The Untold Truth About "America's Next Top Model"


| LAST UPDATE 04/04/2022

By Alyssa Williams

Tyra Banks recently made headlines after addressing America's Next Top Model's controversy. As she explained, there was more going on backstage than we ever realized. Here's a closer look behind closed doors.

"We Messed Up"

America's Next Top Model has been the scene of success for many aspiring models. But it's also been a hotbed for controversy surrounding its host, Tyra Banks. She recently addressed some of the backlash online.

tyra banks backlash antmtyra banks backlash antm
Amy Sussman / Staff via Getty Images

"We messed up," further confessed the 48-year-old star in an appearance on The Tamron Hall Show. From comments made on the show to cast members' criticism, Banks bared all. "We were still operating in a world... that had so many rules," she explained. Let's take a dive back into that complicated world...

One-Way Ticket to Stardom

Dani Evans has been in the spotlight ever since being crowned Cycle 6's top model. But not solely thanks to her newfound title. In fact, many fans have expressed concern over her treatment on the show. As many might remember, producers - and Tyra - urged her to alter her appearance in order to advance in the series.

danielle evans antm tyradanielle evans antm tyra
Bebeto Matthews/AP via Shutterstock

"In that moment the 19, 20-year-old Danielle stood there realizing that it was my one-way ticket out on this side or keeping my gap on this side and going back to Little Rock," she confessed of fixing the gap in her teeth. "I wasn't going to allow something that was physical... stop me from... [making] a better life for myself."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

They Met With Psychologists

Models' appearances weren't the only thing on full display when it came to the audition process: all of ANTM's cast-mates lived together in one house for the duration of the filming stage. What they didn't know, however, is that they would have to undergo extensive testing before they were even allowed in the house.

matthew smith antmmatthew smith antm
Jason Kempin/Staff via Getty Images

Former contestant Matthew Smith talked about his experience in an interview with HollywoodPQ. "The whole week before you live in the house, it's just psychology tests for hours, and meeting with psychologists and counselors, breaking you down and figuring out what type of personality you have," he shared.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

A Total Isolation House

Candidates who passed the psychology tests and made it to the show made quite the sacrifice: no phones, TV, magazines, or anything connecting them to the world outside the walls of the house. In the era of social media? We'd say that is quite a challenge.

antm viral scandal contestantsantm viral scandal contestants
George Pimentel / Contributor via Getty Images

"You're completely removed from the world. You're an adult, and you're put back into babysitting mode. You have no responsibilities other than being entertaining and model - which means you have no responsibilities," added Matthew Smith. He noted that he believed this was the "greatest way of looking at it."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

"You're Losing Your Mind"

Former ANTM contestant Matthew Smith added that, because all the contestants were isolated in the house with no phones, TV, or computers, it was hard to stay sane. Add to the fact that one wasn't allowed to leave the house, and contestants had quite a challenge on their hands.

tyra banks contestants antmtyra banks contestants antm
Eric Liebowitz/Cw Network/Kobal via Shutterstock

"You're living in extreme circumstances, there's no exiting and, sometimes, you feel like you're losing your mind," he shared with HollywoodPQ. "That's why all the drama happens in the house completely naturally; because you're completely losing your mind."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

There Was No Leaving the House

Whitney Thompson made history in the modeling world when she became the first plus-size winner of America's Next Top Model during Cycle 10. Despite her success, however, she revealed to HuffPost that her road to victory was a narrow one, with little freedom to travel.

whitney antm model scandal whitney antm model scandal
Jonathan Short/Invision/AP via Shutterstock

Whitney shared that the contestants would "not be allowed to leave the apartment unless we were shooting for the show." She added that since they were all contained in the house for long periods of time, tons of drama was naturally a byproduct caught on camera many times.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

No Limits on Baggage

Although it was challenging for contestants to not be allowed to bring their phones or PCs with them, they were able to bring just about anything else! In an interview with The Celebrity Cafe, former contestant Paige Mobley shared her experience sharing a room with the other cast-mates.

L. Cohen / Contributor via Getty Images

"You're allowed to bring as much as you'd like. Yeah, when we moved into the house, we all brought our own clothes and things. Everybody had their own specific fun, cool style, so that was really exciting to sort of get to swap clothes with everyone," she revealed.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Truth About "Eliminations"

America's Next Top Model ran for several seasons over so many years that it was bound to modify some of its rules. After the age of social media kicked in, contestants who had been eliminated could no longer be allowed to go home immediately. Rather, they had to stay until the end of the show to avoid exposing the results.

antm elimination tyra banksantm elimination tyra banks
Cw Network/Kobal via Shutterstock

"Since it has social media and they obviously pre-film, every model has to be in every photo-shoot for the entire duration of the show. So, even if you are eliminated, you're still traveling, still doing the photoshoots, and still being part of everything," former contestant Matthew Smith confessed.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

There Was an Age Limit for Applicants

Up until the 23rd cycle of America's Next Top Model, applicants for the show had to be under 27 years of age. But all of that changed in the 24th season when Tyra Banks decided it should no longer be a requirement for future contestants. She then took to Twitter to announce the amendment to the rules.

lisa damato antm winnerlisa damato antm winner
Frazer Harrison / Staff via Getty Images

"I don't care how old you are honey - you just need to be able to smize and be open to learning how to work the runway like a supermodel," she wrote. On Instagram, she also shared that she has "stood for diverse beauty and erasing cookie cutters for what is deemed beautiful."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

No Makeup for Auditions

Preparing for ANTM auditions is probably stressful enough as it is. Applicants want to make sure everything is perfectly ready and the right outfits, looks, and attitudes are brought to the runway. But those who left the house wearing makeup had a special challenge sent their way.

antm auditions contestants scandalantm auditions contestants scandal
San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images / Contributor via Getty Images

According to ANTM's application page on their website, applicants aren't allowed to wear makeup to the auditions. "If you have to wear it, make sure it is as little as you can to appear as natural as possible. ANTM wants to see you as a rough stone, so they know what to work with," the instructions on the site read.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Manhattan Audition Stampede

One rather unfortunate episode in the decades-long series happened in Manhattan, where auditions for ANTM were taking place. Some might remember how chaos broke out right outside the Park Central New York hotel, when a stampede of people stormed the streets in 2009.

tyra banks antm scandaltyra banks antm scandal
Jon Kopaloff / Stringer via Getty Images

Police were called to the scene to investigate the event. They spoke to witnesses who mentioned a smoking car moving toward the crowd that some thought held a weapon. Tyra Banks and co-executive producer Tom Mok subsequently issued a statement, saying they were "concerned by the events that occurred."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

No Speaking Unless Cameras Were Rolling

America's Next Top Model's crew was really determined to get every publishable moment on camera. With the contestants constantly being followed around by cameras and microphones, there wasn't an instant that wasn't recorded during their stay at the house.

antm angela preston tyraantm angela preston tyra
Patrick McMullan / Contributor via Getty Images

A former contestant on the show, Angelea Preston, told Daily Mail Online that contestants were not allowed to talk "until called upon for filming." That must have been a whole lot of silence to endure in the ANTM house! But the aspiring models sure did make up for it when the cameras were rolling.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Was ANTM Scripted?

Unlike other shows, Tyra Banks' America's Next Top Model wasn't scripted, at least according to former contestant Sarah Hartshorne. Usually, many reality TV shows prepare the content and even some of the lines that are to be said in front of the cameras.

antm tyra banks scriptedantm tyra banks scripted
Elizabeth Carrillo/Cw Network/Kobal via Shutterstock

But not ANTM. A Bustle article shared Hartshorne's answers to questions she frequently gets asked as a former contestant on the show, one of which was whether the show was scripted. "No. Not at all. They didn't need a script because they knew what we were going to do before we did. And that was drama enough," she replied.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Deliberation Was a Lengthy Process

Although it may appear that judging is a brief part of the show, former contestants have shared that it actually takes a lot longer. Former contestant Tiffany Richardson revealed that the judges gave each model 15-20 minutes of time for the evaluation of their performances.

antm tyra banks contestantsantm tyra banks contestants
Cw Network/Kobal via Shutterstock

The process involved each model standing in front of the judges, one by one, listening to the comments they had to offer. Richardson added that the models would then be sent away while the judges deliberated among themselves, for around 6-8 hours! They really managed to hide all that time-consuming work from the audience.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Tyra Didn't Work With Contestants After the Show

Although many contestants would probably love to work with the successful supermodel, it's a big no-no for ANTM creator Tyra Banks. "I don't double dip, for ethical reasons," she replied when asked in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter whether she worked with any of the models after the show. 

antm tyra banks contestantsantm tyra banks contestants
Evan Agostini / Staff via Getty Images

"At one point, I was thinking about managing one of the girls, but I think that's unethical. Do you choose the one you think you will make the most money off of or the girl who you feel like deserves it the most? When a girl wins, it's up to her to work with the modeling agency she's partnering with," Banks explained.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

This Former Winner Is Now a Famed Actress

When Yaya DaCosta finished Cycle 3 of America's Next Top Model as first runner-up, she probably didn't expect a career in acting to succeed her victory. But, we guess it's true that ya never know what the future holds, since this model has found a place for herself in the film industry!

yaya dacosta antm actingyaya dacosta antm acting
Paul Archuleta / Stringer via Getty Images

DaCosta has made quite a name for herself in cinema, playing roles in movies and TV shows like Lee Daniels' The Butler and NBC's Chicago Med. She even portrayed the late Whitney Houston in Angela Bassett's biographical film Whitney, based on the singer's life.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Lots and Lots of Filming

As expected, on America's Next Top Model, contestants always needed to look their best. But, little did they know when they applied, that would mean being ready for the cameras as early as 6 a.m.! Let's hope they were at least able to get their beauty sleep in.

antm tyra banks scandalantm tyra banks scandal
Cw Network/Kobal via Shutterstock

According to Buzzfeed, contestants had to do hours upon hours of photoshoots which mostly started quite early in the morning. The cameras recorded them for 20-22 hours/day! The contestants also had to make sure everything went perfectly, as they would be critiqued by the judges later on.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Sleep Was Scarce in the House

It's hard to look one's best for the cameras when one's not allowed to get in their beauty sleep. In an interview with Cinema Blend, Victoria Henley from Cycle 19 of ANTM shared that most of the time, the fact that contestants lacked sleep would contribute to the show's drama.

antm Tyra Banks viralantm Tyra Banks viral
Frazer Harrison / Staff via Getty Images

"The environment is very stressful. Keep in mind that none of us had slept at all," she shared. "They sleep-deprive you so much that you are very wound up. That's why everyone cries and catfights all the time… I laughed a lot in very inappropriate places because it is so overly dramatic at times."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

No Befriending the Judges

Former ANTM judge Nolé Marin shared with Buzzfeed that the judges were not allowed to have much interaction with the contestants aside from the judging. The reason for this was that the judges had to remain fair and avoid biases towards particular contestants.

antm judges contestants marinantm judges contestants marin
Roy Rochlin / Contributor via Getty Images

Nevertheless, Marin shared that he "wished he had more time to talk to the models about the comments he'd make as a judge." He goes on to explain the reason for this: "I feel like some of the girls feel like things I said came out of nowhere," he confessed.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Tyra Banks Completed Business School During the Show

Tyra Banks really took her job seriously as creator and executive producer of America's Next Top Model. While the show was running, she was taking classes at Harvard's Business School, and completed its Executive Education Owner/President Management Program (OPM) in 2012!

tyra banks antm careertyra banks antm career
Paras Griffin / Contributor via Getty Images

Banks shared a photo of herself carrying her diploma on Twitter following the completion of her degree. Cycle 19 of the show was even given the theme "college edition," which Banks shared with TV Guide was a decision very much related to her studies at the time.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

ANTM's Secret Alter-Egos

Fans who've watched the many seasons of ANTM are probably familiar with the show's concepts of alter-egos. Tyra Banks had the models come up TV screen personalities - and names - that would differ from their identities and personalities in real life.

tyra banks alter egotyra banks alter ego
Daniel Zuchnik / Contributor via Getty Images

But what several fans don't know is that there was one other person on the show who created an alter-ego for herself without making it so evident to the audience: Tyra Banks herself. She revealed that people think what they see on TV is her but "it's totally not."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Miss J. Alexander Wasn't Fired

Fans who are familiar with the story of Miss J. probably remember the backlash it created against Tyra Banks on social media. But for those who don't know the story, here's a little summary: before the start of Season 19, three longtime members of the ANTM crew were let go, causing fans to believe they were fired.

miss j tyra banksmiss j tyra banks
David Livingston / Contributor via Getty Images

As outlets began reporting the news and fans became angrier on social media, Banks tweeted out "fierce love" to the three members. But when that didn't convince the audience, Miss J. set the record straight. "Listen, I was never fired, " he told Perez Hilton in an interview. "My contract was just not renewed."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Confessionals Were Mandatory

The show's audience is most likely familiar with the confessionals that the contestants must make while the cameras are recording them. The purpose is, as one probably already guessed, to make the show spicier and more dramatic for its millions of viewers.

antm secrets tyra banksantm secrets tyra banks
Cw Network/Kobal via Shutterstock

"I think we did twenty or thirty minutes a night. They hardly used any of that footage," former ANTM contestant Don Benjamin from Cycle 20 told Buzzfeed News. "I'm sure there's some really good stuff on there," he added. Fans might be wondering how much of it they never really got to see.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Judges Were Clueless About...

The judges on ANTM don't interact too much with the contestants, aside from offering their comments on performances while judging. But it goes beyond that as well: apparently, they're not even privy to the events and the drama that go down in the house.

judges antm scandal contestantsjudges antm scandal contestants
Gary Gershoff / Contributor via Getty Images

"We don't even really get any updates on what's happening in the house, you know. We only see [the contestants] when we are doing challenges, like we see them at photoshoots, and they are actually really discouraged from trying to chat up the judges, as you can imagine," former ANTM judge Kelly Cutrone shared.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Tyra Was Barely Around

America's Next Top Model's executive producer undoubtedly has a lot on her plate. From planning the seasons and episodes to managing the crew, it's hard to imagine her having a few minutes to spare for chit-chat. Indeed, former contestants can confirm they didn't see much of her.

tyra banks antm contestantstyra banks antm contestants
John Parra / Contributor via Getty Images

For example, one of Cycle 9's contestants, Sarah Hartshorne, said in an interview with Bustle, "I only saw her once a week, and there were a lot of us and only one of her, but she was always very nice and insanely knowledgeable about basically everything."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Show Aired in Over 120 Countries

It comes as no surprise that a show as successful as Top Model has gone international. It ran for two dozen seasons and saw tens of contestants graduate from its many challenges. So, it can be expected that models in other countries would want a shot at this victory as well.

america's next top modelamerica's next top model
ANWAR AMRO / Stringer via Getty Images

From Turkey to Thailand, several adaptations of Top Model have produced successful models around the world. The show airs in over 120 countries, and has produced 200 seasons so far. Tyra Banks has clearly impacted the world with her business in the modeling industry.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Contestants Damaged the House

The tenth season of America's Next Top Model was an especially difficult one for Tyra Banks. The contestants of that season stayed in a New York City loft, where they apparently had a little more fun than they were supposed to. The New York Post reported the damage, and the landlord's reaction...

tyra banks antm lawsuittyra banks antm lawsuit
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / Contributor via Getty Images

"These girls not only destroyed the floors, it appears they had food fights. There's ketchup and coffee splattered all over the landlord's $20,000 white drapes. There's lipstick on the walls," the report said. "The landlord is devastated." The incident resulted in a lawsuit being filed against the show.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Tyra Nearly Left the Show

Tyra Banks' career has only grown more successful with time. Dedicated to further this success, Banks once had other goals to pursue besides ANTM, and thought of quitting her job on the show. She opened up about her decision to leave in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

tyra banks scandal antmtyra banks scandal antm
Charles Eshelman / Contributor via Getty Images

When asked whether her decision to leave was an easy one, Banks replied that it actually "wasn't that hard." She had already brought in a replacement for herself on the show when her lawyer intervened with, "What are you doing?" Fans were glad to see Tyra follow her lawyer's advice and return to the show.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Contestants Appeared in Tyra's Music Video

Contestants on America's Next Top Model are promised many things if they win the competition. But one thing Cycle 2 contestants were probably not informed of was the option to be featured in Tyra Baks' music video Shake Ya Body. Six of the season's finalists were in the video.

Tyra banks music antmTyra banks music antm
Scott Dudelson / Contributor via Getty Images

However, Banks didn't seem too satisfied with her song. She later said on Watch What Happens Live, "My name is Tyra Banks, and I'm here to tell you that you may have a dream, you may have something that burns inside of your heart and desire - but if you do not have the talent for it, boo, let it go."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

All About the Fans

The loyal fans of America's Next Top Model really made the reality show what it was. In fact, when it comes down to it, the series likely wouldn't have been what it was without the audience's engagement. And apparently, Tyra Banks knows this all too well.

tyra banks returns antmtyra banks returns antm
Michael Loccisano / Staff via Getty Images

"First it was, like, loving," said Banks, referring to the fans who expressed their wishes for her return. "And then it was like the kinda love that's almost like slapping you in the face at the same time," she joked, calling "to troll-love." Sure enough, this tough love eventually convinced her to return. And the rest is history.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below