An incredibly problematic scene from the hit early-2000s TV show “America’s Next Top Model” is currently going viral, with many users asking how it could have possibly made it to air in the first place.
A clip of a 2005 episode from the show’s fourth cycle, which was shared on TikTok by a user named Adrienne, depicts ANTM’s creative director Jay Manuel explaining the gist of a modeling challenge where the competing women had to “swap” races for a photoshoot with the help of a makeup artist.
Each woman then had to pose as their assigned ethnicities while holding a child model for a “Got Milk?” advertisement.
“There’s a twist!” Manuel says to introduce the challenge. “We are actually going to switch your ethnicities.”
The models greet the announcement with a mixture of shock and laughter.
Then, Manuel reads off some of the ethnicity swaps to be made. Christina, a white woman, is told she will portray an “east Indian woman,” while Tiffany, a Black woman, is told to “be Native American,” and so on.
To make matters worse, multiple contestants were made to wear Blackface as part of the controversial shoot.
“The way he describes the ethnicities like costumes,” one user wrote.
“Who approved this,” said another.
“I can’t believe this happened,” commented a third.
ANTM, which is available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime, began receiving a resurgence of online backlash earlier this year as people binge-watched it during the pandemic. Some of its more questionable moments, like the “Got Milk?” shoot, began trending on Twitter, which caused host Tyra Banks to apologize.
“Been seeing the posts about the insensitivity of some past ANTM moments and I agree with you,” the model wrote on Twitter in May. “Looking back, those were some really off choices. Appreciate your honest feedback and am sending so much love and virtual hugs.”
The show’s co-creator, Ken Mok, backed up Banks’ statement with his own statement the same day, tweeting, “I look at some of those moments and cringe. Just a FYI – the entire creative team made the choices on those shows – not just Tyra.”
In an interview with Variety, Manuel revealed he sometimes felt “uncomfortable” with the creative decisions made by Banks and Mok during the show’s 24-season run.
“Many times when you’re working in an environment like that, you have to listen to your executive producers, and ultimately the two voices at the top were Ken and Tyra,” he told the outlet. “There were sometimes several objections by other producers and myself about layers that were added to creative, and we were just told to execute.”
Specifically referencing the “race swap” photoshoot, Manuel said he did recall the concept and said “it was very uncomfortable for me.”
“I was so, so, so uncomfortable with this,” he told Variety. “I was never scripted for my intros or anything, and I didn’t know how I was going to be able to set this up — I was so afraid that I would wear this because I was the creative director, but it was not my idea. That swapped race was a layer added in. It was supposed to be a different concept.”
“I remember that very, very clearly,” he added. “I was basically told that I had to execute the creative, and it made me very uncomfortable.”
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