It's been eight years since Jay Manuel parted ways with America's Next Top Model, but would he ever consider working with Tyra Banks again? ET's Keltie Knight spoke with the creative director and makeup artist about his debut novel, The Wig, The B**ch & The Meltdown, as well as possibly reuniting with the supermodel while she hosts the next season of Dancing With the Stars.
"I love to dance. If they asked me, I would love to join the show," Manuel replies. "I don't know if they're going to do, like, a reunion-type show like that, but it'd be interesting to see what they're cooking up. I'm curious."
"I know Tyra will definitely bring all her energy to the table, and I love that because she'll probably dance," he adds. "But then she'll also show her kind of kooky side that she can't sometimes can't dance, which is fun. I love that!"
After 18 cycles of ANTM, Manuel left the modeling competition show, but admits that he and Banks "don't really have much of a relationship now."
"The last time I saw her it was wonderful. It was in 2017, so it was a few years ago," he recalls. "We had emailed on and off. But when I saw her, all we did was talk about her son, which I think is such a blessing -- and her eyes light up. And I see that person who was such a good friend of mine for years and years well before Top Model. I love seeing that excitement in her eyes. So I wished her well."
Meanwhile, Manuel used his time on ANTM as inspiration for his book. The juicy fictional book centers around a show called Model Muse that is hosted by a ruthless, yet vulnerable anti-hero named Keisha Kash. While many would assume Kash is inspired by Banks, Manuel says that is not the case.
"It's not Tyra," Manuel affirms, adding that he understands that there may be some similarities with Kash being "a Black supermodel working in an industry prominently run by white men in a beauty industry that celebrates white aesthetic and that has to affect her psyche."
"I know that's something that Tyra has worked [and] fought so hard for throughout her entire career," he notes, adding that he just wanted to tell a Black story.
When asked if Banks was aware of the book before it was announced, Manuel quips, "I would say it's pretty safe to say Tyra is aware of the book now, as is everybody who worked on America's Next Top Model."
Manual says he started outlining the story in 2014, and knew he was "taking a big leap of faith." The Wig, The B**ch & The Meltdown, as he expresses, is "meant to be a really entertaining piece for the summer" for "people who just wanna laugh out loud and have a lot of fun."
However, he teases that he's put Easter eggs throughout the story for ANTM super fans. "But you don't need to watch America's Next Top Model or any of these shows to kind of get the story," he relays, adding, "but they have to read the book to find out what they actually refer to, so I'll leave that tease there for you."
The book, Manuel notes, looks at the cost of fame, abuse of power in the entertainment industry and power struggles in the workplace.
"It's something everybody can relate to and, most importantly, something that we're talking about today," he says. "Looking at how the entertainment industry specifically deals with intersectionality and Black women's identity, which is so relevant to now…I was constructing the story a few years ago but that's because it was always there and I felt like it was important to have a gravitas to this kind of really wild, fun and satirical piece so that people can kinda get these really important themes out there so we can have more discussions."
As for other ANTM pals, such as Miss J. Alexander or Nigel Barker, seeing themselves reflected in The Wig, The B**ch & The Meltdown?
"I think they'll see, especially Miss J., I think they'll see a lot of the humor in it," Manuel notes. "I do hope that everybody that -- again this is not about them. This is inspired by them and it is a work of fiction -- that they see that I'm trying to use my whole experience working in this world as a platform to really tell human stories. I want these stories to shift the paradigm about how we think about power, authority and relationships -- and that's ultimately what I'm doing with this narrative."