Moments From America's Next Top Model No One Will Forget

Those who grew up binge-watching reality TV shows will be fully aware of Tyra Banks' hit phenomenon "America's Next Top Model." The fierce competition show made its debut in 2003 and managed to stay on air until 2018. Not only that, it paved the way for the likes of "RuPaul's Drag Race" and "The Face."

Even though "America's Next Top Model" has produced many stars, like Yaya DaCosta, Eva Marcille, and Winnie Harlow, it has also faced criticism for the way the contestants were treated. Cycle 9 alum Sarah Hartshorne came forward in 2021 and revealed on Twitter she was only paid $40 a day and had to pay for her own food while on the show. In a TikTok video, Sarah also revealed that everyone taking part in "America's Next Top Model" had to sign an NDA that forced them to not talk about the shady things that went on behind the scenes. If they were to leak any information, Sarah stated they were told they would be sued for $10 million.

The ongoing backlash about the show clearly couldn't be ignored by Banks. In May 2020, she came forward and admitted she made some "really off choices" on Twitter. "Been seeing the posts about the insensitivity of some past ANTM moments and I agree with you," Banks tweeted, adding, "[I] appreciate your honest feedback." Now, let's get into those "off choices" that many have deemed to be unforgettable.

Tyra Banks forced Cycle 6 winner Dani to get her gap closed

Yep, you read correctly. Tyra Banks forced Cycle 6 winner Danielle Evans, now referred to as Dani, to get the gap in the front of her teeth closed. Banks sent Dani and another contestant to the dentist to get their teeth fixed, though Dani initially refused to change anything about her smile. "I love the gap," she told the dentist, embracing the way she was. However, when it came down to the panel, Banks gave her the impression that she either had to get her gap closed or leave the competition.

Banks asked Dani if she believed it was possible for her to have a CoverGirl contract with her gap and even went so far as to mimic her feature by putting her finger in front of her own teeth. Ultimately, Dani ended up in the bottom three. She was willing to compromise with Banks by getting her gap closed slightly but not all the way. But, being that it was Banks' show and she called the shots, she told Dani it had to be all the way. For the sake of the competition, Dani went ahead with it. Her sacrifice paid off, as she ended up being chosen as that cycle's winner. 

Fans were even more upset with Banks when her hypocrisy came to light about this very issue. During Cycle 15's makeover episode, Banks created a gap in contestant Chelsey Hersley's front teeth.

Kahlen had to do a photoshoot in a graveyard right after finding out her friend died

In the middle of participating in Cycle 4, Kahlen Rondot received a phone call message that informed her a friend from her high school days had died. Finding out that news while not being surrounded by her friends and family made Kahlen state in her confessional that the day she found out about her friend was the worst day she had in the competition. What she didn't realize, though, was that her journey was about to get more difficult.

For the photoshoot that happened right after she received the news, the remaining contestants had to represent the seven deadly sins in the middle of a graveyard. On top of being in a graveyard, they had to pose at the bottom of an eight-foot grave where people are usually buried. Understandably, Kahlen was emotional on set and was filmed crying her eyes out. The creative director, Jay Manuel, said he was unaware of the situation and spoke with Kahlen privately. While he did seem mildly concerned, he didn't seem too phased about her personal situation, as he only asked whether she "needed a minute" before going into hair and makeup. Being a trooper, Kahlen participated in the shoot and produced an iconic photo that embodied wrath. 

While Tyra Banks and the other judges seemed to reward her struggles by calling her name first, the timing of the shoot was very questionable.

Absolutely nobody was here for Dani's homophobic and racist comments

Not to be confused with the Cycle 6 contestant who took home the winning title, Dani Evans, this particular situation revolves around the Dani from Spring, Texas, who didn't make it to that cycle's final 13.

Dani instantly made an impression on the other girls with her personal views. While sitting in the car with other aspiring models, Dani said when she auditioned for the show, there were "95% Black girls," explaining she "didn't realize it was going to be like that." Her comments definitely rubbed the others the wrong way, resulting in Furonda Brasfield asking what her point was. During her audition tape, Dani stated she was the most "uber-conservative republican, hardcore baptist you can ever imagine." She boldly announced she didn't like gay people, Muslims, abortions, or "anything liberal." "Other than that, I really like to get along with people," Dani claimed.

After continuously rubbing the contestants the wrong way, Dani told Tyra Banks, Jay Manuel, and Jay Alexander that what she said in her tape was to get their attention. Dani boldly told both Manuel and Alexander that she didn't agree with their lifestyles, resulting in Banks telling her the industry she wanted to participate in went against everything she believed in.

The dangerous high heels challenge

Cycle 6 was clearly a rollercoaster of a season. During one of the challenges in panel, Tyra Banks put the contestants to the test by asking them to walk in a pair of ridiculously high heels. The shoes were so high that they appeared difficult to stand in, let alone walk in, for the very first time. In fact, Banks' rival, Naomi Campbell, had previously fallen in them while on the runway, so it appeared almost as if Banks set the contestants up to fail on purpose.

Sara Albert, Brooke Staricha, and Joanie Dodds were the only few who managed to strut without stumbling. However, Kari Schmidt and Dani Evans fell more than once. "This is the most nerve-wracking judging test we have ever done. I was holding my breath the entire time," Banks declared. However, what she really should have been focused on was the level of danger she was putting her contestants in.

Before everyone returned to panel, doctors were called in backstage after Dani's pinky toe "came completely out and twisted." She returned in crutches with her foot raised and told the judges she had "sprained my baby toe." Banks seemed completely unphased by the situation and just carried on as if nothing major had happened.

Yaya was told her 'tendency to prove her African-ness' was 'overbearing'

Cycle 3's Yaya DeCosta was one of that season's front runners. In addition to being absolutely gorgeous, she also took photos that wowed the panel. But even though she was doing well, she was treated really unfairly when she chose to represent her African culture in a way the judges didn't expect.

During one of the tasks set in panel, the contestants were asked to show off their individual style centered around a hat they chose from a group presented to them. Yaya went for the cowboy hat and styled her look with an outfit that payed homage to her African heritage. Photographer Nigel Barker admitted he expected her to pick the African hat to go with her ensemble, while Nolé Marin boldly stated Yaya looked as if she was "half African, half cowgirl," adding, "It looks like you're about to ride a giraffe." The guest panelist took it a step further and claimed that Yaya, someone she didn't know, felt the need to always prove her "African-ness," describing it as "overbearing." Even though Tyra Banks gave her the side-eye, she didn't defend Yaya.

Yaya stood up for herself and explained why she didn't choose the other hat. Despite this, she was accused of being "defensive" and "not attractive" by Banks. When being called out in panel to continue in the competition, Yaya was told she should apologize to the judges, despite doing nothing wrong.

Keenyah had to go to dinner with a guy who harassed her on a shoot

Keenyah Hill didn't have the most comfortable time on a shoot when a male model named Bertini kept making moaning noises around her. Keenyah did the right thing and stopped posing to inform creative director Jay Manuel about what was happening. Unfortunately, Manuel didn't do much about the situation other than say that she was in a "professional situation" and that there were many others on set.

The shoot continued even after Keenyah spoke up. However, Bertini didn't catch the hint and continued to cross the line. Manuel eventually told the guys to stop "grabbing her butt," but the damage was already done. Keenyah left the set upset and worried that the final image she would be judged on in panel would affect her chances of being eliminated.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the last time Keenyah had to interact with Bertini. When the contestants went out for dinner, they were joined by the male models from the same shoot. Keenyah confronted Bertini over his behavior and made him aware that the line he crossed was "pretty darn thick." With that being said, she shouldn't have had to go to dinner with him in the first place for the sake of the show.

Keenyah was given a hard time over her weight gain

While on the show, Keenyah Hill admitted to gaining weight, telling Kahlen Rondot that she had put on 12 pounds while they were overseas in South Africa. Due to the stress of the competition, she explained she found comfort in eating. When it came down to their photoshoot, the models were told they would each have to portray a different animal. In fact, creative director Jay Manuel stated that he "picked an animal that I think represents each ... of you," and he had an interesting choice when it came to Keenyah. 

Since "America's Next Top Model" loves to harp on the contestants' insecurities, Keenyah was notified in front of everyone that she was going to be an elephant, following the role of gluttony she was given for the previous shoot. A coincidence, huh? Keenyah expressed her annoyance about being associated with an animal that was deemed as "fat."

At panel, Tyra Banks exposed Keenyah and said they had to do a lot of retouching and body work on her image. Even though she never pointed the finger at anyone, Banks told Keenyah to be honest with herself surrounding her weight gain and insisted nobody would ever retouch her photos as much as Banks did. For this reason, Keenyah landed herself in the bottom two.

Jaeda had to kiss a racist

For Cycle 7's deodorant commercial, the remaining six contestants were told they had to learn a script in Spanish and pick a male model at their dinner table to be their co-star. Not only that, they would have to share a kiss with whichever model they chose. However, having to learn a script in a foreign language was the least of Jaeda Young's problems after finding out the male model she chose, Nacho, told her he doesn't like Black girls. He wouldn't practice the script with her at the table and made her feel incredibly insecure and uncomfortable.

When coming face to face with Tyra Banks, Jaeda informed the supermodel about her situation. To many people's surprise, Banks didn't sympathize with Jaeda, instead, she told Jaeda she should kiss him and "make him love some Black girls." That's one way of ending racism, right? Filming Jaeda's commercial was understandably a mess, as she openly admitted on set "I cannot do this" and burst into tears. Jaeda did end up kissing the male model but said she hoped to never go through anything similar again.

When being evaluated in panel, Jaeda told the rest of the judges about her racist co-star while crying about her disastrous commercial. Nigel Barker told her she should have taken control of the situation and Jay Alexander claimed it shouldn't have stopped her from doing her job. To make matters worse, the judges used this situation to eliminate Jaeda.

CariDee was blamed for reaching the point of hypothermia

By now, it's quite obvious that the photoshoots on "America's Next Top Model" were sometimes incredibly problematic. But there's one that stands out almost above the rest — the freezing cold shoot in the pool that took place during Cycle 7.

For this particular challenge, Tyra Banks was on set with Jay Manuel and the photographer. The final four contestants were paired up and had to make it look like they were floating effortlessly in a pool, despite shaking like a leaf and feeling completely numb. CariDee English posed alongside Amanda Babin and struggled to keep it together, like anyone would. She kept telling people on set that it was really cold and had to have towels wrapped around her when taking breaks from shooting. At one point, she had to be dragged out of the pool because she had reached the point of hypothermia.

"As a model, you have to tell people when you're past your limit," Manuel said, practically blaming CariDee for the situation. "You have to listen to your body and tell us," Banks insisted. But with the reputation "America's Next Top Model" has for contestants speaking out, it's not surprising why CariDee pushed herself too far to prove herself to the judges. 

Louise's interactions with Kelly Cutrone

Who could forget the tension between English model Louise Watts and judge Kelly Cutrone during Cycle 18's British Invasion? During a photoshoot, Louise was captured running across the set to get her hair and makeup done in time. Cutrone went after Louise and warned her to watch her "energy." Cutrone insisted Louise had "one of the worst attitudes that I've ever seen for a young woman who's in the middle of a competition" and continued to address Louise while she was trying to focus on her shoot.

With three minutes to spare, Louise slayed her shoot and produced a stellar image. However, the stress that Cutrone put on her left her in tears after the shoot. Louise claimed they were due to relief it was all over, but it was most likely in response to Cutrone's constant criticism of her actions. And unfortunately, there were worse things to come her way. 

In judging, Louise wasn't shy about addressing Cutrone about her rudeness after Cutrone said Louise was rude to her. Tyra Banks claimed that, because Cutrone was a publicist, she was above the model in rank and that Louise had learn her place. Louise became annoyed with the panel's continuous critiques and stormed off the set. As seen in the photo above, she was filmed shouting on the street, cursing and demanding to fly back home. "That f**king Kelly Cutrone, if she was on the street, I'd knock her out," Louise claimed.

Shandi cheating on her boyfriend

Cycle 2 is one of the most iconic seasons of "America's Next Top Model" for many reasons. There was Camille McDonald with her "signature walk" that she insisted was going to make her famous and of course, Yoanna House's helmet photo, which was a work of art. However, Shandi Sullivan cheating on her boyfriend with an Italian model was probably the most memorable part of that particular cycle.

It all started when the girls invited a bunch of male models to their house and decided to have fun in a large jacuzzi. After having maybe one too many to drink, things started to get heated between Shandi and the male model she had been getting flirty with. She openly admitted to forgetting about her boyfriend, Eric, back home and slept with the model. Once everyone left, Shandi started crying her eyes out in bed. Ultimately, Shandi called her boyfriend and confessed that she slept with somebody after claiming that she felt lonely. The traumatic late night phone call left them both in tears, and Eric told Shandi that she had "completely changed" and called her a "stupid b*tch."

Shandi told Tyra Banks about what she did that same episode, and Banks reassured her that everyone made mistakes and told her she wasn't being judged by Banks.

Isis' transphobic treatment from other contestants

Cycle 11's Isis King made history as the first transgender contestant on "America's Next Top Model." She had previously appeared in the background of the homeless photoshoot for Cycle 10 and caught Tyra Banks' attention that way. After the supermodel was impressed with Isis' natural modeling skills, Banks asked her to return for the following cycle in the hopes of her becoming a contestant. In her audition, Isis informed Banks, Jay Manuel, and Jay Alexander that she was "born physically male" but "mentally, everything else, I was born female."

During the early stages of the competition, the other contestants had something to say about Isis' identity. Many of them wanted to figure out why she looked the way she did, and when Isis informed them of how she was born, there were a variety of reactions. Kacey Leggett was shocked and questioned how she got "through the door," claiming it was a "girl competition." Clark Gilmer didn't hold back either and said she was willing to "stomp that man right out of the competition" if Isis got in the way of her "goal." On the other hand, Sheena Sakai commended Isis for being "brave and secure with who she is." 

Even though Isis faced many transphobic comments as part of her "ANTM" experience, she became a fan-favorite contestant and an inspiration to the LGBTQ+ community.

Tyra Banks shut down homophobic comments

People have said a lot of not-nice things about Tyra Banks over the years — many of them justified — but there were certain times when she stood up for her contestants. After Cycle 21's Denzel Wells dissed gay contestant Will Jardell by saying he would hate to go home and have to explain how he lost to a man in heels, Will decided to turn up to panel in tall stilettos to make a statement.

When Banks asked him why he was wearing the shoes, Will explained that someone had made a disparaging comment about gay people. The supermodel then offered for Will to confront the person. Taking the opportunity, he turned to Denzel and stated he had struggled every day with people who thought the way Denzel did. Denzel tried to defend himself, telling Will that he didn't want him to think he was "bashing him" or that he was "ashamed" of him being a man in heels. However, Banks wasn't having it. 

After Will finished speaking, Banks defended Will and declared Denzel was ashamed because he was worried what his friends back home would say. "This is an industry that is predominantly female, so when you step into an industry that is predominantly a certain sex, you get the stereotype that you are gay," Banks explained, adding, "Be proud of this industry and every single male model, gay, straight, heels, corsets. Who gives a f**k?!" We couldn't have said it better ourselves. 

Tyra Banks created the ultimate meme when she yelled at Tiffany

It was practically impossible not to include this iconic moment on this list. After all, Tyra Banks yelling at Tiffany Richardson became a meme before anyone even knew what that word meant. When Banks sent Tiffany and Rebecca Epley home during a surprise double elimination, the supermodel was unimpressed with Tiffany laughing the situation off. She told Rebecca she admired her emotion, as it showed Banks that the competition was something that was "very important" to her. Tiffany, on the other hand, left Banks furious, which resulted in her accusing Tiffany of taking the competition as a joke. "Looks can be deceiving and I'm hurt," Tiffany explained before informing Banks she's "sick of being disappointed."

Banks disagreed with her, resulting in Tiffany getting defensive. However, as soon as Tiffany raised her voice, Banks lost her cool, telling her to "be quiet" and stop talking. "I have never yelled at a girl like this," Banks shouted, adding, "When my mother yells like this it's because she loves me. I was rooting for you, we were all rooting for you, how dare you!" Banks ended her rant by telling the aspiring model to "take responsibility for herself."

In the end, Tiffany walked out of the elimination on her own, while the rest of the room silently watched her go.

Celia threw Tahlia under the bus

By Season 12, the contestants should have known not to mess with Tyra Banks, but it seemed Cycle 12's Celia Ammerman didn't get the memo. After Tahlia Brookins previously expressed she didn't want to be in the competition any longer, Celia was not happy when her friend, Kortnie Coles, was being sent home during the next elimination. Before Banks could even hug and wish Kortnie well, Celia walked up to the runway and threw Tahlia under the bus. "Tyra, with all due respect to you, I think there is something you should know," she said, adding, "Before you send Kortnie home I think you should know that Tahlia did express that she did not wanna be in the competition anymore and she did not think this was a wise career move on her part."

Celia continued: "It's quite unfair for someone who doesn't want to be here to remain in the competition." Banks looked unimpressed with Celia the whole time and responded to her statement by telling the contestant that the only unfair thing about the situation was Celia telling her that information and not Tahlia. "The judges have made their decision, take your place, Celia," Banks told her. 

Her actions almost proved to be disastrous for Celia, who found herself in the bottom two the following week. Banks deemed Celia's move "one of the most non-beautiful things" the competition has ever seen. However, she allowed Celia to stay because her photo saved her.

Tyra Banks put her contestants in blackface, twice

In Cycle 4, Tyra Banks and the production of "America's Next Top Model" — for some reason — seemed to think doing a photoshoot that saw the contestants switching their ethnicities would be a good idea. She allowed the white girls to portray African Americans by wearing dark makeup that practically looked like they were in black face.

And unfortunately, she didn't seem to learn her lesson. In Cycle 13, Banks photographed the remaining six contestants in Hawaii and felt it was necessary to attempt another shoot that was similar. This time, they had to portray someone who was "Hapa," a person who is half one ethnicity and half another. The show didn't hesitate to get out the brown paint and put some girls yet again in black face.

To no one's surprise, Banks faced a lot of backlash about these decisions. She explained in an interview with "Chicks in the Office" in 2020 that she had previously apologized for the shoot on her talk show, "The Tyra Banks Show." However, she admitted it was important for her to apologize again for those who weren't around to hear it the first time. Banks said her intention was never to do black face but did confess she realized it was an "ignorant" move on her part due to her lack of knowledge of the different cultures she attempted to portray.

Yu Tsai refused to stop calling Chantelle slurs

Chantelle Young, now referred to as Winnie Harlow, first caught the attention of millions when appearing as a contestant on Cycle 21 of "America's Next Top Model." She was born with the skin condition vitiligo and was discovered by Tyra Banks through Instagram.

During her time on the show, Winnie had to deal with the ongoing names Yu Tsai kept calling her, like panda or cow, which she didn't personally see as a compliment. When she politely asked Yu Tsai to stop, he got really defensive and took it the wrong way. "I don't want kids out there to see you, someone so high up in the industry, being able to call me 'panda' and then seeing someone else with a skin condition and being like 'Yu Tsai can call Chantelle "panda," you can call this person a cow,'" she explained to him. Yu Tsai insisted Winnie was never going to make a good model because "she rubs people the wrong way" and noted it was hard for her "to really listen." We wonder what he has to say about that statement now!

Winnie was filmed getting emotional while explaining how bullies calling her slurs over the years had affected her. Yu Tsai immaturely said Winnie didn't deserve his nicknames and insisted he would call her "porcupine from now on."