Former "America's Next Top Model" contestants spoke about their experiences with Entertainment Weekly.
One contestant recalled participating in a graveyard photo shoot hours after her friend died.
A rep for Tyra Banks told Insider the photo shoot concept was planned before her friend's death.
A representative for Tyra Banks said the controversial "America's Next Top Model" graveyard photo shoot that a contestant did hours after her friend died was "already planned" and "near impossible" to change.
On Saturday, Entertainment Weekly published 14 former "America's Next Top Model" stars' recollections of shocking moments on the show. Although popular when it debuted, the reality competition has faced backlash in recent years as old clips resurfaced on social media and contestants began coming forward about their experiences.
One of the more controversial scenes happened in 2005 with cycle 4 contestant Kahlen Rondot, who participated in a graveyard photo shoot just hours after learning a childhood friend died in a car accident.
Contestants were told they'd portray the seven deadly sins and be lowered into graves in coffins, a concept that upset Rondot. She cried on camera and was comforted by her fellow castmates in footage shared on YouTube.
When asked about the scene nearly 18 years later, a representative for Banks told Insider "the theme of this particular shoot was 'Seven Deadly Sins,' which required the girls to pose in caskets with cameras above them. The shoot had been planned beforehand, and as is standard with any production of this magnitude, it would have been near impossible to pull off an entire shoot change, especially if you factor in all of the location scouting, permit requirements, etc. that go into filming a competition series."
Rondot recalled learning about her friend's death with EW and the aftermath, which she said had a lasting impact on her life.
"It was late at night, I was checking my voicemails and so many of my friends had left me messages like, 'Hey, why weren't you at the funeral? There were so many pictures of you in the montage,'" Rondot said.
She added that the cast wasn't informed about the extent of that week's challenge until they were on their way to set. Rondot told the outlet that she almost quit the competition because she was overwhelmed and said it's still a source of trauma that contributed to her alcoholism.
"I was going to be a model, and Tyra found me," Rondot told EW. "There are dark corners and a lot of toxicity in [the industry], and I mashed a lot of things with the PTSD and drinking. I was like, this is a way to deal with it."
Rondot also said she felt like a "pawn" and was made to feel like a character instead of a human.
She added: "I felt like Tyra pulled a lot more strings than we were able to know. I think she knew a lot more of what was going on than what we knew, and anybody given that kind of power, what you do with that kind of power, it reflects on your character, I feel. These people become objects and are dehumanized for enjoyment. That shows a lot about a person's character."
Banks' reps responded to Rondot's remarks in their statement to EW, saying there were a "great number of individuals who contributed" to the series' production, "with many aspects of the show falling outside Ms. Banks' purview."
Rondot isn't the only participant who's criticized "America's Next Top Model" in recent years. Former contestants shared their experiences in an April 2022 Insider report, including cycle 7's Eugena Washington, who said she felt like her life "was being put on the line for ratings." She recalled having to walk across a path of wooden planks swaying over a pool in six-inch heels, an endeavor that left her knee with visible scars after falling.
Following recent waves of criticism, Banks acknowledged that the series may have gone too far on occasion in a now-deleted May 2020 tweet, according to E! News.
"Been seeing the posts about the insensitivity of some past ANTM moments and I agree with you," Banks wrote. "Looking back, those were some really off choices. Appreciate your honest feedback and am sending so much love and virtual hugs."
Read the original article on Insider