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The 15 Craziest Tyra Banks Moments on America’s Next Top Model

One of the hallmarks of America’s Next Top Model is the campy, goofy, and pleasantly ridiculous behavior of the woman at the long-running series’ center: your host, Tyra Banks. As ANTM packs its belongings and goes home in our Reality Rumble competition, Vulture picked through the show’s 20 seasons (or cycles, to aficionados), available on Hulu Plus, to find the best of Banks’s elastic facial contortions and attempted philosophical one-liners (e.g., “are you model the verb, or model the noun?”). In the process, we became even more certain that Banks isn’t just a woman with an arsenal of GIF-able silly faces and funny turns of phrase; she’s also a woman who probably should have done improv at some point in her life, because whether a moment is planned or unrehearsed, Miss Tyra can turn on the insanity like no one else.

15. G’Day, Tyra-roo (Cycle 8, Episode 8)
It wasn’t enough that Tyra was taking cycle eight’s crop of could-be models Down Under to Sydney, Australia. She needed to sweeten the deal by bounding into the room in a plushy kangaroo costume, complete with a real kangaroo bouncing along behind her. It was such a shock that one contestant, Natasha, didn’t even realize that Tyra had made an announcement until after a Joey Tribiani–approved delay of almost a whole minute. 

14. Tyra’s Faint of Heart (Cycle 6, Episode 6)
While there was a contestant on ANTM who legitimately fainted in a judging segment, Tyra’s little episode was but a ruse. While chatting with the contestants in their living room, Tyra claimed to be feeling faint, and then she, well, fainted. But when everyone rushed to her side — and one girl, Furonda, got so freaked out she began to cry — Tyra hopped up and cried, “I was acting, acting, ACTING!” But it’s all good; I’m sure the tank tops she handed out to the girls immediately after totally made up for the trauma of thinking a supermodel had just died in front of them.

13. Fashion Is “Being a Ho” (Cycle 8, Episode 2)
Every once in a while, Tyra spouts a bit of model wisdom — outside of the safe realm of smizing and tooching one’s booty — but this one landed in no man’s land. After a contestant failed to deliver a properly sexy photo, Tyra informed her that “modeling is being a ho, but make it fashion,” and then proceeded to act out pornographic pantomimes before contorting them into more high-fashion angles. At one point, her finger was so far in her own mouth that it was a wonder she didn’t accidentally bite it off. Classic Tyra.

12. Gentlemen Prefer Tyra (Cycle 9, Episode 1)
While promoting Carnival Cruise lines with the subtlety of the Titanic hitting an iceberg, Tyra used one of the ship’s theaters to perform a Marilyn Monroe–style song-and-dance with Las Vegas feather headdresses and hot chorus boys in Hugh Hefner captain’s hats. It’s a good thing her haphazard lyrics were just a string of modeling terms — a Real Housewives move before there were Real Housewives — because otherwise this scene would have been completely confusing. Oh wait ...

11. Beam Me Up, Mr. and Miss Jay (Cycle 11, Episode 1)
This cycle-11 opener was so strange at every turn. It seemed impossible that anything could get weirder, but this is Tyra’s world: After entering a warehouse outside L.A. dubbed the “Top Model Institute of Technology (TMIT),” the contestants donned spacesuits, got evaluated in scanners, and eventually confronted the “Glaminator,” which held Tyra, dressed as an android with a distaste for dresses that cover her breasts. She used a robot voice for about a minute and a half before being beamed up by ANTM’s stellar graphics department. Somehow, this wasn’t even the craziest thing she’s even done on the show.

10. The Sexy Exorcism of Tyra Banks (Cycle 13, Episode 7)
When one contestant remarked that her makeover look, which changed her hair from blonde to brown, made her feel more sexual, Tyra was taken aback. Naturally, she did what any shocked person would do and demonstrated how her own dark hair makes her a sexually possessed she-devil, rubbing her breasts like genie lamps and flicking her tongue like a boa constrictor. That’ll teach that girl to complain — if she managed to remember anything that happened before Tyra Banks turned into a sexual snake.

9. Tyra Channels Jack Nicholson (Cycle 8, Episode 1)
Miss Tyra loves to open each cycle of ANTM with a bang — and by “bang,” I mean “utterly ridiculous sketch.” Cycle eight was no different, except that after she and some dancers performed a step routine, Tyra launched into quotes from just about every memorable military movie ever — including the completely out-of-place line from A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!” I will give Tyra props, however, for turning “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” into “I love the smell of hair and makeup in the morning.” Robert Duvall ain’t got nothin’ on Tyra.  

8. Trauma, Thy Name Is Tyra (Cycle 5, Episode 10)
Tyra’s got plenty of fake-outs up her sleeve, but none have been more traumatizing than this cruel cycle-five twist. After lecturing Jayla and Nicole about how they, the front-runners, greatly disappointed the judges that week by sinking to the bottom two, Tyra told them both to pack their bags. She held on long enough to get them weepy and then unleashed confetti and a faux Beefeater guard to tell them they were packing their bags for London, because they were both safe. But the swift swap left both girls crying and confused as glitter fell on their faces. Poor things.

7. Visions of All-Stars Dance in Her Head (Cycle 17, Episode 1)
For ANTM’s first all-star season, Tyra couldn’t simply start the show with her usual “I’m a world famous model” spiel. So she opted for a dramatic nightmare sequence in which she tossed and turned in her cartoonish bed while visions of herself dressed as campy versions of past contestants danced around in her head. No wonder she was forced to do an all-star season: She had to nip that terrifying insanity in the bud.

6. Tyra Takes the Poison Apple (Cycle 11, Episode 4)
While attempting to give her models some self-esteem boosts, complete with tiaras (but not ones as big as hers, of course), and then telling them about how she embraced her own less-than-modelesque curves, Tyra cut the motivational speech short in favor of acting out a Snow White–inspired sketch in which she eats a poison apple and subsequently is unable to attend the girls’ makeover the next day. Funny, though, how Tyra’s totally unrelated Glenda the Good Witch character managed to make an appearance. Huh.

5. Tyra Loses It on Tiffany (Cycle 4, Episode 7)
And this list wouldn’t be complete without the most famous of Tyra’s crazy moments. Unlike most other Tyra-isms, this heated scene wasn’t planned whatsoever. Instead, Tyra became enraged when eliminated contestant Tiffany seemed ambivalent to being eliminated. Because Tyra felt a mother-ish bond to the young woman, her disappointment became outright rage, giving us the classic line, “I have never yelled at a girl like this in my life.” That week’s lesson: Don’t disappoint Tyra Banks on national television.

4. She Has “Never” Yelled at a Girl Like This (Cycle 19, Episode 9)
But for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For Tyra, that reaction would come years later during cycle 19. After one contestant “acts a fool” upon command, Tyra felt inclined to show her how it’s really done and also poked fun at herself in the process by resurrecting the infamous cycle 4 line, “I have never yelled at a girl like this in my life.” It would seem that time does heal all wounds, as long as “time” means “at least 15 Top Model cycles.”

3. It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Super Smize (Cycle 13, Episode 3)
Every ANTM fan knows what it means to “smize” or smile with one’s eyes, but not every fan made it to cycle 13, where Super Smize — the superhero who smizes — reared her incredibly photogenic head. Dressed à la Clark Kent, Tyra appeared on set with a crazed photographer, who began harassing the contestants. Tyra then ripped off her clothing, Hulk-style (ANTM’s writers apparently aren’t really great with their superhero lore), to reveal a cape and leotard underneath, and she set upon the photographer using her incredible smizing. And thank God Super Smize was there, too, or that actor with a fake camera would have kept up that terrible performance.

2. The Pantomime Brazilian (Cycle 9, Episode 1)
If there is one thing no one ever needs to see on television, it is a woman pretending — quite realistically — to get a Brazilian bikini wax. The fact that those waxes are real is painful enough. But when an esthetician from Georgia auditioned during cycle 9, Tyra went for it. While the girl’s voice-over said, “If you’ve seen one butt, you’ve seen them all,” Tyra put her famous butt in the air and pretended to spread ’em for a wax while Miss Jay’s look of abject horror said the rest.

1. Tyra-zilla Hates “Beetches” (Cycle 7, Episode 1)
This moment, smack dab in the middle of Tyra’s crazy behavior sweet spot, is not only Tyra’s craziest moment, it’s the longest-lasting crazy moment. On the models’ first photo shoot, Tyra showed up pretending to be some pseudo-European diva model, screaming about “prepubescent bitches” stealing her wind, falling down and screaming like a girl in a horror movie, and then running up the stairs to a balcony where she hung and howled like Godzilla. It may have been completely planned, but only a slightly insane person would follow through that intensely. Tyra Banks, ladies and gentlemen!

Photo-Illustration: CW