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antm tyra naima.jpg

'ANTM' Winner Naima Mora Says Prize Agency Dropped Her After She Gained Weight

By Emily Richardson | TV | October 6, 2023 |

By Emily Richardson | TV | October 6, 2023 |

antm tyra naima.jpg

Ahhh, America’s Next Top Model. The model search reality competition has aged about as well as Tyra Banks’ other magnum opus, The Tyra Banks Show. Not great! From blackface photoshoots, to fatphobia/homophobia/slut-shaming, to consistently forcing contestants to participate in traumatizing and dangerous challenges (the impossibly high heel runway, making the girls work with racist and lecherous male models, and both times a contestant had to pose as a corpse immediately after their friend’s death), ANTM is one of the more problematic reality shows to come out of the early-2000s. Obviously, The Swan is #1. No contest.

Over on TikTok, you’ll find dozens of former contestants revealing behind-the-scenes secrets, both good and bad. Thank God for expired NDAs! Last night, it was Cycle 4 winner Naima Mora’s turn to spill the ANTM tea. The now-39-year-old was crowned Top Model back in 2005. In a six-minute TikTok, Naima talked about what it was like winning a contract with CoverGirl Cosmetics, $100,000, and the chance to be represented by Ford Models. Turns out, the results were mixed.

First up, CoverGirl. Naima has nothing but positive things to say about the cosmetics company, calling them a “dream client.” Great! Then, the prize money. That was less positive. Naimi says:

What no one tells you about winning a reality television competition is that there is a little thing called prize tax. And prize tax is 40-60% of your winnings. So, that $100,000, at the end of the day, after taxes, was a little less than half of that.

And that was a really hard thing to learn. Because I was so young at the time, I was 21-years-old at the time. I had no idea and no clue what finances were all about. So, there’s that.

But the worst part of Naima’s prize? Her experience with Ford Models, which she calls, “so, so challenging”. Naima explains:

At the time, fashion was very strict on maintaining weight for models… So, after the show, I gained a lot of weight, and Ford Models was very upset about it. It put a lot of pressure on me and it was very challenging.

Now, I loved my mohawk, I loved it, and it is one of the ways that I have influenced pop culture, just being myself, so, Ford Models didn’t really like it. They didn’t like my haircut, they didn’t like that I gained weight, they put a lot of pressure on me to grow out my hair and to be very, very thin, like, a size 0.

Naima says that she’s naturally a size 2/4 (GASP), and Ford wanted her to get down to a size 0/00, “which was very standard at the time.” But Naima “couldn’t do it.” She continues:

I’m a rebel. This is something that I never told anyone before, but Ford Models was very disappointed in working with me. Because I didn’t fit the industry standard and the status quo of what a model and what beautiful looks like at the time.

So, I shaved my head again without asking my booker about it, and, that same day, they dropped me.

But Naima doesn’t blame Tyra for her experience with Ford. She says the host “didn’t anticipate any of this”:

What I appreciate about working with Tyra is that she believed in me and the way I represented myself to the world. However, the agency, when they signed the contract with America’s Next Top Model, that was before they knew that I was gonna win the show.

Naima also corroborates what other contestants have shared in the past: in the 2000’s, the fashion industry wanted nothing to do with aspiring models who’d been on ANTM: “At the time, reality TV was taboo.” Damn, Gigi and Bella Hadid better be thanking their lucky stars they didn’t appear on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills until 2012.

Here’s Naima’s TikTok:

@naimamora Replying to @Kimbo Gotti stay tuned for more tea! 1st of video answering all your questions on winning #ANTM ♬ original sound - Naima Mora