America’s Next Top Model was one of the early aughts’ most culturally significant reality TV shows. Millions of viewers tuned in weekly to see host Tyra Banks and her fellow ANTM judges Jay Manuel, J. Alexander, Nigel Barker and Janice Dickerson search for the country’s next top model. The show was a hit, but its legacy has been under fire the last few years, with many people criticizing its (namely Banks’) commitment to Eurocentric beauty standards. Now, the model is speaking out about the “persona” she upheld on the show and why she’s backing away from it. 

“I had a persona on TV that was totally different than who I am in real life,” the 50-year-old explained to People. “In real life, I have a lot of difficulty with giving feedback, like at work. I used to have to have a coach train me on how to say, “Well, you could have done this better.'”

She added, “Now I’ve learned that giving people feedback, whether it’s people that you work with or your family or your friends, helps them and it helps your relationship. It’s like therapy for your relationship so that you can continue to keep that conversation going and stuff.”

Banks clarified that she played a “character” during the show’s 15-year run from 2003 to 2018. 

“It’s not me in real life at all,” she said. 

America’s Next Top Model was, in many ways, revolutionary. And Banks reiterated that part of its legacy, describing it was “so ahead of our time.”

“We were attacked in a way, way back in the day for being different, for casting people that didn’t look like everybody else,” she told People.

Banks noted that during the ninth cycle of ANTM, the show cast models under 5-foot-7, challenging the industry norm. Later, they gave plus-size models a platform, a move that Banks shared many were unsure about. 

“People were like, ‘What are you doing that for?'” she recounted. “We couldn’t even find clothes for them when they were going on auditions because it didn’t exist in the fashion industry. So it was a lot of knocking down doors. But now the door’s busted open, thank God.”

In 2020, when ANTM criticisms were gaining momentum on social media, Banks addressed the backlash against the show, agreeing with naysayers’ analysis of the show and its judges. 

“Been seeing the posts about the insensitivity of some past ANTM moments and I agree with you,” she said in a since-deleted tweet. 

She continued, “Looking back, those were some really off choices. Appreciate your honest feedback and am sending so much love and virtual hugs.”