Two weeks ago, millions of hearts were broken—and no, not by a man—but by Tyra Banks’ announcement that the 22nd season of America’s Next Top Model would be its final season. In a “Tyra Mail” post via Instagram, the supermodel announced the ostensible end of the world-famous series, and one aspiring young model in particular was so grief-stricken that she wrote an open letter to Banks.

Vanessa Lum, a 23-year-old Asian-American model, wrote about how Banks was her number one idol and inspiration. Lum explained how Cycle 23 was “meant to be” the season she was supposed to audition for, what with her turning 23 on the 23rd of July this year. After months of preparing to audition for the next season, two weeks ago Lum’s dreams were crushed. She went on to describe how it was not possible for her to audition for the previous seasons, but Banks’ notorious words, “Do not let anyone put you in a box,” always spoke to her.

Banks was so speechless that all she could respond was, “Wow. Whoa. Damn.”


Lum insists that she didn’t write the letter as a campaign for Cycle 23 or to hate on Banks; it was “simply a letter of appreciation.” She ended the letter thanking 41-year-old Banks for teaching her so much over the past years, and “expanding the definition of what America – and the world sees as beautiful.” [sic]

Many aspiring models with stories similar to Lum’s left comments on Banks’ twitter page, such as:

  • “My identical twin and I wanted to try out this next season;”
  • “I think I speak for everyone when I say the journey shouldn’t be over. You’ve taught us so much, but there’s still more to learn;” and
  • “Somebody surprised and shocked the hell out of Tyra!”

The enterprising supermodel started America’s Next Top Model in 2003. Her goal was to use the reality show and her celebrity status to give aspiring models a chance at successful career in the competitive world of modeling. As the host and producer, Banks has inspired countless young men and women to follow their dreams, as is obvious from the fan response to the impending end of the show.

Tyra Banks Twitter post, November 2, 2015.

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