Editor’s Note: Holly Thomas is a writer and editor based in London. She tweets @HolstaT. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. View more opinion articles on CNN.

CNN  — 

The whack-a-mole of cancel culture moves swiftly, so you’d be forgiven for forgetting that just two short months ago, according to the unremitting jury of Twitter, the supermodel Tyra Banks got canceled forever. It would be especially understandable considering that, earlier this week, ABC announced that Banks would be the new host and executive producer of “Dancing with the Stars.”

Holly Thomas

Banks acknowledged the outrage in May after a slew of clips resurfaced from her hit television show “America’s Next Top Model,” highlighting her insensitive – and potentially harmful – treatment of contestants on the show. She tweeted, “Been seeing the posts about the insensitivity of some past ANTM moments and I agree with you. Looking back, those were some really off choices. Appreciate your honest feedback and am sending so much love and virtual hugs.”

At the time, the articles and tweets published on Banks’ comments suggested that for all her contrition, Banks might be irredeemable. But as her swift return to grace indicates, an online mob isn’t sufficient to topple a superstar with decades-long standing in entertainment – and, crucially, one whose problematic commentary was likely a contributor to her original success. Banks wasn’t exposed by some hidden secret which finally became known. Her missteps, particular on “America’s Next Top Model,” were easily available for download, not hidden behind a confidentiality clause.

So, as she takes on her next role fronting a massive national show, what are the odds she’s going to do better this time?

A few short examples from her rap: in cycle eight of “ANTM,” which Banks created and executive produced, a contestant was told to pose “dead” in a casket for a photo shoot only a week after discovering that her friend had died of an overdose. Cycle four featured a photo shoot where contestants had to pose made up as different ethnicities. On the fifth cycle, Banks told a gay contestant to tone down her sexuality. She pulled no punches – and taking sensitive care of her model hopefuls trailed far behind the obvious priority of making scintillating television.

Banks took a similar approach to her talk show, “The Tyra Banks Show,” in 2005. This featured a comment on weight discrimination presented as a repulsive exercise in which women were encouraged to assign each other fat phobic insults. (For the record, Banks later claimed there was also a lot of “healing” during that episode.) Then, a victim-blaming “dating experiment” placed the impetus on women in bars to protect themselves from dangerous men.

There were some highlights, though, like Banks’ famous “kiss my fat a**” speech snapping back at fat-shamers. But with the benefit of hindsight, a lot of the shows’ content wasn’t progressive so much as an inventive repackaging of old, problematic ideas.

For all the justified horror expressed by archival binge-watchers, Banks’ eventual reckoning this May was quite complicated. Consider the moral barometer of the 2000s – which the audience, like Banks, was measuring and measured against at the time. Every poor decision on “ANTM” was “validated” by an enormous viewership, which attracted record-setting advertising revenue, and saw over 30 versions of the “ANTM” format replicated worldwide.

Anyone who took issue with “ANTM” then would have been drowned out by the millions of fans who found it exciting, provocative and even honest. And Banks herself was a genuine trailblazer – the first Black model on the cover of the “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issue, the first Black Victoria’s Secret model and an outspoken, self-made businesswoman. Her straight-shooting style didn’t just make sense as the result of a survivalist environment. It said: look what you can achieve if you toughen up.

Banks was operating in a system which still assumed that you had to adapt to fit into it, rather than accept you as you were. Her confused messages – like that about date rape on “The Tyra Banks Show” – often apparently intended to be empowering, were symptomatic of a society that hadn’t yet seen movements like MeToo.

In short, Banks was a product of her environment. And while many celebrities have been outed for horrific past behavior of widely varying degrees in the last decade or so – Louis C.K., Mel Gibson and Lea Michele, to pick a random and varied few, who have since apologized for their actions – much of their behavior was conducted in secret, or at the very least, without an audience. Banks was acting in public, with the constant ratification of an ever-expanding empire – not tangential to her missteps, but as a consequence of them.

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    It’s unlikely that Banks was booked for “DWTS” because producers wanted to give her a shot at becoming a more woke public figure. But considering that Banks has grown in tandem with the same audience who largely accepted her choices a decade ago, it may be that time, rather than online shaming, proves her most effective source of growth.

    Banks’ attempt to disrupt the modeling industry in the 2000’s led to her exhibiting and promoting many of its worst traits to audiences who weren’t yet fully conscious of them. If she is to engage the audiences of 2020 – and engagement appears always to have been her priority – she’ll have to move with the times.

    Banks is off to a characteristically punchy start. When it was pointed out to her on “Good Morning America” that she’s the first ever Black host of “DWTS,” she exclaimed: “It’s nice to be first, right? So that you can open that door and let so many other people in after you.”