Tyra Banks spoke out for the first time on Wednesday about the controversy that was sparked late last month after six contestants on "America's Next Top Model" were made to look bi-racial for a Hawaiian photo shoot.
In a nearly nine-minute speech at the start of Wednesday's "The Tyra Banks Show," the TV talk show host and "ANTM" Executive Producer revealed that the headlines prompted by turning her contestants into different races was difficult for the star.
"What we thought was a celebration turned out to be… very negative in some of the press and a lot of them were even saying that it was a form of racism," Tyra said. "A lot of them went so far as to accuse me and 'Top Model' of putting the girls in black face."
As previously reported on AccessHollywood.com, following the October airing of the episode, E! News asked whether the shoot was "Racy or Racist?" noting the girls were "coated in creams to darken their skin tone." Over at Entertainment Weekly, a writer noted that the models acted "like there's nothing socially charged at all about race-as-costume." And AOL TV ran a recap under the headline "Tyra Banks Puts 'Top Models' In Blackface. When Did This Become OK?"
The supermodel-turned-TV-mogul, who actually photographed the models like Laura, who went from "Caucasian" to "a stunning mix of Greek and Mexican cultures," for the Hawaiian shoot, said she wanted to address the headlines the episode prompted because "People read the headlines, but they don't take the time to read the facts… and a lot of the time, those facts are omitted to make a story sound more interesting."
Tyra went on to explain that the shoot was inspired by the Hawaiian word Hapa, which she explained "is when men and women of different cultures come together and they create racially mixed babies." And she insisted that her shoot (Tyra photographed the girls herself) did not cross the line.
"I want to be very clear: I, in no way, put my 'Top Models' in blackface," she said. "I'm a black woman. I am proud. I love my people and the struggle that we have gone through continues and the last thing that I would ever do is be a part of something that degraded my race."
And she went on to apologize to anyone who took offense to the shoot.
"I'm sorry to anybody that watched 'Top Model' and was offended by the pictures because they didn't understand the real story behind them or even if you did see the whole episode and you were still offended, I truly apologize because that is not my intention," she said. "My intention is to spread beauty and break down barriers."
Tyra said the reason she set up the shoot was related to a personal mission.
"It is a passion of mine, it's one of the reasons why I live and breathe and what I feel my duty is and it is definitely my number one passion in my life, to expand the definition of beauty, to stretch the boundaries and help young girls raise their self esteem by teaching them to embrace their beauty… to look in that mirror and see that different shade of their skin and say… 'This is beautiful,'" she said.
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