America’s Next Top Model: Most Problematic Moments

America's Next Top Model
Photo Credit: Craig Barritt/Getty Images

America’s Next Top Model ran for 24 cycles from 2003 to 2018. The series created by model Tyra Banks quickly became a huge hit, spawning spin-offs in over 20 countries. In a May 2024 interview, Tyra expressed a desire to revive the show. The former host’s recent comments created online conversation about the show’s history and problematic past. While the show was once revered for its diversity and commitment to uncomfortable conversations, fans are now looking at it through a different lens.

Lets take a look back at some of the most problematic moments in the series 15 year run:

When Kahlen had to pose in a grave

In Cycle 4, Tyra made contestant Kahlen Rondot confront her grief head-on when she tasked the model with posing in a grave shortly after her friend’s passing. The night before the shoot, Kahlen received a voicemail alerting her that her best friend died in a car accident and she missed the funeral.

The next day, she participated in the Seven Deadly Sins photoshoot. She fought back tears as she posed in a grave and tried to portray “wrath.”

The former contestant opened up about the infamous shoot in a May 2023 interview with Entertainment Weekly. She told the outlet the shoot was pre-panned, referring to the situation as a “f*cked up coincidence.”

A spokesperson for Tyra explained why changing the theme of the shoot would have been difficult.

“The shoot had been planned beforehand, and, as is standard with any production of this magnitude, it would have been near impossible to pull off an entire shoot change, especially if you factor in all of the location scouting, permit requirements, etc. that go into filming a competition series,” they told the publication.

When Tyra gave Kim ‘advice’

In Cycle 5, Tyra gave contestant Kim Stolz some uninspiring advice. The model, who identified as a lesbian, told Tyra she wanted to live her life out and proud but the host had some notes. Instead of supporting the model, she warned her to tone it down a little bit.

“I think there’s…being proud, like *I’m* Black and proud, but I’m not walking down the red carpet all like, ‘I’m Black! I’m proud!'” she said.

Kim referenced the controversial moment in a May 2020 Instagram Post. In the video, she runs around saying, “I’m gay! I’m gay!” She included the hashtag “Too gay for Tyra?”

In the post’s caption, she let her fans know she is all for people being out and proud.

“Didn’t even remember this scene but now that I do… In support of gays everywhere walking down the street out and being who they are,” she wrote.

I’m glad to see Kim didn’t take Tyra’s misguided advice.

Tyra’s Critique of Yaya

In Cycle 3, the girls were instructed to style a look based on various hats. Contestant Yaya DaCosta chose the cowboy hat and added details that referenced her African roots. At panel, the guest judge criticized Yaya for her “intensity to prove her Africaness,” calling it “overbearing.” Yaya took offense to the remark because yeah, the comment was offensive. When she stepped in to defend herself, Tyra jumped in and said, “You’re being very defensive and it’s not attractive.” It was a bad look for Tyra.

When Tyra made the models ‘switch races’

This moment may be the most well-known problematic moment. In retrospect, it’s shocking that it was allowed to air. Both Cycle 4 and Cycle 13 featured photoshoots in which the models represented different races. The shoots received a ton of backlash for being insensitive. Cycle 13 Contestant Jennifer An spoke about the infamous photoshoot in an interview with Entertainment Weekly in May 2023.

“I didn’t know we were going to have our bodies painted. We were standing in front of the makeup area, we’re holding our bras and underwear on, and as I’m watching them paint my skin, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that’s really dark,'” she told the outlet. “I kept saying, ‘You guys are putting me in blackface.'”

When they had to walk in dangerous heels

In Cycle 6, the girls were tasked with walking in dangerously high high heels. The shoes were like a death trap. The models fell and the judges winced at their pain. Contestant Danielle Evans even sprained her ankle. What was the point of this?

When the girls had to do a weigh-in

In Cycle 1, the girls had to participate in a “weigh-in.” They stepped on a scale and then their trainer told their weights to viewers at home. Yeah, something tells me this wouldn’t fly today.