Jay Manuel Explains Why His Friendship With Tyra Banks Soured
America’s Next Top Model is just as famous for its contestants as it is for the show’s creators and judges. Fans remember Jay Manuel as the models’ coach at each photoshoot. Manuel’s off-screen role was as a famous makeup artist and close friend of Tyra Banks. Fans speculated that his exit from the reality show is the reason for his relationship with Banks changing for the worse. In a new interview, Manuel explains what led to the breakdown of his friendship with Banks.
Jay Manuel and his work on ‘ANTM’
Manuel and Banks met while Manuel was working as a makeup artist. At the time, Banks was still modeling. During an important shoot, Banks’ regular makeup artist was MIA after missing his flight. Manuel was working as the artist’s backup and did the job as a substitute. Manuel tells E! News Just The Sip’s Justin Sylvester that he wasn’t paid for the gig.
“She was presenting at the GQ Man of the Year Awards and I went to the hotel room, by the way [I] did her makeup for free as a test, she’s like ‘Well I’m gonna test him out,’ so I did her makeup,” he remembers.
From there, Banks and Manuel continued working together for major events and the two became personal friends. Manuel admits that Banks came to him with the idea to do ANTM and he was around during her pitching process before finding the show a network home.
Manuel is a huge contributor to the success of ANTM. During his tenure as the show’s creative director, he conceptualized all photo shoots throughout the competition. He also worked as Banks’ eyes and ears at the shoots as Banks was typically not present. Manuel’s notes to Banks about the models’ performances and behavior were integral in the elimination rounds.
Jay Manuel explains fallout with Tyra Banks
Manuel says working on ANTM for the first three seasons was “bubblegum and roses” but the culture behind the scenes of the show began to change as the show became more popular. At first, Manuel had full creative control over the photoshoots but says the show’s executives began enforcing their input, which sometimes made him uncomfortable.
Manuel particularly recalls a shoot during cycle 4 in which executives forced him to direct a shoot that had the contestant’s swap races. As a person who identifies as biracial, Manuel wasn’t comfortable.
He says he spoke with producers about his reservations but the terms of his contract didn’t allow for him to say no. Producers edited the shoot and eliminated Manuel’s involvement as a compromise.
Still, he became increasingly unhappy at the show. He hints to experiencing a toxic work culture, saying staff was fearful of voicing their concerns. After his contract was up at the end of cycle 4, he spoke with Banks about wanting to exit.
“[I said to her] very genuinely ‘I feel like I’ve given all I can to the show and I’m gonna work on other things’ – Tyra’s a businesswoman and I thought ‘For sure she’d understand.’ I thought I was being very lovely and respectful…she just had to words for me: I’m disappointed. And that was it, that was the end of the discussion,” he says.
Jay Manuel says his friendship with Tyra Banks “never recovered”
Manuel did return to the show but not as creative director. He began working as a judge instead as a compromise when executives could not find a replacement. But Manuel says his relationship with Banks “never recovered.”
In fact, he says when they saw each other for the first time after their phone conversation, Banks didn’t speak to him. Manuel says the only interaction he had with Banks was on camera.
Behind the scenes, he says the environment grew more toxic, calling Banks’ attitude toward him “emotionally manipulative” and agrees that it was an abuse of power.
Though Banks later apologized to Manuel, he says their close personal relationship was over. He left the show for good after cycle 18.
Manuel gives insight into his experience on the show and in the entertainment industry in his new fictional novel The Wig, the Bitch and the Meltdown. The novel is currently available for purchase.