Friday, May 19, 2006

Hits Close to Home...

If you are like me, you watch America's Next Top Model. You started out with excitement and glee because Tyra Banks - a premier Black model - was at the helm of this project and well, of course, reality tv is as addicting as is crack to Whitney Houston.

A loyal top model fan can name each winner and recant the most annoying contestants, their life stories and your favorite photos shoots. And being a loyal viewer myself, I was even pleased to see Tyra successfully expand her media empire to a daily talk show, most of which consisted of Top Model reunions thereby curbing my appetite for Top Model in the off season.

In my apartment we have two VHS tapes: one for Top Model and one for Grey's Anatomy. To these primetime shows, my roomies and I are loyal. And while Grey's Anatomy sated our desires for a climactic and dramatic season finale, we are left with remnants of 'Tyra-specific-inspired' disdain at the close of the ANTM season. How could this be, you may ask?

For the men out there, you are either not reading this post or you are asking yourself what is up with chicks and ANTM? Give me a second, let me explain. As for my ladies, particularly those of the ebony-hued variety, you probably know where I am headed. Tyra has crossed a line that has made us rethink our 'loyalty' as Fresh puts it. Despite the fact that our most favored ('our' as me and my friends) contestant Danielle won the competition, we can't help but feel as though it was against Tyra's wishes.

Actions Speak Louder than Words: On more than enough occasions, Danielle received countless put-downs from Tyra on her God-given features. Like Tyra's unfortunate forehead, Danielle once had a gap. Instead of mentioning it as a flaw, Danielle actually resisted closing her gap, despite Tyra's insistance. And when Tyra hinted her resistance could be the reason she was sent home, Danielle went through the procedure. Professionalism at its best.

Once the gap was closed, Tyra opened another one, so to speak. Danielle would need to fill the gap between her and the remaining contestants who weren't 'inflicted' with a country-girl dialect. Not that Danielle wasn't articulate, well-mannered and appropriate, it's just that her southern drawl prevented Tyra from being able to clearly see that Danielle was the total package - the same way Danielle's gap also prevented Tyra from clearly seeing how great she photographed.

As Slated points out, Tyra's speech-related criticisms of were not unique to the Arkansas-native. If she were being fair, Tyra would have taken issue with Jade's eccentric interpretation of the English language and Nnenna's thick Nigerian accent. Perhaps, as Slated proposes, Tyra was just trying to toughen Danielle up. We've all heard black women being referred to as 'Exoctic' versus being accepted as a standard of beauty. But Tyra, why continue to maintain the status quo when you are now a gatekeeper to the fashion world? Do you not have the power and influence to shift a paradigm? And as a 'pioneer' so to speak as a Black woman in the fashion industry, are you suggesting that Danielle's accent takes precedent over the professionalism she's continuously displayed? That somehow, it makes her too black, less of a model... unacceptable because it bears witness to her roots? Her accent is undetectable from a photo or the way she walks down the runway- what's your real issue? Does Danielle's inhibition of self make you confront yourself and that is why you tried so desperately to change her?

In the final episode, I was stupified when Tyra misappropriated Danielle's accent with her being "hood." At that moment, I decided I would never watch or support any Tyra project again if she sent Danielle home. How could she spend thousands of dollars on dental work, but couldn't give Danielle some time with a speech therapist? All the while, it appeared Tyra had set her mind on Joanie as her pick for the next ANTM winner. While Joanie has been a favorite for my roomates, she still lacked a certain level of confidence and 'go-getter' attitude that Danielle exuded. I think at this point in the show I had actually called Tyra a "crab in a barrel" out loud.

In the end, Danielle's position as the next ANTM winner was irrefutable. She was head and shoulders, both literally and figuratively, above Joanie in the runway competition. And as my roomates and I jumped around our living room when Danielle's photo was displayed as if someone had just informed us all that our student loans had been forgiven, I couldn't help but notice: Tyra hugged Joanie first in what seemed to be a 'forgive-me-hug' and proceeded to Danielle, saying "We're gonna get you some voice lessons girl."

Tyra, you got some explaining to do.


Anonymous Joy H. said...

Wow well written....i was jumping around too! I felt as if she was trying sooo hard to find a "flaw" in Danielle (when there were few to choose from) and picked on the most noticeable difference, her accent. Joanie = teeth, Jade = Attitude/arrogance, and Danielle = accent...just doesn't fit. But all the while I must still maintain my happiness seeing as though Danielle represents our first ANTM chocolate sistah! Who repped us beautiful black sistas right with her eloquent manners, great personality and lack of the 'sista-tude' that us chocolate women are all too often associated with. Go head Danielle!!!!!!!

4:04 PM  
Blogger Vandy said...

wow, that was deep. i only watched off and on this season but did see the finale. i thought there was no way joanie was going to lose because of tyra's dislike towards danielle's accent but i was shocked. it's all about selling out to make white folks happy...tyra sold out a long time ago.

if that's the joy h. i think it is, what up joy!

6:58 PM  
Blogger chris said...

well done, great post, well written. i think you hit the nail on the head with tyra...she has strayed so far away from her roots when confronted with a female who was embracing hers she felt the need to openly attack Danielle and while secretly defending her position

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i second that...


10:46 AM  

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