Jay Manuel On Tyra Banks Backlash – Variety


Former “America’s Subsequent Prime Mannequin” decide Jay Manuel is penning a e-book impressed by his time on the hit actuality present, Variety has discovered solely.

The novel, titled, “The Wig, The Bitch & The Meltdown,” printed by Wordeee, will probably be launched this on Aug. 3.

“America’s Subsequent Prime Mannequin” has lately been within the headlines, dealing with criticism for out-of-touch commentary that has not aged nicely with viewers calling out the present for racial insensitivity and physique shaming on social media, because of renewed curiosity in “Prime Mannequin,” in gentle of quarantine-enhanced binging on Hulu and Amazon Prime.

Regardless of the resurgence of the “America’s Subsequent Prime Mannequin” within the pop-culture zeitgeist — for higher or for worse — Manuel, who spent 18 seasons on the sequence because the artistic director, has been engaged on his novel since 2014.

“I by no means noticed that coming. My novel has been within the works for fairly a while, so this actually is a shock to me,” Manuel says in regards to the heightened curiosity in “Prime Mannequin” all through the coronavirus pandemic.

Manuel’s e-book is impressed by his personal profession path and time on “America’s Subsequent Prime Mannequin,” and takes a satirical have a look at the behind-the-scenes tradition at a modeling competitors present. Described as a cautionary story in regards to the seduction of fame, the novel facilities round a fictional actuality present, “Mannequin Muse,” hosted by supermodel Keisha Kash, and the story is advised by means of the eyes of the protagonist, Pablo Michaels, a younger man who units out to find himself on the planet of trend in New York Metropolis.

“I wished this e-book to entertain and that’s why I used satire, and had a number of enjoyable with it,” Manuel says. “All the characters within the e-book took on a lifetime of their very own and had been simply impressed by folks in my life, however we write what we all know and, as they are saying, artwork imitates life — and is usually bigger than life.”

Whereas the e-book is just not an actual reproduction of “Prime Mannequin,” there are stark parallels. For starters, the font on the e-book cowl mirrors the emblem of the actual present. Contained in the e-book, a whole chapter, aptly titled “The Meltdown,” options the fictional host going berserk on a contestant, which Manuel confirms was impressed by the notorious, “we had been rooting for you!” scene. The e-book additionally dedicates a couple of pages to botched makeover scenes, which Manuel suggests, “Is likely to be extra for rankings, versus really benefitting that mannequin.”

Jay Manuel Top Model book

The primary-time writer didn’t seek the advice of Banks or any former colleagues from “America’s Subsequent Prime Mannequin” in regards to the e-book, nor does he have a lot of a relationship with Banks, who has confronted extreme criticism on social media in latest weeks for resurfaced clips which have been scrutinized below the zero-tolerance lens of 2020.

“Over the previous few years, we’ve emailed,” Manuel says about Banks, recalling that the final time he noticed her was a run-in at BeautyCon in 2017. “To be very trustworthy, we actually don’t have any relationship to talk of, which is basically unhappy. Our time collectively on ‘ANTM’ was amazingly productive and, at instances, magical. We acquired to expertise being a part of a world phenomenon.”

One second that has been the supply of widespread backlash on-line options Banks reprimanding a Cycle 6 contestant for selecting to not shut the hole in between her enamel. “Do you actually suppose you may have a CoverGirl contract with a niche in your mouth?” Banks requested within the episode. Within the season that aired in 2006, Banks tells an African-American contestant that she wants do her job, regardless of the younger girl sharing {that a} male mannequin she was requested to kiss throughout a photoshoot stated he didn’t like black women. In one other ill-received scene, Banks tells a lesbian mannequin in Cycle 5 that she shouldn’t flaunt her sexuality. “I’m black and proud, however I’m not, like, strolling down the crimson carpet [saying] ‘I’m black, I’m black,’” Banks suggested.

Banks didn’t reply to Variety’s request for remark, in response to Manuel’s interview, and neither did the CW or CBS Tv Studios, which produces “America’s Subsequent Prime Mannequin.” (The present initially aired on the now-defunct UPN community and spent most of its life on the CW, earlier than heading to VH1 in 2016.)

Earlier this week, Banks tweeted that she agrees with criticism concerning the present’s insensitivity. “Trying again, these had been some actually off selections,” Banks tweeted. “Recognize your trustworthy suggestions and am sending a lot love and digital hugs.”

The present’s co-creator, Ken Mok, backed up Banks’ tweet and apologized to viewers, tweeting this week, “I have a look at a few of these moments and cringe. Only a FYI – the complete artistic staff made the alternatives on these exhibits – not simply Tyra.”

Manuel disputes Mok’s stance, telling Variety that whereas the staff was capable of voice artistic considerations, all remaining choices had been made by Banks and Mok. He recollects instances when he felt uncomfortable with artistic choices, such because the race-changing photoshoot in Cycle Four the place contestants painted their pores and skin darker colours for a problem on which Manuel was the artistic director.

“Many instances if you’re working in an surroundings like that, it’s a must to hearken to your government producers, and finally the 2 voices on the high had been Ken and Tyra. There have been generally a number of objections by different producers and myself about layers that had been added to artistic, and we had been simply advised to execute,” Manuel says. “I believe it’s a bit unfair to throw the entire staff below the bus. The entire staff wasn’t there on the entrance aspect after they had been making choices in regards to the present in its heyday. The staff wasn’t actually supported, so to talk.”

In response, Mok offered a press release solely to Variety, saying, “As Inventive Director of the photograph shoots, Jay was concerned in lots of artistic choices all through his time with the present. Nevertheless, the final word choices all the time rested with us, the creators of the present, and we proceed to take full duty. Jay’s inventive contributions to the present had been all the time appreciated and ‘America’s Subsequent Prime Mannequin’ wouldn’t have had the identical preliminary success with out him.”

Right here, for the primary time ever, Manuel breaks his silence about the actual motive he left the present after 18 seasons. The writer and TV character additionally shares his ideas on the perceived insensitivity in direction of “Prime Mannequin,” and discusses his upcoming novel, “The Wig, The Bitch & The Meltdown.”

You had been one of many authentic judges on the present, and also you left “America’s Subsequent Prime Mannequin” after Cycle 18. On the time, reviews urged you had been fired. Was there unhealthy blood between you and Tyra? What was the reasoning on your departure?

Once we parted methods, I had already accomplished my contract after Cycle 18 with no plans to return for Cycle 19, and that’s one thing that folks don’t know. It was 100% my choice to depart the present, as I used to be prepared to maneuver my profession in a unique route, however sadly on the time, my departure was misreported to the press, and contractually, I couldn’t discuss leaving the present. Now, I can discuss it, so I will be clear that my departure from the present was certainly one of alternative.

You wished to pursue different profession targets, however was there something in regards to the behind-the-scenes tradition on the present that brought on you to depart?

My major focus was shifting my profession. However, initially when the present began, creatively, it was only a dialog between Tyra and myself. Because the present grew and large sponsors got here on board, everybody felt the stress now to construct the rankings, so then everybody was including layers to those shoots and taking it away from lifelike trend challenges, which grew to become more and more troublesome for me as a result of I needed to juggle what the sponsor wished and what manufacturing wished for TV rankings and likewise create the artistic, so it simply grew to become very troublesome to handle. By the point I completed with Cycle 18, there was simply a lot extra I wanted to do with my profession and I wasn’t providing something new to the present, at that time.

So, to be clear, the present wished you to remain on and renew your contract, however you made the choice to depart? 

The present would negotiate 4 cycles at a time, and after they got here to me for Cycles 17 and 18, they really wished Cycles 17 by means of 20, and we settled on 17 and 18, however that’s one thing that the general public was not conscious of, and it was misreported.

Do you suppose this extreme backlash on social media, particularly in direction of Tyra, is honest?

I do suppose it’s a bit unfair for folks to persecute Tyra now, particularly as a result of she has already taken warmth for her previous government choices in previous years. Nevertheless, I can’t actually defend her both as a result of when rankings had been excessive and issues had been nice, she remained a transparent figurehead, as a result of it was her present. Persistently, when s–t hit the fan and other people wished to speak about a few of the issues that had been stated on the present, we’d have one other singular EP come ahead to assert that every one artistic choices had been made because the staff, and I actually want that had been the case, however that simply merely is just not true.

You had been within the room when Tyra was speaking to a homosexual contestant in Cycle 5, and urged she shouldn’t put a highlight on her sexuality. What do you recall about that second?

I used to be within the room, and I used to be sitting proper subsequent to her. I bear in mind feeling a bit uncomfortable with the assertion. I might see Tyra making an attempt to attract the parallel and what she was making an attempt as an example, and I used to be confused by it as a result of we ask these women to come back within the room and the producers remind the women earlier than they arrive in, “Inform them who you’re. You’re not only a fairly face. You must have a dialogue about who you’re.” These women are coached to talk their reality and inform Tyra who they’re, after which Tyra stated that, so it appeared a bit unfair. You possibly can see it on that mannequin’s face, like, “Wait a minute, I used to be advised to say all the things about myself, and now you’re telling me to not say this?”

Do you recall pondering Tyra’s remark was inappropriate, throughout that second?

It was complicated. That’s my recollection. On the time, I had not finished actuality TV, and I used to be additionally studying as I went alongside, and I used to be guided by Tyra and Ken, and it’s a must to belief your producers to comply with their lead. It was a battle to course of some stuff at instances.

Did you’re feeling like that you could possibly object to conditions that made you’re feeling uncomfortable, or was it a tradition the place you couldn’t converse your thoughts?

The tradition behind the scenes of “ANTM” was one thing that shifted over time. That’s one thing that’s mirrored in my novel. Midway by means of my e-book, there’s a very large tonal change. It grew to become a tradition the place you could possibly solely converse your thoughts a lot.

Are they any moments to which you particularly recall objecting?

I do bear in mind, and it was very uncomfortable for me, in Cycle 4, it was a photoshoot the place the women needed to swap races. I used to be so, so, so uncomfortable with this. I used to be by no means scripted for my intros or something, and I didn’t understand how I used to be going to have the ability to set this up — I used to be so afraid that I might put on this as a result of I used to be the artistic director, but it surely was not my thought. That swapped race was a layer added in. It was presupposed to be a unique idea. I do not forget that very, very clearly. I used to be mainly advised that I needed to execute the artistic, and it made me very uncomfortable.

What was the unique idea for that shoot?

The unique idea was to all the time do one thing with the lady holding the child doll, and we knew we had been going to do the Received Milk half. The layer of swapping races was one thing that I bear in mind being added in a pre-production assembly. Initially, I didn’t converse up. I used to be barely horrified. I’m biracial, however I grew up figuring out as black. My mother and father grew up below Apartheid in South Africa. So, to me, with understanding our personal nation’s historical past round race, I believed, “We’re actually doing this?” There have been simply sure folks engaged on the present in a senior place the place a number of producers, not simply myself, grew to become very scared to talk up. I really introduced my concern first to a different co-executive producer as a result of I used to be too scared to even take it up larger to an government producer.

Some folks say the episode with the race-swapping photoshoot was in 2004, and it was a unique time. In fact, we knew lengthy earlier than 2004 that carrying blackface is just not okay. Do you agree with the protection of “it was a unique time?”

I disagree with that assertion of individuals saying it was a unique time. I actually do. It didn’t fly then. That wasn’t cool in 2004. However, I assume the mentality, on the time, was that the present took off in a method that nobody might count on, so in Cycle 4, the stress was on to ship greater than even Cycle 3. The mentality was that it’s acquired to be greater and it needs to be the water cooler.

One other protection is that the modeling trade is hard, so it’s a must to “simply take care of it.” What’s your tackle that?

When “America’s Subsequent Prime Mannequin” began off in Season 1, Tyra’s imaginative and prescient was to place these younger fashions in robust conditions that they must take care of within the trend trade, and I believe she very earnestly and truthfully wished to push that ahead. I bear in mind conversations with Tyra the place she was like, “I needed to do the sort of photoshoot again within the day, so the women ought to do this.” Women capturing with a snake or capturing outdoors in a showering go well with when it’s freezing, that’s not loopy. That’s not out of the field. That’s one thing that might occur. Should you didn’t have the price range to fly to a tropical location, you do should shoot out within the chilly in skimpy clothes. These issues, I believed had been very reasonable.

Do you suppose that any of those feedback would have handed by the community in 2020? 

Actuality TV is the delivery mom of social media. Viral sensation is what leads. So usually, tales of substance are sacrificed for rankings. I do imagine that networks have a look at issues otherwise as we speak than they’d have then. On this world of cancel tradition that we stay in, we see how networks response swiftly and instantly to public outcry. I do suppose it will have gone by means of a unique scrutiny.

The #MeToo motion has made workplaces safer throughout the leisure trade, however the trend trade is notoriously cutthroat. We’ve seen progress in direction of physique inclusivity, of however do you imagine there’s been actual change? 

The trade has not modified as a lot as folks wish to give it credit score for, however I additionally don’t need to undermine the progress. It’s nonetheless a really troublesome enterprise. If an advertiser is in search of somebody who’s blonde and blue eyed, that’s all they’re in search of and so they gained’t take into account a mannequin of colour. In the event that they’re capturing a spring marketing campaign, they need black fashions as a result of they give the impression of being higher in brighter garments. These kinds of requirements do nonetheless exist.

For the entire backlash, Tyra persistently pushed range ahead — she solid trans fashions earlier than trans folks had been seen in mainstream media, she solid plus-sized fashions and contestants of all races and sexual orientation all through the seasons. Regardless of the latest criticism, do you suppose “Prime Mannequin” was forward of its time, in some respects?

Completely. Tyra is a pioneer in lots of respects and I’ve nothing however respect for her in all the things that she’s completed in enterprise. The style trade is a troublesome trade.

I’ve interviewed Tyra many instances, and she or he has all the time expressed her ardour for teaching younger fashions. Do you imagine that a few of her commentary that comes off as harsh genuinely got here from a very good place?

Tyra was an unimaginable mannequin. She understands the enterprise. I believe what she was making an attempt to do was give the women a style of robust love of what they needed to expertise. When she stepped into the trade, nobody ready her for lots of the preliminary backlash that she acquired as a younger, black mannequin making an attempt to make it. It was very troublesome for her, and so I actually respect that a part of her journey and for wanting to speak that to the women.

The novel feels like a enjoyable, easy-breezy summer season learn, however what’s the deeper which means behind the storyline?

Utilizing satire, the story is a metafictional journey of self that all of us should embark on. The narrative follows the trail of awakening to our personal energy and self-validations, and in as we speak’s fast-moving world of social media, discovering one genuine voice is difficult. We consistently search outdoors validation each day and overlook to hearken to the voice that’s an important, which is our personal.

Is the e-book only for followers of “America’s Subsequent Prime Mannequin,” or can non-viewers benefit from the story?

Anybody can get pleasure from this e-book with out ever seeing an episode of “America’s Subsequent Prime Mannequin.” The story really does stand by itself. However for followers of the present, there are a number of Easter eggs all through the e-book that may peak their consideration, and as you’re studying, it could grow to be a recreation of what appeared like truth versus fiction. And that’s all for the reader to determine.


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