‘ANTM,’ OMG! 13 Secrets & Scandals Of ‘America’s Next Top Model'
When news that former America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) contestant Mirjana Puhar was the victim of a triple homicide broke in February 2015, the show’s creators Tyra Banks and Ken Mok expressed their sadness. But the “tragic news” is just the latest in a string of negative stories that have rocked the show, which premiered in 2003. From accusations of cheating and claims that ANTM is “rigged” to lawsuits and drug addiction, we take a look at the modeling competition’s biggest secrets and scandals.
Renee Alway is living proof that appearing on ANTM doesn’t guarantee you a plane ticket to the runways of New York, London and Paris. Instead, this Cycle 8 finalist earned 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple felonies – including four for burglary, one for vehicle theft and one for being in possession of a firearm in Palm Springs, Calif. Sporting a Mohawk, the 28-year-old looked remarkably different from her days on the show in 2007.
Jael Strauss is another contestant from Cycle 8 of ANTM who fell on hard times. In 2012 it emerged that the aspiring model’s life had spiraled out of control. Her parents contacted Dr. Phil McGraw who revealed on his talk show that she was in the midst of a crippling meth addiction that left her homeless and ravaged her once quirky, yet stunning looks. By 2015, she had fallen out of the public eye.
Following the revelations about Strauss, CariDee English – who won Cycle 7 of the competition – commented on a Gawker.com post about the scandal to weigh in on the pros and cons of being on the show. While refusing to blame Banks for Strauss’ situation, she did say ANTM alumni are not taken seriously in the fashion industry, which has “NO idea how to market us.” She said, “Even though we just were named ‘TOP’ our place in line at Fashion World was at the bottom.” She also said in relation to the story, “Tyra won’t do anything.”
For three years ANTM fans had no clue why Angelea Preston – the winner of Cycle 17 – had been disqualified from the All-Stars show. That was until December 2014 when the New Yorker filed a $3 million lawsuit against Banks. The young mom claimed she was cheated out of a $100,000 contract with CoverGirl and a spread in Vogue Italia, once the makers of the show found out she used to be an escort. In 2012 – still clearly holding a grudge – she tweeted, “@cw_network please don’t use me in your commercials in Buffalo to get girls to come to auditions for that bulls**t show. Thank u ! : )”
In 2012, fans of the show were rocked when they learned that long-time judges and fashion experts Nigel Barker, Jay Manuel and J. Alexander would not be returning. While Alexander – or Miss J, as he is known – came back in 2014, Manuel and Barker (who now hosts rival show The Face) have not. Barker told E! Online at the time that he wasn’t upset, saying, “We had an incredible run and there aren’t any hard feelings.”
In 2014 a Change.org petition was launched to “remove Yu Tsai as creative consultant’ on ANTM because he kept referring to contestant Chantelle Brown-Young as being a “panda.” The aspiring model – who suffers from the skin pigmentation disease vitiligo – confronted Tsai while the cameras rolled, asking him to stop referring to her that way. But Tsai defended himself saying he was using the nickname in a “positive” way to “soften” her image.
Who could forget the moment in 2005 during Cycle 4 when Banks flipped out on contestant Tiffany Richardson for apparently not caring that she had been eliminated? The clip, which went viral, was quickly parodied. Incandescent with rage, Banks told Richardson, “I have never in my life yelled at a girl like this… I was rooting for you. We were all rooting for you!”
In 2010 Banks was forced to apologize after fans criticized a trailer for Cycle 15, which showed her apparently gushing after seeing future winner, Ann Ward’s tiny waist. Banks released a statement saying, “As a leader in celebrating and promoting healthy body image, I must admit that I regrettably didn’t see this clip before it was released to the public. But on behalf of the Top Model team…we truly apologize for any confusion, anger or disappointment it may have caused.”
ANTM had the whiff of controversy from its very first season, when conservative Christian and southern belle Robin Manning refused to pose nude for one shoot – even if it meant being eliminated. She told Jay Manuel, “My grandmother used to always tell me, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” But she was shocked when Banks reminded her that in a dressing room when she thought “no one was looking,” a “nude” Manning “shook” her “chest at Jay.”
She was one of ANTM’s original cast members but after she left the show, Janice Dickinson frequently bashed Banks and claimed the show was “rigged.” In a 2014 interview with Us Weekly, the brash former supermodel apologized, recanting her statements, saying, “The one regret I’ve had is badmouthing Miss Tyra Banks when I was not speaking with a sober mindset… It was just because I was hurt from being fired from the show.”
n Cycle 4 Michelle Deighton was spurned by her fellow contestants who thought a contagious flesh-eating virus was attacking her face. Deighton later laughed off the uproar, telling RealityTV.about.com, “The other girls were freaking out and running around, calling people and I’m like OK.”
n 2008, ANTM contestants were accused of turning the $6 million Tribeca loft where they lived into a pigsty. A source told the New York Post that the girls allegedly made an estimated $500,000-worth of damages. The insider said, “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.”
Did Cycle 9’s Saleisha Stowers deserve to be crowned ANTM? Not according to many fans who claimed she wasn’t eligible to join the show in the first place because she had prior modeling experience, appearing in a national campaign. In 2006 – just two years before appearing on ANTM – she was featured in a Wendy’s TV commercial. The CW network defended the winner saying that although Stowers didn’t disclose her participation in the commercial, “It was determined that her appearance did not amount to ‘modeling’ experience…”