Former America’s Next Top Model judge Jay Manuel says he left the show of his own volition, contrary to reports at the time that said he was fired, according to a new interview with Variety’s Elizabeth Wagmeister.
While doing press for his new novel, The Wig, The Bitch & The Meltdown, Manuel explained the real reason why his 18-season run as the show’s creative director came to an end:
When we parted ways, I had already completed my contract after Cycle 18 with no plans to return for Cycle 19, and that’s something that people don’t know. It was 100% my decision to leave the show, as I was ready to move my career in a different direction, but unfortunately at the time, my departure was misreported to the press, and contractually, I could not speak about leaving the show. Now, I can speak about it, so I can be clear that my departure from the show was one of choice.
Manuel was present for a lot of the show’s more memorably disastrous ideas, like the “race-swapping” photoshoot of 2004. Wagmeister asked which situations specifically he recalls objecting to:
I do remember, and it was very uncomfortable for me, in Cycle 4, it was a photoshoot where the girls had to swap races. I was so, so, so uncomfortable with this. I was never scripted for my intros or anything, and I didn’t know how I was going to be able to set this up — I was so afraid that I would wear this because I was the creative director, but it was not my idea. That swapped race was a layer added in. It was supposed to be a different concept. I remember that very, very clearly. I was basically told that I had to execute the creative, and it made me very uncomfortable.
Then there was the time in Cycle 5 that Tyra Banks told a gay model that she shouldn’t be “put a spotlight” on her sexuality:
I was in the room, and I was sitting right next to her. I remember feeling a little uncomfortable with the statement. I could see Tyra trying to draw the parallel and what she was trying to illustrate, and I was confused by it because we ask these girls to come in the room and the producers remind the girls before they come in, “Tell them who you are. You’re not just a pretty face. You have to have a discussion about who you are.” These girls are coached to speak their truth and tell Tyra who they are, and then Tyra said that, so it seemed a bit unfair. You can see it on that model’s face, like, “Wait a minute, I was told to say everything about myself, and now you’re telling me to not say this?”
Read the full interview here.