In response to 19 Vogue editors’ pledge to no longer hire models with visible signs of an eating distorder, supermodel–turned-media-mogul Tyra Banks is weighing in. The America’s Next Top Model creator/host penned an open letter to The Daily Beast and appeared on Good Morning America yesterday to recall her own experiences with dangerously thin coworkers and explain her stance on the industry. Watch below.
Banks has been a proponent of “fiercely real” models (a term she coined that nearly makes up for other terms she coined, including “smize” and “flawsome”). In fact, her cycle 10 of Top Model featured the first-ever plus-size winner of a TV modeling competition, and fuller-figured Top Model alum Toccara Jones went on to appear in Vogue Italia and Essence. Banks has also made a point of inviting icons of plus-size modeling like Kate Dillon on Top Model and spoken frankly with contestants dealing with body image issues, including cycle 2 winner Yoanna House.
As Banks explains, her fight to embrace all shapes and sizes comes from the fact that she had to overcome her own changing body. Banks noted, “The truth is that if I was just starting to model at age 17 in 2012, I could not have had the career that I did. I would’ve been considered too heavy.” Confronting curves that could have killed her career, Banks had the savvy to leverage her shape to become a Victoria’s Secret Angel and a Sports Illustrated cover girl — a move that took her career to the next level and paved the way for her success today. Most of Banks’ runway companions weren’t so lucky. They starved themselves and, in some cases, developed lanugo, a soft, furry hair covering the body that’s a common symptom of anorexia.
In addition to working against “thinspiration,” Banks is also joining Vogue‘s campaign to stop the industry-wide practice of hiring young teen models. She slammed the industry for allowing 12-year-old models to work unattended. “That wouldn’t happen in the acting world,” she wrote, arguing for the formation of a modeling union. With Vogue‘s editorial coalition in place, that is certainly a possibility for the future. But for now, just as on the runway, it’s one step at a time.