7 Times Tyra Banks Advocated for Diversity, Body Positivity, and Inclusivity

Updated 06/19/19
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Tyra Banks' already lengthy resume as a multi-hyphenate mogul has just gotten a little longer. Yesterday, news broke that the supermodel, host, and entrepreneur will be executive producing and starring in a multi-part docu-series called Beauty. The docu-series will air on the short-form video platform Quibi in April 2020. "Our docu-series aims to expand and redefine the definition of beauty as we know it, challenging why we accept certain beauty parameters and reject others, and examining the beliefs behind those judgments," Banks said in a press release.

Throughout her nearly 30-year-long career, Banks has been an outspoken advocate for challenging mainstream standards of beauty and continuously has encouraged women to embrace their bodies. From her candid interviews, shoots, and television moments, there have been many times where we’ve found ourselves clapping and nodding alongside Banks’ notions of self-love and commitment to diversifying the fashion and beauty industries. Ahead, we’ve rounded up seven times the smize queen has promoted body positivity and inclusivity.

01 of 06

Her decision to accept her body early on in her modeling career.

Banks began gracing high-fashion runways in 1991. But when she started to develop curves early on in her career, such opportunities dwindled. Banks faced a choice, one many models in her position encounter—committing to unhealthy workouts and diet plans or accepting her body and working with brands that recognized her beauty. Her mother encouraged her to choose the latter and propelled Banks on a path to celebrating her curves. In her book “Perfect is Boring,” Banks writes, “She put a pen in my hand and she said, 'You write down every client that likes ass. Your ass. Because it's growing and there's nothing wrong with that, and I'd be damned if my baby starves for this industry."

02 of 06

Her recent cover shoot with Sports Illustrated.

If you’re like us, your jaw dropped when you saw Banks, clad in a yellow bikini, glowing on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swim 2019 issue. In her interview, she told Sports Illustrated that by coming out of modeling retirement she hoped to fight back against negative age stereotypes. She said, “There is this stereotype that only a 20-year-old woman in a bikini is hot. Like once we reach a certain age, we are no longer desirable,” she said. The 45-year-old supermodel added, “But I want to show that modeling has no age. I’m coming out of retirement to practice what I preach. I am telling people that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and ages. I have to put my money where my mouth is. I have to make sure my message is pure.”

Banks also announced that her new modeling moniker would be “BanX.” She told Entertainment Tonight, “I want me coming out of retirement to be bigger than me, and for me to represent women to say, enough of this cookie-cutter thing." She continues, "As much as we've progressed with beauty, there's still a long way to go. That X stands for 'X what you heard about what beauty means.' We are making new rules so many more people can fit into this beauty box. Let's bust the box open."

03 of 06

Her unforgettable body image discussion on The Tyra Banks Show.

12 years ago, Banks delivered a fiercely inspiring monologue on her daytime talk show addressing body-shamers after tabloids photographed her in a swimsuit on the beach (and reported she gained 40 pounds). “I love my mama. She has helped me to be a strong woman so I can overcome these kind of attacks, but if I had lower self esteem, I would probably be starving myself right now. But, that's exactly what is happening to other women all over this country,” Tyra said in her emotional response. She then went on to add, “So, I have something to say to all of you that have something nasty to say about me or other women who are built like me...women whose names you know, women whose names you don't, women who've been picked on, women whose husbands put them down, women at work or girls in school—I have one thing to say to you: Kiss my fat ass."

04 of 06

Her Instagram posts about self-acceptance.

Banks’ attitude on body positivity also bleeds through to her social media. On Instagram, Banks encouraged her followers to love the skin they’re in with the quote, “Girls of all kinds can be beautiful—from the thin, plus-sized, short, very tall, ebony to porcelain-skinned; the quirky, clumsy, shy, outgoing, and all in between." Recently, she shared another inspiring self-love quote that read, “Imagine if we obsessed over the things we love about ourselves.”

05 of 06

Her powerful stance on inclusivity in fashion and beauty.

 

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One thing Banks has never been afraid to call out is discrimination on runways. During a sit-down Q&A with AOL Build Series, the fashion veteran talked about the industry treating marginalized groups as a trendy aesthetic rather than wholeheartedly celebrating diversity. She said, “The trend should be what we put on our bodies, not our bodies. And so that’s the part of fashion that I don’t like, is they’ll say, 'Oh, the chocolate girls with the short hair are in for two years.' And now, where’s that girl? She’s trying to figure out how she’s going to pay her bills, because she’s no longer 'hot', and cannot pay to get hired. And that’s what hurts me.” Banks firmly stated, "To me, race is not a trend. My skin is not a trend; your skin is not a trend. We are who we are, so we should not go in and out of fashion. My booty, her booty, should not go in and out of fashion—that should just be."

06 of 06

Her push for diverse beauty representation on TV.

For 24 cycles, America’s Next Top Model fostered conversations about race, sexuality, and size in fashion. Through the show, Banks projected different types of beauty onto our television screens. During the first episode of the show’s 24th season (which was historic because it had no age limit), Banks said, “America’s Next Top Model has changed the definition of beauty, and empowered women when they needed it the most.” She went on to add, “We celebrate the beauty in all of us: all shapes, all sizes, and all colors. The fight continues to show that you are beautiful.” By highlighting models with vitiligo like Winnie Harlow in the 21st cycle, alopecia like Jeana Turner in the 24th cycle, and full-figures like Toccara Jones in the third, the show made it clear to the world that beauty comes in all forms.

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