America’s Next Top Model should probably thank the heavens that Twitter wasn’t around when it started in 2003.
On Saturday, actress Yaya DaCosta shared two videos on Instagram after viewers of Love & Hip Hop Miami sent her clips from the show. Musician, Amara La Negra has been struggling on the VH1 reality show to get her message of inclusivity across. In one episode, the singer is criticised for her afro and black pride.
DaCosta had a similar incident on season three of America’s Next Top Model when she proudly wore her hair natural and dressed in an Ankara-print top.
“Every once in a while (more and more often these days), we are reminded of how far we still have to go surrounding issues of tolerance and ethnic sensitivity,” DaCosta said in her Instagram post acknowledging her time on the Tyra Banks’ produced competition show.
“Trump’s latest comments about immigrants are a fresh example of that, but it is NOTHING NEW. He’s been expressing bigotry and protecting other racists since day one. Same hate, new day… I know that this might seem trivial next to the serious threat our country is currently facing, but people keep sending me videos of Love & Hip Hop Miami, saying that it reminded them of me as a young girl, learning to navigate the new phenomenon of reality TV.”
“Unfortunately, 14 years later, nothing has changed. Same ignorance, new show… It took a lot of work to heal from that experience and looking back, I feel so much for that eager, vulnerable young version of myself. There are so many things I would whisper in her ear… @amaralanegraaln I truly applaud your strength. As another brown-skinned, curly-headed woman with African roots and Latin branches, I stand with you.”
In the clip DaCosta shared, she’s being ridiculed by all the judges —including, host Banks— for looking too “intense.”
“It looks like you’re about to ride a giraffe,” judge Nolé Martin said, while judge Rebecca Weinberg stated, “You have this intensity to prove your blackness, and I think sometimes it’s overbearing.”
Banks added fuel to the fire by saying, “This [photo] is amazing, but what’s not amazing is your appearance. Think a little more glamour as opposed to natural.” DaCosta was also forced to apologize to the judges after being called “defensive,” for criticizing the kufi cap they wanted her to wear.
Banks has yet to comment on the resurrected clip.
But to be honest, racism —subtle or not— is nothing new.
Fashion, music, film (the world in general) has never fully embraced people of color —and the optics of what’s considered attractive only adds insult to injury. It only makes sense for black pride —in the face of racism and colorism— to be considered “intense” because black pride is the antithesis of both. To be proud of one’s blackness is to defy a society that systematically seeks to disenfranchise black people.
We doubt the ‘Top Model’ judges would have got that point.
Nothing about DaCosta and Amara’s stories are new. But in a new world of social media holding peoples’ feet to the fire, maybe some people will think twice before making ignorant remarks about black pride.