Former “ANTM” Judge Jay Manuel Responds To Tyra Banks’ Recent Backlash And Reveals Why He Left The Show: “It Was 100 Percent My Decision”

Creative director, makeup artist, and former America’s Next Top Model judge Jay Manuel opens up about his decision to leave the show in an interview with Variety about his upcoming book.

Manuel, 47, has announced that he will be releasing a book that is inspired by his time on the hit reality series #ANTM, Variety reports. The novel is called The Wig, The Bitch & The Meltdown, and is expected to drop on Aug. 3. The book will explore the competition show’s foundation and behind-the-scenes events from a fictional and satirical standpoint.

“I wanted this book to entertain, and that’s why I used satire and had a lot of fun with it. All of the characters in the book took on a life of their own and were just inspired by people in my life, but we write what we know and, as they say, art imitates life — and is often larger than life,” he explained.

People have been reposting clips from the series, which has prompted the show to be the topic of discussion lately, with many calling out its tone-deaf, racist, and anti-body-positive moments. But the novel is not a direct response to recent critics of the show, Manuel has been working on the project since 2014. “I never saw that coming. My novel has been in the works for quite some time, so this really is a surprise to me,” said Manuel.

While the book will more or less mock real-life events for the sake of a storyline, the novel will mirror actual ANTM moments, like the infamous “We’re all rooting for you” speech from the show’s host #TyraBanks. Speaking of which: Manuel did not consult Banks or any other ANTM alum about the contents of the book, according to Variety. The outlet reports that Manuel and Bank’s relationship has become estranged over the years.

Now, Manuel explains why he decided to leave the show. At first, when Manuel left, people speculated that he and Banks’ poor relationship caused him to get fired. ”When we parted ways, I had already completed my contract after Cycle 18 with no plans to return for Cycle 19, and that’s something that people don’t know,” said Manuel. “It was 100 percent my decision to leave the show, as I was ready to move my career in a different direction, but unfortunately at the time, my departure was misreported to the press, and contractually, I could not speak about leaving the show. Now, I can speak about it, so I can be clear that my departure from the show was one of choice.”

Manuel says despite no longer being close to Banks, he doesn’t feel she deserves the recent scrutiny. “I do think it’s a little unfair for people to persecute Tyra now, especially because she has already taken heat for her past executive decisions in past years. However, I can’t really defend her either because when ratings were high, and things were great, she remained a clear figurehead because it was her show.” He added that the most uncomfortable moment he experienced while being on the show was when contestants were assigned different races to impersonate.

“I do remember, and it was very uncomfortable for me, in Cycle 4, it was a photoshoot where the girls had to swap races. I was so, so, so uncomfortable with this. I was never scripted for my intros or anything, and I didn’t know how I was going to be able to set this up — I was so afraid that I would wear this because I was the creative director, but it was not my idea. That swapped race was a layer added in. It was supposed to be a different concept. I remember that very, very clearly. I was basically told that I had to execute the creative, and it made me very uncomfortable,” said Manuel Overall, the former judge, says Banks has been a pioneer for models. “Tyra is a pioneer in many respects, and I have nothing but respect for her in everything that she’s accomplished in business. The fashion industry is a difficult industry.” To read Manuel’s full interview, visit variety.com.

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