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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Seattle U chapter.


Quarantine has given us a lot of time to pursue our passions. Some people took up painting while others baked bread or dove back into their writing. I dedicated myself to tirelessly consuming every episode of America’s Next Top Model. Back in the day, Tyra Banks was ruling 00’s pop culture; from modeling to movies, Tyra was that girl. However, looking back with a couple of years of critical reflection, I’ve learned that not everything on that show was completely PC. I’ve used my professional skills as an avid Top Model fan to decode some of Tyra’s most questionable language in the show.

“Quirky Look”

In Tyra speak, this could mean one of two things: one, you are mixed race, or two, you are a white woman with big eyes. Either way, a model’s “quirky look” can work for or against them. Occasionally, the judges remind them to tone down this “quirky look” and it’s the model’s job to figure out how to change those features. Maybe this is a reality of the modeling world, but that reality is rooted in racism and fatphobia.

“I Wish the Modeling Industry was Different”

Judges use this to critique a girl on a feature she absolutely cannot change. Whether it’s weight or ethnicity, there were some things the modeling industry just wasn’t ready for––and this isn’t Tyra Banks’ fault. With a star-studded judging panel including Nigel Barker and Twiggy, the show had the power to set different standards for the girls who competed. And they chose not to. Instead, this meant the girls had to lose that extra weight or grow that extra inch. There’s nothing anyone else could do.

“You’re Not Opening Up Enough”

You wanna be on top? You better exploit your trauma! On a show as competitive as this one, models need to be ready to reveal their deepest personal secrets on national television. Your parents got divorced? Use it. You were bullied in school? Use it. Your best friend died during the competition? Use it. If a model isn’t willing to be vulnerable, this is a character flaw, and the judges will see right through it. Oh, and be ready to talk about race and sexual identity at the judging panel.

“Celebrating Different Cultures”

Congratulations, models! When we hear this phrase, it means the girls are jet setting off to foreign lands. In the earlier seasons, it also means the Black face challenge. Literally. In season thirteen (episode 5, if you’re curious) of the show, the final six girls competed in a “hapa” (meaning mixed race) challenge. We see them being coated in brown paint to portray women of different ethnicities. And then the judges critiqued the girls for not looking “natural”.

“Fiercely Real”

Alright, there are layers to this one. “Fiercely real” implies that a model is plus-sized. Plus-sized is a word for a girl who is a size four or six. This is not to be confused with a model who has accidentally put on ten pounds and now has embarrassingly adorned the larger clothing sizes these models are called lazy and unprofessional. “Fiercely real” models aren’t here to win the competition, but Tyra does like to do charity work every once in a while.


“Tooch” simply refers to sticking your ass out in pictures to make it appear bigger. While this isn’t offensive, it is a little humorous that Tyra will make up words and pretend they’re common and popular phrases. Shakespeare who?


“Booch” is the male conjugation of “tooch.” Yes, it’s a gendered term.

Bleached Eyebrows or a Shaved Head

This isn’t language per se, but a picture says a thousand words, right? Bleached eyebrows or a shaved head means that Tyra is threatened. On cycle 21 (cue the BOYS IN THE HOUSE edition of the theme song), Tyra notices that one contestant, Kari, is getting a lot of male attention. The very next week, in the makeover episode, Kari is forced to sport bleach blonde hair and eyebrows––completely transforming her face. While it’s not explicitly stated that this is done out of spite, everyone on the show notices that Kari has lost her conventional attractiveness. So congrats! To any models who rocked the shaved head or bleached brows, you were Tyra’s competition.

Ok, so Top Model language doesn’t look great under the microscope but it’s important to remember that it is a product of its time. Watch any movie or TV show from this era and you’ll see it’s riddled with fatphobia and thinly veiled racism. This isn’t to excuse the show’s problems whatsoever, just to say that the 2000s was a wasteland of problematic nonsense.

Emi Grant

Seattle U '21

Senior creative writing major at SU. Seventies music, horror movies, and the occasional political discourse.
An Than

Seattle U '23

Psychology & Criminal Justice, 2023 at Seattle University, WA