to be called “super Models” (as long as they had a presence in the high fashion industry.

  3. nOva says:

    Joe, thanks for sharing with us your detailed knowledge of the modeling world. “A top model has to be able to do everything, across the board, including speak” would’ve been too easy.

    Most people that watch Top Model aren’t knowledgable of the fashion industry, but it comes as no surprise the number of people that think they are experts as a result of this show.

    All that being said, you make an excellent, though overwrought, point. However, I believe Tyra should be harder on the black contestants for the same reasons my parents were hard on me when it came to career and education. I just don’t think Tyra should be nitpicky, and with Danielle, she was very nitpicky.

  4. dParker2.0 says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    When the term "supermodel" became popularized, back in the early 90s, most of the women it described were high fashion runway/print ad models. But when you look back on that period, just how many of those women actually made it into different areas of the entertainment business?

    Naomi is a supermodel, but her ventures into acting/singing/other entertainment have failed miserably. Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, and the others? They are only remembered for their modeling. Models did not become successful doing other things (high profile things like acting) until Tyra broke the mold.

    Joe, I disagree with your definition of supermodel. Janice Dickinson may have coined the term, but, through the years, it has taken on a different connotation with the public. Most supermodels are called such because they are indeed household names, but the majority of them never sucessfully made it past doing print ads/nonspeaking tv ads/runway shows.

    Can you even remember what some of the first supermodels' voices sound like? They might have been asked to do an interview here and there, but they did not do enough in the other areas of entertainment to leave this so-called "legacy" that Tyra keeps trying to build up.

    Yes, Tyra as paid her dues, and paved the way for a few other women to make it as big as she has, but generally speaking, I still believe that most supermodels will end up having a career that mirrors Naomi Campbell's career.

    The industry has changed so much now. Marketing firms and advertisers have learned that they can reach more people and sell more products by using bigger talents that the public is already familiar with. This is why so many celebrities and entertainers are used as models now. Halle, Latifah, JLo, Brooke Burke, Sharon Stone, Isabella Rosellini, et. al… Companies get more bank for their buck when they use established entertainers with a built in audience.

    Tyson Beckford is a male supermodel, and he's been in a few movies/music videos. But if you ask the average person on the street who he is, they will immediately say, "He's a model", because his face is recognizable, not his personality, or his thoughts on world peace.

    Tyra Banks used to be a supermodel, but now she is an entertainer.

  5. Kita says:

    How Ya’ll doing. Southern black girl here. Ummm, yes I have an accent. No, I will not apologize. Every region of the US has its own way of pronouncing words. So. What. Was. The. Big. Deal?

    I too wondered about the seeming disgust that Tyra had with Danielle’s southern accent. I have viewed CG commericals and some of the models do not talk. In addition, when she brought it to her attention, the need to lessen the southern twang if she wanted to do commercials etc. with speaking parts, I did not understand why she harped on it each and every time Danilelle was judged.

    I thought top models did top fashion shows. When I see remnants of fashion shows on TV I do not note one model speaking. I really think Tyra wanted to be sure that no one would think Danielle got preferential treatment and went overboard with that issue.

  6. chioma says:

    I love Tyra but when Nik of cycle 5 of antm became the runner up, i just took her as a racist from that moment. All the other white girls that won Tyra never complained about anything but she complained about Danielles accent, Nik personality, Evas attitude and even how she screamed at Tiffany on national TV. All I have to say is that i feel Tyra is not who she claims to be. i think shes even worse than Naomi campbell

  7. Nikki says:

    For one, the term “racist” is misused. Actually, it is a bit extreme to describe Tyra who is also a black woman. It would be better if you used the term prejudice as opposed to racist. Yes, i do think that Tyra may have acted hyper-critical and hostile to her darker skinned contestants. Perhaps as a light skin black woman, she resents the fact that darker skinned black women are now in demand within the fashion industry. She may also resent the fact that us darker skinned models remind her of her foe, the great Naomi Campbell whom i love and prefer. Tyra strikes me as a commercial model on the verge of being over weight, so who is she to find faults with dark skinned beauties? I would’ve rather the judges to consist of real supermodels such as Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Beverly Peele, etc. I’m a fashion snub, and high fashion is more appealing than ad cameos and stupid cover girl ads. Can someone say pass the Versace or Valentino please?

  8. tirryah says:

    I think that Tyra Banks has issues. She tends to play the blame game like she did when she said that part of her reason for quitting modeling was Naomi Campell. Oh please get yourself some back bone girl! In addition to that I also think that she has a “holier than thou” attitude on her show which I find infuriating. Its almost like she goes out of her way to prove how much of a good person she is as opposed to “us lesser beings”.

  9. sleeptrip says:

    hi.. i think Tyra is not a racist. she is black too, so i don’t think she would dislike someone who’s the same as she is. In ANTM, she treats white girls the same as she treats the black ones. and if she is really a racist, she could have disallowed black women to audition for ANTM especially as being producer of the show, right?. on the same way, that Eva the Diva would have not been the ANTM for Cycle 3..Yaya as the runner-up or even giving a second chance for Tiffany and to other plus-sized girl (the one had a head-on with Tocarra, forgot her name).. how about letting Tocarra, Camille, Ebony, Mercedes and others to be finalists..

    about the bitchy thing of Eva (well, Eva was really bitching during the first few episodes but she changed) you know? Tyra have said that because Eva was really acting that way.. and for Tiffany, i see Tyra really cared for her..i believe Tyra and the rest of the judges have seen Tiffany’s potential but Tiffany just lacked confidence on herself.. Tyra shouted to her out of care.. carried away on the situation, etc.

    i think Tyra is fair regardless to whatever race (esp. in ANTM).

    anyways, this is just my opinion. thanks for reading 🙂

    • Ashley says:

      I’m sorry to correct you but just because a person is black doesn’t mean they like black people. First off she’s harsher to the black girls she said once that they were hard to deal with??? (a statement which sounds like she wasn’t including herself) and also you can not have one race of girls it wouldn’t look right, and the show can be sued for racism.

  10. chance says:

    I know that there are a lott off black woman out there who discriminate their own race! i’m also black and somtimes i just hate the “trashy talk” of black people but i don’t hate black people. I do think that tyra spended to much time in bevirly hills and that she shoulden’t be so ashemed for black people! if she marries a white man YOU KNOW WHY!

  11. kate says:

    i think Tyra is just scared of the compitition. she was the first black model to do a lot of things, but a younger and hotter black model will eventually come along and fill her shoes. modeling is a cut throut business and i believe Tyra is just displaying that.

  12. Xena says:

    Tyra doesn’t want to encourage stereotypes when having black women on the show…Most of the girl encourage the “Im black and I’ve been through thing that NO other race could understand” ..thats really annoying and I just show black people has race that is “difficult. So I dont mind Tyra being hard on them he just want a professional black women .!!

  13. Matt says:

    It’s not just the southern draw – it’s the constant double-negatives and misuse of words that Tyra was upset about. You can’t have a supermodel that doesn’t know was “regal” means.

  14. tyra foreshaw says:

    hi im tyra foreshaw i love to model your like the best plz contact me back plz thank you

  15. hiya tyra!! i dont think your racist atalll, i dont no what the other people are talkin about but i think your amazin in every way. ( im nt a lesbain ok) im only 13 and i really want to be a model. people say thEY WANT TO BE JST LK U, AND I DONT BLAME THEM. BUT I WANT TO BE ME AND ONLY ME. i live in wales, in powys. i really would like to be a kid model and then grow up to be the best model ever.
    im bubbly fun and love to be me. i really hope you can give me that chance email me back on you proble dnt have the time too but i would really be thank full if you did!!
    your sincerly kirsty powell x x x

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  20. kelly says:

    tyra baks is a racist againt white people has anyone seen the tyra show?? she brings white racist people on and tries to use them as an example for the whole white race she tries convincing people that whites have it easier and shes an obvious racist im disgusted with her

  21. tiffany says:

    i think that tyra banks is very racist against white people. she can say terms like “flip your hair like a white girl” and then refer to a spanish women as “a women of color” then have the nerve to try to educate others on how not to sterotype and discriminate. tyra banks is uneducated ignorant self centered and clearly only cares about herself and wants only her opinions expressed. what about when she tried to convince her audience that white people and other people of different races with lighter skin tones have it easier. tyra banks has not lived all across the country and has not the slightest clue what goes on in other areas besides her own. i live in brooklyn new york and i experience racism every day and i do not get anything easier then any darker skinned person. tyra banks should not be allowed on air she needs to read alot of books do research and live in different places before rambling all the bs she talks about. what about when she goes tight? whats that and the young girl had to explain to her it that it ment angry and tyra goes i didnt even know that and im black what is that suppse to mean that black people know every slang word possible and all talk salng? tyra has issues that she needs to take care of off the air

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  23. jessica says:

    what you guys have to think about is that she is looking for a supermodel she has to be hard and she has to weed out the girls who are not that great and she has to find the BEST!!! so i don’t blame her for being hard on the girls and tyra is very smart shes has been everywhere and i know that tyra has been though alot of stuff so now she is trying to teach that to these girls so all you people need to stop hating on tyra because she is the bomb ok

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  25. Jennifer Baker says:

    Tyra Banks likes black people, if there not a threat! For instance, if there prettier than her and proud of who they are she doesn’t like them. But if there less good looking than she is than she’ll probably let them be America’s Next Top Model. I also think that Tyra doesn’t like deeper tone African American woman because she says how Naomi Campbell and other deeper tone woman did her wrong. Which if that is the case why she dosen’t care much about her people, than that is a poor excuse. Lastly, Fatima, Yaya DaCosta, and Toccara Jones should have won America’s Next Top Model but Tyra Banks is intimidated by there beauty and is afraid that they may take her spotlight of fame.

    (PS: Tyra Banks kills alot of dreams for African American Woman.)

  26. donald layton says:

    tyra banks should not be allowed on tv. i think she is mental, self centered and racist. she has no common sense about anything. it is a shame that looks not brains can make you millions in this country.

  27. Shanna Collins says:

    Wait a minute. I remember one episode where one Black womon named Xiomara was upset that she had to imitate Grace Jones on set. Tyra became very upset and angry at her attitude. She was angry that Black/ethnic models never wanted to be darker than what they were. She stated how she had issues with that. She praised Grace Jones for being a beautiful, strong, Black womon who models should be proud to emulate. I see the point about Danielle, but had the author not mentioned this moment in the show? I have never heard any girls in the news criticizing her for her treatment of Black womyn. What I think of Tyra is that she’s been in the business for so long and that she’s seen so much racism in it, her attitude towards other Black womyn is different. I think that she thinks that she’s protecting them, but she’d doing more harm for her people and forcing them to assimilate into Eurocentric standards.

  28. Shanna Collins says:

    Also, this comment is for Jennifer Baker. Tyra stated after the show that she wanted Toccara to win. If anything, it’s the other judges that are threatened because they overrode Tyra’s vote to win. If anything, people should be asking why the judges are favoring biracial or light-skinned girls over the darker sisters.

  29. Mel says:

    Personally, I think Tyra is full of $#!T. I still admit to enjoying her show but at the same time, feel she is a hypocrite. She had a show about how some black women and Asian women were dying their hair blonde. She never literally said that she thought that was a bad idea… but her tone and what some of the audiance members said (about dying your hair a lighter color ment that you hated your race etc.) She made it seem like it was wrong for them to dye their hair lighter colors, but yet (most of the time and on That Particular episode) she was wearing a dirty blonde, straight weave. I don’t understand why she says how she loves being African American, yet she sports a BLONDE weave. If she loves being black than why does she sport weaves that make her look even more Caucasian/European? I’m sure most people would disagree with me but that’s just what I think. Well…. anyway I hope everyone has a good week. : )

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  31. alwaysright101 says:

    i think she is tough on the black contestants, because she knows from her own experience just how hard the industry is, and how its even harder as a black woman.

    i guess what she is saying without having to say it, is that if you want to be afro-centric go to a modeling agency that is all for it.

    but if you want to go mainstream…then more than likely you would have to assimilate and imitate, was is “right” in the eyes of the target audience.

    i think tyra is just trying to ready them for just how tough the modeling industry is….

    you know, when i think back to all the tough teachers i had in school…i hated them at the time…but looking back, i realized, they didnt do it cause they hated everyone (well some did), but they did it cause, they wanted to ready us…and in hindsight, i wish i would have tried harder or taken the challenge, rather than back down.

    also, tyra says she is proud to be black, because she is saying, she is proud that she overcame when things were against her. she is proud of her heritage, and how the black race has overcame so many times in history, and still continues to today.

    so you can assimilate into “white culture” and the “white way of life” and still be proud of your black heritage.

    how you live and what you believe is not the basis of being a proud black.

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  33. mmc says:

    Tyra is not harder on black girls.She tries to emphasize that you have to develop a well rounded personality.Models are given assignments where they have to speak.Modeling is so much more than posing or walking down a runway.I will miss tyras talk show.I think she cares about people in general.She’s honest while being kind and tries to do a lot to help others.She’s a good example for all races.Not like that horrible Naomi Campbell, what a mean and dangerous person.I love you Tyra!

  34. proud of southern accent says:

    I think Tyra was very hard on Danielle about her accent. At one point she told her she needed to know when to turn it off as if she was talking slang. That was her true accent just like someone from another country has an accent ie-Nigel Barker. There have been other contestant on that show that spoke with their mouths closed or sounded even more “country” than Danielle and Tyra never put them down at all. Like the girl who won the 1st top model season. The one who married Michael Knight (Peter Brady). I feel even though Danielle won, Tyra really treated her like an outcast.
    She finally gave a half assed apology after people called her out about it.

  35. Lindy says:

    I think Trya is silly as all “get-out”. Tyra(nt) and her mother counsel these young women, THEY ARE NOT QUALIFIED TO DO THAT!!! It is a very dangerous thing to do as some of these girls believe if they do not win, their lives are over. Trya’s only ally is Nigel. He does not ask her how high to jump, he just JUMPS at her demand. He is pompous, he actually says he does not like a girl, when that is not why he is there. Him not liking someone is not important, instead, it is whether or not the girl can do the job.

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