Jay Manuel and Miss J Alexander also address the recent show backlash and what they’ve dubbed #GapGate.
“America’s Next Top Model” made headlines for all the wrong reasons earlier this week, after old clips from the reality show were resurfaced by fans accusing it of fat-shaming, promoting blackface and pressuring models to have cosmetic surgery to succeed.
One of the most viral clips showed Cycle 6 winner Danielle “Dani” Evans getting scolded by the judges after refusing to close the gap in her front teeth … before compromising and agreeing to bring them closer together. After seeing the backlash the show faced and realizing the hurt that moment caused for some viewers back in the day, Evans went to her Instagram page to address the situation.
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This video isn’t made for unsolicited advice, words, or paragraphs on how YOU would have handled the situation. I’m speaking MY truth aside from anyone’s opinions, beliefs, or input. I chose to use my own platform to speak so I have full control over my narrative. Watch until the very end to understand the purpose as to why I took time to even address the matter. ?
Making it clear her post was not meant to be a “war against anyone,” “defame anyone’s character” or a space to “discuss my relationship” with Tyra Banks, she explained she felt compelled to speak out after getting a message from model Slick Woods. Woods, who has a gap herself, blasted the show on her own page, writing, “No one should ever talk to you like that @danievans, that episode f–ked up little simone/slick so that’s how y’all feel @tyrabanks @miss_jayalexander???”
“I knew in that moment, after reading her words, that I have a responsibility to address what happened and speak my truth,” said Evans. “This is a video for me to speak my truth and to provide clarity and for me to address an issue that was done 15 years ago that carries weight and clearly affected a lot of young girls in America after watching it.”
Explaining she was hesitant about doing the show in the first place because she thought it “humiliated girls,” Evans said her brother talked her into it, as he saw it as a way for her to launch her career and get the hell out of Little Rock, Arkansas.
“With that being said, I had one goal in mind. My one goal was to get out of my hometown,” she said. “I was so focused, I wasn’t even hungry, I was starved to get out. The opposition that came my way, I was so deaf to it. Anyone who stood in my way of getting out of Little Rock, Arkansas was going to get bowled over.”
After being criticized about her speech, Evans said the show then zoned in on her teeth. She claimed she and Cycle 6 runner-up Joanie Sprague were sent to the dentist’s office together — where she was repeatedly asked whether she wanted to close the gap.
“None of this aired on TV,” she said, “He kept asking me if I wanted to close my gap, naw bro, I’m super secure in my gap.” Though she admitted she struggled with her neck, jaw and teeth growing up and used to ask her mother for braces, they couldn’t afford them and she learned to “accept and love” her gap.
During elimination, Evans said Tyra told her, “I told you to get your gap closed,” a conversation Dani says never happened. On the show, Banks was seen telling her, “Do you really think you can have a Cover Girl contract with a gap in your mouth? It’s not marketable” Miss J Alexander added, “Well I guess she just left the gap wide open for another girl, baby.”
“In that moment, I knew what was happening. I knew I was basically set up and not being told Tyra wants me to get my gap closed so that it’s good for TV,” said Dani. “So in that moment, the 19-20 year old Danielle stood there, it was my one way ticket out on this side, or keeping my gap on this side and going back to Little Rock, Arkansas. What you think I’m gonna choose, fam?”
Evans claimed they shot that interaction — which she called “that whole fiasco” — two or three times. As for why she agreed to a compromise, Evans said, “I was not going to allow something that is physical on my face to stop me from getting out to make a better life for myself.”
“I had a laser focused goal, nothing or no one was going to stand in my way,” she added. “It wasn’t about copping out. It was about understanding what really carried weight and holds value in my life and teeth was not one of them.”
After the clip went viral, Dani began to see comments from fans and “realized the weight that it created in other girls who saw it” for the first time.
“I want to address all of those young girls. I’m gonna take this time to build up and to speak to all of my young queens who saw that episode and were truly affected by Tyra’s words.” she continued. “I want to speak to you right now. You’re beautiful. And I’m not talking about a physical feature. It doesn’t matter if you have a gap, stacked teeth, straight teeth, it matters not. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, brown, white, indifferent, other. What makes you beautiful is in here.”
“I’m speaking to all the little girls. If I could love on all of you right now, I would. I want to remind you of your worth,” she added. “You’re a masterpiece, you’re so loved, you’re adored and you’re beautiful.”
“And it’s not because someone higher up says that you’re beautiful,” concluded Evans. “You don’t become a star because someone acknowledges your light. You are light, you are worth, you are valued, you are loved. Always stand in your truth and your power and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not.”
In the comments of Evans’ post, Woods applauded the fellow model, writing, “You are the BEST.”
Series creative director Jay Manuel also dipped into her comments, writing, “Yes … speak your #truth!”
He also shared Dani’s Cover Girl campaign on his Instagram page, adding, “The #ANTM winner who went on to #slay despite her gap! I was honored to do her #makeup for/producer her finale shoot & #CoverGirl ad, and I’m blessed to still call her my friend today.”
On an Instagram Live on Friday, Miss J Alexander called Dani’s statement “brilliant” and promised to talk more about the situation when they address Cycle 6 on their live show in another two weeks.
Manuel also said he wanted to “speak up for Miss J” regarding what they called #GapGate, saying J “always spoke his mind when he was sitting there with Tyra” and definitely “spoke up” in this scenario. “But what you guys don’t understand is the power of the edit. The edit is so powerful.”
Speaking more generally about the show, Manuel said he felt Banks was being “thrown under the bus unfairly” recently, but, “at the same time, I can’t defend her.”
He went on to say that “anything that happened on that show is sanctioned by or was creative Tyra put forward,” before claiming neither of them had any say in the makeovers. “That was really just one person’s vision,” he added.
Miss J also said Tyra had bosses too and sometimes had to answer to the network.
Banks herself has yet to respond to any of the recent criticism.