The Real Reason Why Jay Manuel and Nigel Barker Left ‘America’s Next Top Model’

Jay and Nigel seemingly have had “no relationship” with former ‘ANTM’ boss Tyra Banks since leaving the show.

Elizabeth Randolph - Author

Feb. 13 2024, Published 5:33 p.m. ET

(l-r): Nigel Barker and Jay Manuel
Source: Getty Images

While everybody knows America’s Next Top Model was supermodel-turned-TV mogul Tyra Banks’ brainchild, the reality TV competition had many memorable judges and instructors helping the model hopefuls along the way. Few were more memorable than former judge Nigel Barker and former creative director Jay Manuel.

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During the heyday of ANTM, which ended for good in April 2018. Nigel and “Mr. Jay” were known for their candid takes on the contestants, which they pulled from their years of previous work in the fashion industry. However, after 18 cycles (seasons, iykyk) of being on the show, Nigel and Jay exited the series and seemingly have no relationship with Tyra.

So, what led to Jay and Nigel’s exits? Here’s the scoop.

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Why did Jay Manuel and Nigel Barker leave ‘America’s Next Top Model?’

Jay and Nigel joined America’s Next Top Model in cycle 1. Nigel, an established fashion photographer, and Jay, who worked as a stylist and makeup artist for magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and celebrities such as Tyra and Naomi Campbell, quickly helped legitimize the competition as being about helping the models launch careers in fashion.

In cycle 1, they were also joined by runway consultant J. Alexander, who was affectionately known as “Miss J.”

Along with extravagant challenges and dramatic elimination rounds, fans had become accustomed to seeing Nigel, Mr. Jay, and Miss Jay season after season. That was until 2012 when they were not asked to return to the show.

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(l-r): Miss J. Alexander, Jay Manuel, and Nigel Barker
Source: Getty Images

In 2012, ANTM reportedly saw a decline in viewership, forcing Tyra and the show’s other executive producer, Ken Mok, to make “major changes planned for [season] 19,” per BET News. Ken and Tyra also confirmed the firings had nothing to do with the Jays or Nigel personally, with them both expressing a desire to, as Ken put it, “actively work with each of them on future projects.”

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“To my Nigel Barker, Miss J, and Mr Jay: Thank you for all of our years together on America's Next Top Model,” Tyra wrote on her Facebook page in 2012. “Working with you is always an absolute pleasure. Excited for what the future holds for us."

(l-r): Nigel Barker, Tyra Banks, Andre Leon Talley, and Jay Manuel at an event.
Source: Getty Images
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Jay Manuel and Nigel Barker’s drama with Tyra Banks explained.

Jay and Nigel’s exits didn’t stop ANTM from going on for another few seasons before it eventually went off the air. Unfortunately, their exits seemingly ruined their friendship with Tyra.

In 2020, during the COVID-19 quarantine, Tyra and America’s Next Top Model sparked controversy due to some of the challenges and comments made on the show, some of which came from Tyra herself. Many of the moments, including a photo shoot where contestants swapped identities and two models wore blackface and whiteface, respectfully, were deemed inappropriate in today’s climate.

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Amid the controversy, Jay was promoting his novel, The Wig, The B---ch, and The Meltdown, which was heavily inspired by ANTM, including Jay pulling inspiration from Tyra’s classic “we were rooting for you speech” to model Tiffany Richardson. While promoting the book, Jay told Variety that he and Tyra had “no relationship” and had only seen each other once at BeautyCon in 2017 since he left ANTM.

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“Over the past few years, we’ve emailed,” Jay said of Tyra in an interview with Variety. “To be very honest, we really have no relationship to speak of, which is really sad. Our time together on ANTM was amazingly productive and, at times, magical. We got to experience being part of a global phenomenon.”

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Jay later shared with correspondent Justin Sylvester that he felt “scared to speak up” about some of Tyra’s comments, including the time she scolded a contestant, Kim Stolz, for being proud of her lesbian identity. Jay also told Justin he and Tyra’s relationship never recovered after he left the show in cycle 18, even though he chose to stay on for another season to help them find his replacement.

Jay added that while Tyra later apologized for her cold response to his exit, their relationship never recovered. Nigel seemingly had a similar experience, even though he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012 that he didn’t think Tyra was responsible for firing him.

In May 2023, while celebrating Top Model’s 20th anniversary, Nigel shared several photos of him, Tyra, the Jays, and other past judges, though fans noticed he didn’t tag Tyra in his post. The subtle oversight caused many to think he didn’t have much of a relationship with Tyra.

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