Tuesday, August 14, 2007

An Open Letter to Tyra Banks

Dear Tyra,

Today I ate a banana, a candy bar, a piece of banana bread and an iced tea from Starbucks over the course of about an hour. Contrary to popular belief, eating twenty tons of sugar like this is a really bad idea, and I wound up on the couch with a major case of Ooginess (the medical term).

But that's not why I'm writing this letter (that would be a really sad reason to write a letter). You see, I find your show wildly entertaining, but I'm usually too busy to watch TV at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Today, however, the mutiny in my stomach incapacitated me at the perfect time to settle in and get my Tyra fix. Life was good. (Well, except for my burbling insides...)

The subject of today's show was body image, and the negative body image of very young girls, specifically. You spoke with a group of girls, ages 5-11, who hate their bodies. "My thighs are so fat," one ten-year-old growled, pinching the skin of a teeny tiny leg. "Nobody likes me because I have freckles," whispered another. It's beautiful when your ribs show, they all agreed.

Just as the discussion hit its emotional climax--you're crying, the girls' mothers are crying, the audience is crying, etc.--the show cut to a commercial comprised of dramatic close-ups of models' bodies. Stylishly cut video clips of protruding ribs, razor-sharp cheekbones, and wrist-sized thighs parading down the runway were set to thumping techno music. The word "FASHION" flashed every few seconds.

This commercial was so unbelievably out there in terms of glamorizing super-skinny bodies, I figured it was part of the show: a learning moment, if you will. Instead, your heavily made-up face appeared within the ad. "America's Next Top Model," you said sultrily into the camera.

This is when I changed the channel. Divorce Court was good today.

See, Tyra, as much as I appreciate you listening to these girls and lecturing their mothers and chastising the big, bad media, well, you're the media. And no matter how inspiring you were on one of your shows today, you have another show, a more successful show, that is all about superficial perfection.

A lot of mothers watch your talk show, and a lot of them probably talked to their daughters about body image tonight, which is great. But a lot of young girls watch America's Next Top Model, and a lot of them probably pinch their thighs and curse their freckles and desperately wish for visible ribs as a direct result of what they see on that show, which sucks.

I'm not sure if you acknowledged this irony later in the show (by that time I was on to Judge Christina), but if you didn't, I ask that you think long and hard about the two juxtaposing messages you're putting out into the world, and find a way to reconcile them into a consistent and positive one.

Oh, and do it quick, cuz your show's way better than Divorce Court.

Love and Kisses,

p.s. Just in case you think I'm putting too much blame on you, don't worry, I gave Us Weekly some too.


Susan B said...

Because there's nothing profound I can add to your excellent commentary, Nail. Hammer. Bang.

tiff said...

Amen, amen.

Also - she talks about how she doesn't care how "big" she is (which I don't think she is, because I'm her height AND weight), but in every picture, she gets photoshopped and airbrushed beyond recognition. WTF, Tyra?

Anonymous said...

Brav-damn-O! Tyra comes on at night here, and I woke up to a bunch of sobbing women, listened to the topic for a few and then noticed the absurdity of that commercial as well - and I believe Tyra has lost a little weight herself between last season and this. Well written!

Joanna Goddard said...

great letter!!!! daddy likey.

R said...

Brava. I should be throwing roses at you, but I'm 1) cheap and 2) several states away. Instead, I will make my friends read your article.

Eli said...

Have you ever seen antm? Theyre all a bunch of insecure girls anyway.

christine said...

I saw this episode as well, but I could only stomach about 3 minutes of the nonsense. It all seemed so forced and dramatized. Plus, you know, the ANTM thing.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Amen, and thank you, i have a very hard time with Tyra banks, and her Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type tv programs, i am glad i am not the only one who thinks this way

Poochie said...

I hope you actually mailed that. The two-facedness makes me ill.


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