This lackluster season of Top Model may have finally found a way to get interesting: Race play. According to The CW, on tonight’s episode, “Tyra surprises [the contestants] by transforming them into bi-racial models.” Insert the world’s biggest cringe right here. (That’s Nicole in the photo.)
The CW had nothing further to add when asked about the episode, and a rep for Banks did not respond to requests for comment.
It’s impossible to “transform” someone’s race without setting off some serious blackface alarms, and Top Model has historically been pretty tone-deaf about how problematic and often offensive images like this can be. In cycle 4, the models underwent similar cosmetic racial transformations with nary a mention of how loaded that kind of picture can be.
Do I think Tyra’s setting out to dehumanize anyone, or to ridicule or demean people based on their race or ethnicity? I really, really don’t. But it’s weak and irresponsible to act as if dressing up a white girl so she looks black doesn’t have major cultural baggage.
The real question is, though, will this make you watch tonight’s Top Model, PopWatchers?
Photo credit: Ryan Goble/The CW