Current Dancing With the Stars host Tyra Banks has come under fire lately for the way she treated contestants on America’s Next Top Model. Now fellow ANTM judge Jay Manuel is spilling the tea about his time working with her, including that she completely rejected the idea of a reality show that went on to be a massive hit for Bravo.
Banks Told Heidi Klum That ‘Project Runway’ Would ‘Never Work’
On a recent episode of Justin Sylvester’s “Just the Sip” podcast, former America’s Next Top Model creative director and judge Jay Manuel dished the dirt on ANTM because his new satirical novel, “The Wig, The Bitch and the Meltdown,” is based partially on his experiences with the Banks-led model competition series.
The most shocking thing he told Sylvester was that Banks straight-up told supermodel Heidi Klum that the America’s Next Top Model format would “never work” for designers because designers “aren’t as interesting.”
Manuel set the stage that they were at a Victoria’s Secret shoot in New York right around the time America’s Next Top Model was just getting started — he’s pretty sure it was during cycle two, which was filmed in fall 2003 and aired in spring 2004. Manuel was still doing Banks’ makeup at the time.
“I was still doing [Banks’] makeup at the time. Heidi [Klum] was in the chair next to her, she was having her hair blown out and she goes, ‘You know what would be amazing? What if you did the same show but with designers?’ and catch this — Tyra went, ‘That’ll never work, designers aren’t as interesting and Heidi just went off and was like, ‘OK,’ and [executive producer] Desiree Gruber and Heidi said, ‘Oh, we got a show for you and it’s gonna be called ‘Project Runway,’ boom, born.”
Manuel laughed and added, “That could’ve been an easy pop-off of Top Model, but, oh well.”
Project Runway has aired 18 seasons since 20014 between Bravo and Lifetime and it is still going strong, with a 19th season forthcoming. It also spawned several spinoffs and along the way earned a Peabody Award, two GLAAD Media Awards, and two Primetime Emmy Awards (among 50 Emmy nominations), including a win for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program for Klum and Tim Gunn in 2013.
It also launched the careers of designers Christian Siriano, Chloe Dao, Ashley Nell Tipton, Leanne Marshall, and Irina Shabayeva.
Manuel Also Said Banks Refused to Speak To Him After He Left the Show and Subsequently Returned
During the podcast, Manuel described a culture of fear on Top Model and said that when his contract was up after cycle eight, he wanted to leave the show and pursue other projects — and Banks was not happy about it.
“I reached out to Tyra first … and I said, unfortunately, I can’t come back to the show. Very genuinely I said I feel like I’ve given all I can to the show,” recounted Manuel. “Tyra’s a businesswoman, I thought for sure she’d understand. I was being really lovely and respectful. She had two words for me: ‘I’m disappointed,’ and that was it. That was the end of the discussion.”
But then months later, Manuel ended up being asked to return for just one cycle because the show hadn’t found ad suitable replacement for him as creative director and he agreed to come back.
He said his first day back on set, he tried to talk to Banks and she “walked right by” and then refused to talk to him for nearly the entire season.
“As soon as the cameras rolled, it was all love and light and looking at me and touching me,” he said, adding that as soon as the cameras weren’t rolling, she would turn her back and not talk to him.
“Until the second to last episode when I got a message to come see her in her hotel room. To be fair, she apologized and said, ‘I wasn’t being professional. I am an executive producer, you are talent here, I should have been more professional and she apologized, but things weren’t great. … I did agree to sign on for a few more cycles, but … it never really recovered. It wasn’t fun, the second half of my term there.”
Dancing With the Stars has not yet officially been renewed for season 30, but if ABC does renew it, expect it to premiere in September 2021.
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