It's never a surprise when Tyra Banks pulls a tacky, over-the-top stunt on America's Next Top Model. But in last night's episode, Tyra crossed the fine line from tasteless over to offensive when she put the remaining six contestants in ethnic garb and gave them biracial identities. Call it what you want, but that's basically a euphemism for putting them in blackface.
The models arrive at a sugarcane field in Hawaii, where Tyra gives a half-brained explanation of how people immigrated from all over to work in those fields:
"What happens when men and women from different places come together? Babies! Lots of babies that are from different cultures. A mix. Hapa. Hapa means half in Hawaiian."
When the little history lesson is over, each model is assigned two different races, like Botswanan and Polynesian, and they're somehow supposed to actually understand what that means. But that's where the clothes and makeup come in, turning those cultures into mere caricatures.
In a moment that reads like a disclaimer, Tyra acknowledges that the clothes and makeup aren't necessarily culturally accurate:
"Every outfit is not necessarily of what that culture is wearing now. It might not even be a necessary exact of what they've worn in the past. It's a fashion interpretation of it."
So basically, Tyra, blatant stereotypes are OK in the fashion world?
Oddly enough, this isn't the first time blackface has stirred controversy recently. Two weeks ago, the French edition of Vogue published a spread featuring Dutch model Lara Stone in full-body blackface. Earlier this month, Harry Connick Jr. slammed an Australian TV show he was guest-judging for a skit that had singers in blackface parodying the Jackson Five. And two months ago, Mad Men's Roger Sterling performed a song in blackface.
WATCH part of the ANTM episode here: