Monday, October 19, 2009

Racial Representations in America’s Next Top Model

Racial misrepresentation has been an issue that has plagued the media industry since its emergence in the early 1900s, when African Americans took on stereotypical roles as “mammies”, servants, cooks, and con artists. However, it is apparent from shows such as America’s Next Top Model that minorities are still perceived stereotypically in the modern day world. For instance, models of different ethnicities are always stereotypically perceived as being “exotic”, in one episode, one biracial contestant was even praised for being an “exotic, biracial butterfly”. Often times, judges expect African American and Latina contestants on the show to be great dancers and easily excuse the white contestants if they are not.

Furthermore, in one episode Tyra Banks criticized one of the African American contestants, Danielle’s, thick southern accent as being “too ghetto” and “too country”. She actually told Danielle that judges “didn’t trust her when she opened her mouth” and made her change her accent to a standard American accent. By doing this, Tyra tried to reverse the stereotype by changing the way African American accents are perceived. However, by making Danielle adopt a standard American English accent, caused her to be trapped in the image of a “stereotypical other” (272).

Furthermore, even though African Americans are perceived as being “exotic” on the show, this positive imagery is juxtaposed by negative images such as when black contestants are shown fighting and getting into cat fights with one another. In one episode Tyra even yells, “I don’t want another black bitch on the show”.

Here is a clip of Tyra getting very angry at an African American contestant for being disrespectful on the show (more negative images): 



  1. I think that Tyra reversing the stereotype by changing the way African American accents are perceived is a positive thing because it only shows that she wants the best for people and she wants them to be portrayed in the most positive and socially accepting way. If adopting a standard American English accent is the way to do so then so be it because society is more inclined to like you, and that model would have more success in her career by doing so. She should thank Tyra!

  2. hahaha
    the funniest thing about this video, are the little bubble comments that (whoever edited this video) put in...
    I cried when I red them!:)

  3. I feel like it solidifies the stereotype more when Tyra acts out like this showing that a difference does exist. Tyra, I see what you're trying to get accomplished, but by yelling and showing off your attitude, you are just being a typical black bitch as well.

  4. Courtney, I think it's worth asking what kind of accents we tend to think of as "intelligent" or "educated" and what kind of accents we think of as stupid or country. I think we talked in class about how Southern accents are often seen as lower class or uneducated. It would be interesting to talk about the kind of speech patterns we associate with different ethnic groups - for example, the broken English that a lot of ethnic stereotype characters have in comedies (like the Hangover, which someone definitely mentioned on this blog before).

  5. Speaking of accents, how about the twin robots (Skids and Mudflap)? They're robots but "speak in street slang, cannot read, and sport gold teeth, are racial caricatures designed to poke fun at people of color." I wanted to find a clip so you could hear them, but had no luck!