‘ANTM’ winner says prize agency ‘dropped’ her when she gained weight, shaved head

America’s Next Top Model winner Naima Mora has revealed that working with a modeling agency she signed with as part of the Tyra Banks-created reality competition show’s $100,000 prize package wasn’t exactly a picture-perfect experience.

On Thursday the actress and fashion model addressed her post-show trajectory in a six-minute TikTok video, telling fans that she did indeed win a CoverGirl contract that led to serious work with the cosmetics giant in 2005, but that being represented by Ford Models was “so, so challenging” for her as an up-and-coming model who didn’t want to conform to industry standards.

Naima Mora on ‘America’s Next Top Model.’.

“At the time, fashion was very strict on maintaining weight for models,” she said. “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 be very, very thin, like, a size 0.”

She went on to call herself “a rebel” in her early twenties — a trait that “disappointed” Ford Models, Mora said, because of her refusal to adhere to their guidelines.

“I didn’t fit the industry standard and what the status quo of what a model and what beautiful looked like at the time, so I shaved my head again without asking my booker about it, and, that same day, they dropped me,” she remembered. “Working with Ford Models was actually very challenging for me to express myself in the most authentic way. So, did I get the contract? Yes. Did it work out for my benefit? No. Did Tyra know that this was going to happen? No, she didn’t anticipate any of this.”

Representatives for Ford Models did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment.

Mora finished her video by revealing that, as is standard with many winners of reality TV shows, she only got to keep “a little less than half” of her $100,000 winnings due to taxes.

Still, she stressed that she “loved” her experience on ANTM. “Would I do it again, another reality TV show?” she asked. “No, I wouldn’t do another reality TV show again.”

Though it was wildly popular following its 2003 debut, ANTM has since become a controversial show as modern-day viewers analyzed some of the show’s content in hindsight — including shoots that saw contestants switching races to portray women from other parts of the world.

“I kept saying, ‘You guys are putting me in blackface,'” cycle 13 contestant Jennifer An told EW earlier this year as part of our 20-year anniversary story about the show. “They definitely didn’t show any of that footage.”

In a statement to EW, a spokesperson for Banks said at the time that the intention of the shoot was to combat an industry where “lighter skin and straight hair were pervasive beauty standards,” which “perpetuated deep insecurities within women.” The spokesperson maintained that such shoots were “meant to be a moment celebrating and spotlighting underrepresented ideologies of beauty — textured hair and darker skin — on a global scale.” (Executive producer Ken Mok declined to comment.)

Watch Mora’s video above.

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