Tyra Banks caught heat this week over a resurfaced clip from cycle 6 of America’s Next Top Model. The clip in question shows the series host/judge urging contestant Dani Evans to close the gap in between her two front teeth, insisting the look was “not marketable.”
“So Danielle, you went to the dentist but you refused to have your gap closed,” Banks told Evans in the 2006 episode. “Do you really think you can have a CoverGirl contract with a gap in your mouth?”
“Yes, why not?” Evans responds.
“This is all people see …” the host said while sticking her finger on her front teeth. “It’s not marketable.”
Why was this allowed to air wtf Tyra banks is going to straight hell pic.twitter.com/xtiWl3srKJ
— Aisha Oladapo (@OladapoAisha) May 5, 2020
The comments ignited controversy across social media, with many slamming Banks for shaming Evans’ gap and suggesting she remove it to adhere to beauty norms. Others also pointed out that Chelsey Hersley, a white contestant from ANTM cycle 15, had her gap professionally widened at Banks’ request.
Tyra to Danielle Evans: Close your damn gap, girl. They are not gonna hide you if you are out there like that.
Tyra to Chelsey Hersley: Your gap is cute, let’s make it wider!
I’ve never met someone that were contradictory like that. pic.twitter.com/Z0mEsAre1i
— Felipe Dumas Varon (@PhoeboBuffay) May 6, 2020
Model Slick Woods, who also rocks a signature tooth gap, criticized Banks’ comments during a 2018 interview with Fashionista. She reiterated her criticism in an Instagram post on Tuesday, writing: “No one should ever talk to you like that @danievans1, that episode fucked up little Simone/Slick so that’s how y’all feel @tyrabanks @miss_jalexander?”
Evans came across the message and decided to address the controversy on social media. The 34-year-old said she did not comment on the situation when contacted by news outlets because she didn’t feel like it was necessary. However, once she read Woods’ post, she felt it was important to speak up and finally share her side of the story.
“I knew in that moment, after reading [Woods’] words, that I have a responsibility to address what really happened and to speak my truth,” she said. “But let me tell you what this video is not. This is not a video to war against anyone, this is not a video to defame anyone’s character, and this is not a video to discuss my relationship with Tyra. 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 that clearly affected a lot of young girls in America …”
Evans then provided some background information on what led her to appear on ANTM. She said her brother convinced her to audition for the show because he knew how badly she wanted to get out of Little Rock, Arkansas. Evans said she was initially hesitant because she believed the show wasn’t a true reflection of the modeling industry and didn’t like how the contestants were humiliated.
“With that being said, I had one goal in mind. That one goal was to get out of my hometown, to create a different, better life for myself. That was it …” she explained. “I wasn’t even hungry, I was starved to get out. You need to understand that … I had a goal and anyone who stood in my way of getting out of Little Rock was going to get bulldozed over.”
Evans then dished on the unaired events that led up to Banks’ comments. She said all the contestants were sent to the dentist in small groups. When she arrived, she told the doctor she just wanted a cleaning and a whitening, but he repeatedly asked her if she wanted to close her gap. Evans said she declined because she was very secure with how her teeth looked; though she said the gap was something that used to make her cry when she was a child, as her family couldn’t afford braces to close it.
Evans then speaks on the episode’s elimination scene, when Banks made the controversial remarks.
“So, I go forward and Tyra’s like, ‘Why didn’t you get your gap closed?’ I’m like, ‘Huh?’ She like, ‘I told you to get your gap closed.’ I’m like, ‘No you didn’t'” Evans recalled. ” … In that moment, I knew what was happening. I knew that I was basically set up.”
Evans said her 19-, 20-year-old self had a decision to make. She could either keep her gap and go back to her hometown or follow Banks’ advice.
“What you think I’mma choose, fam?” she continued. “So Tyra says to me, ‘If I send you back to the dentist, will get your gap closed?’ And I meet her with another question: ‘So, what you’re saying is, if I tell you no, you’re gonna send me home tonight?'”
Evans said she and Banks went back and forth over the issue, until they finally came to a compromise: She agreed to partially close the gap.
“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 …” she said. “Nothing or no one was going to stand in my way. And it wasn’t about copping out, it was about understanding what really carries weight and holds value in my life—and teeth wasn’t one of them.”
Evans said she wasn’t upset about Banks’ comments because she had heard it all before.
“What I was tight about is them trying to play me and making good for TV,” she added. “However, the me now, and reading the comments and understanding the weight that it created in other girls who saw that—this is why this post is being made, because I want to address all of those young girls … So I’mma take this time to build up and to speak to all of my young queens that saw that episode that were truly affected by Tyra’s words … You’re beautiful.”
You can watch Evans’ full video below.
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