This season of Caribbean’s Next Top Model has gained the recent of a large international audience. Rather than getting attention for their innovative photo shoots, or inspiring talent of hopeful models, it’s becoming a talking point for acceptance (or lack thereof) of natural beauty. The conflict occurred during Make Over a week, a time when the models head to the salon to receive a look chosen by the panel of judges, specifically the host and head judge, Former Miss Universe, Wendy Fitzwilliam. Contestant Gabriella Bernard was devastated when she learned that the judges had chosen to have Bernard chemically straighten, or relax, her natural hair. Bernard considered her natural hair an integral part of both her brand and identity, stating in an interview with Daily Express that embracing her natural hair had facilitated a new personal confidence and positive esteem. However, pressured by the show executives Bernard was told that he could either relax her hair or be sent home to no longer participate in the competition. Feeling that she had come too far and that this may be her only opportunity for the career that she desired, Gabriella Bernard relaxed her hair that day, which is a decision that she would later regret.
After the models received their makeovers, they were taken to do a photo shoot to model their new looks for the judges. However, before Bernard was even judged on her photo Fitzwilliam took the opportunity to chastise the contestant for the emotion she displayed in the salon. Fitzwilliam deemed the young model’s behavior “naughty” and “unprofessional”. This ignited a flurry of international response from women all over the world, criticizing Fitzwilliam for her rebuke as culturally tone-deaf. Gabriella Bernard has since spoken out to various media outlets, calling for an apology from the former pageant queen. Bernard has once again begun to transition back to a natural hairstyle. The model will also be participating in the 2018 Tobago Film festival, displaying her documentary Black Hair a 20 minute documentary about her experience on the show.