Tyra Banks Faces Backlash For Shaming 2004 ‘ANTM’ Contestant’s Natural Look

Recent cultural and political incidents have many sharing discussions on colorism and blackness, with actress Yaya DaCosta reflecting on a disturbing moment she had on America’s Next Top Model.

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Many may remember DaCosta from the 2004 cycle of the series for her Afrocentric vibe and stunning photos. While a fan favorite, the then 22-year-old was painted as arrogant and cocky to viewers. On Saturday (Jan. 13), the actress shared two clips on her Instagram; one of herself on ANTM and the other, a clip of Love & Hip Hop Miami’s Amara La Negra. Both women are shunned for their natural looks.

“People keep sending me videos of Love & HipHop Miami, saying that it reminded them of me as a young girl, learning to navigate the new phenomenon of reality TV,” she said of the clips. “Unfortunately, 14 years later, nothing has changed. Same ignorance, new show.”

The clip of DaCosta is where the girls had to choose hats to reflect their personal style. While many expected the model to pick up the kenti-designed kufi cap, she picked up a cowboy hat instead. “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.”

With her voice shaking, DaCosta attempted to defend herself, which was interpreted as condescending. DaCosta made it to the next round, but was told by Tyra Banks, “This [photo] is amazing, but what’s not amazing is your appearance. Think a little more glamour as opposed to natural.” She was also forced to apologize to the judges for criticizing the kufi cap.

A post shared by Yaya (@yayadacosta) on

A post shared by Yaya (@yayadacosta) on

“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,” DeCosta said Saturday. She also gave props to La Negra, who has been praised for standing up to a producer who shamed her natural hair. “There are so many things I would whisper in her [email protected] I truly applaud your strength. As another brown-skinned, curly-headed woman with African roots and Latin branches, I stand with you.”

In an effort to cater to the Instagram generation as well as changing fashion standards, brands have somewhat embraced natural looks to bring in more consumers. Banks has yet to comment on the video, but made a statement on her blackness.

DaCosta has moved on from the modeling world and has made a name for herself on the big and small screen with roles in The Butler, Chicago Med and the starring role in Lifetime’s Whitney Houston biopic. 

She also spoke to The Root recently about her big chop. “I cried, I hugged and kissed myself; it was amazing. And I never looked back,” she said. “There’s so much that has happened since [then] that I know would not have been possible had I been weighed down by the weight that I was carrying; the toxic relationships, other people’s expectations of me, safety, hiding, not feeling beautiful without it. … One of the things that I cut off as well was fear, and in doing so, realized how guided I was, not by love or confidence, but fear.”

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