*Jay Manuel, who was the Creative Director on the hit series “America’s Next Top Model,” is now opening up about his time on the show and his fallout with series creator Tyra Banks.
Speaking to Variety, Jay dished about being “scared to speak up” during “uncomfortable” moments on the show.
“There were just certain people working on the show in a senior position where several producers, not just myself, became very scared to speak up,” he expressed. “I actually brought my concern first to another co-executive producer because I was too scared to even take it up higher to an executive producer.”
One such “uncomfortable” moment included a photoshoot in Cycle 4 where the models were asked to swap “races” and put in blackface. While Jay objected to the shoot, Banks and executive producer Ken Mok didn’t share his reservations, E! Online reports.
“It was very uncomfortable for me, in Cycle 4, it was a photoshoot where the girls had to swap races,” Jay explained. “I was so, so, so uncomfortable with this. 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.”
He added, “That swapped race was a layer added in. It was supposed to be a different concept. I remember that very, very clearly. I was basically told that I had to execute the creative, and it made me very uncomfortable.”
tyra literally made blackface a modeling challenge and some of ya’ll realize this is wrong just now pic.twitter.com/U9NC12hwrW
— M I A N G E L O ₁₃ (@doublemantra13) May 5, 2020
Elsewhere in the interview, he also explained that he and Tyra aren’t as close as they used to be.
“Over the past few years, we’ve emailed,” he shared with the publication, noting that the last time they saw each other was at BeautyCon in 2017. “To be very honest, we really have no relationship to speak of, which is really sad.”
Manuel chooses to remember the more “magical” moments he and Banks created together on the competition series.
“Our time together on ANTM was amazingly productive and, at times, magical. We got to experience being part of a global phenomenon,” he said.
He also addressed the criticism Banks recently received when old ANTM clips surfaced showing her being rude and problematic with some of the models.
“I do think it’s a little unfair for people to persecute Tyra now, especially because she has already taken heat for her past executive decisions in past years,” he shared. “However, I can’t really defend her either because when ratings were high and things were great, she remained a clear figurehead, because it was her show.”
Adding, “Consistently, when s–t hit the fan and people wanted to talk about some of the things that were said on the show, we would have another singular EP come forward to claim that all creative decisions were made as the team, and I really wish that were the case, but that just simply is not true.”
— Tyra Banks (@tyrabanks) July 15, 2020
Despite their history, Jay has nothing but love for the former supermodel.
“In terms of my feelings for Tyra, our relationship isn’t what it was. However, I still will always speak positively about her,” he said. “I respect everything that she represents, every door she’s kicked down—as a woman, as a Black woman; what she represents to so many young Brown and Black girls and boys in the industry, so I will never, ever speak negatively against that.”
So, what exactly caused their fallout?
“There are many things that contributed,” he told Ria Ciuffo and Francesca Mariano of the Chicks in the Office podcast.
“When it got to Cycle 8, my contract was done and I felt like I had done all that I could,” he recalled. “Now there were so many cooks in the kitchen. Initially, I was just doing the creative and hiring the creative talent. Then there were some controversial shoots I wasn’t comfortable with. So, by the time I finished my contract, I said I was ready to move on.”
And how did Banks react to his exit from her show?
“She basically just said I’m disappointed and that was it and kind of cut me off,” he said. “And even outside of the show, we would almost talk every day and it was very weird.”
You can read his full interview on Variety.