Despite our love-hate relationship with reality TV, we can probably all agree that it doesn’t always age well –– just ask the cast of America’s Next Top Model. In summer 2020, we were reminded just how far we’ve come in terms of bias and discrimination when old clips of the reality show resurfaced online. But recently, we found that things were much more serious when Tyra Banks was faced with allegations of abuse. So, what really happened?
Tyra Banks was faced with abuse allegations in January 2021.
Tyra Banks was under fire in January 2021 after former contestant Lisa D’Amato accused her of emotional abuse during the filming of America’s Top Model. Lisa ultimately placed sixth on Season 5 of ANTM and won the "All-Stars" cycle. She had previously opened up about her experience on the reality show during an episode of E! True Hollywood Story, knowing that her comments may be a breach in her ANTM contract.
She explained in the Instagram video, “I did it knowing that it was a breach of contract, still, because I felt like it was my duty to warn other girls that were going to audition for America’s Next Top Model to know that what you guys do and the way that you guys would poke me and use my childhood trauma against me, day in and day out. It was just so f---ed up, and it broke my heart. Like, how could you do that?”
Lisa isn’t the only former 'ANTM' contestant to make allegations of abuse against Tyra.
While Lisa may be the latest ANTM contestant to call Tyra and her team out for their behavior on the reality show, she isn’t the only one.
In a 2015 interview with Daily Mail, former contestant Angelea Preston condemned Tyra for starving models for days at a time. “It’s insane, the amount of bulls--t that me and the other girls went through," she said at the time. "There are times when we didn’t get fed. We had to film straight through, 15, 18 hours without eating.”
Lisa continued, “I don’t know how you sleep at night. You, Tyra, you knew very well the horrible trauma that my mom inflicted on me, and you also talk so much about how you wouldn’t be where you are without your mother and how powerful she is. So knowing that, you still did that to me and continued to do it to other girls, even after I spoke publicly about it.”
The show, which is currently available on Netflix, featured a number of moments that Tyra now calls insensitive. Former contestant Kim Stolz, who appeared on Season 5 with Lisa, addressed the show’s problematic tendencies but also suggested that Tyra isn’t the only one to blame for ANTM’s toxic work culture.
She wrote in a personal essay for MTV, “As much as we should applaud the subversive topics that ANTM has covered in its reign thus far — physical and sexual abuse, homelessness, female circumcision, gayness (hi!!) — we must also accept that there were moments when those issues were clearly exploited for entertainment value. Maybe we can’t blame Tyra for this — after all, it’s business, right?”
In May 2020, when some pretty unsavory clips of ANTM resurfaced, Tyra responded to the accusations made by former show participants.
She wrote on social media, “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 you so much love and virtual hugs."
America’s Next Top Model is now streaming on Netflix.