Tyra Banks Writes Open Letter to Young Models

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Tyra Banks

The era of super-skinny models has ended, and Vogue Magazine’s new health initiative designed to “encourage a healthier approach to body image within the industry” is garnering applause from fashion industry heavyweights. There are six points in the initiative that must be agreed to by editors:

1. Do not knowingly work with models under 16.
2. Do not hire any model who appears to have an eating disorder.
3. Prevent casting directors from knowingly submitting underage models to their magazines.
4. Structure mentoring programs and urge mature models to advise younger counterparts.
5. Influence designers to “consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes.”
6. Work with show producers to help create healthy backstage working environments.

One particular fashion icon who is strongly backing the initiative is supermodel Tyra Banks. She wrote an open letter to young models about how important it is to have a healthy body image.

To models around the world, I want to celebrate Vogue’s recent groundbreaking announcement. The editors of Vogue’s 19 international editions have pledged to ban models from their pages who “appear to have an eating disorder,” to create healthy backstage working conditions, as well as several other revolutionary initiatives. This calls for a toast over some barbecue and burgers!

When I started modeling, I used to see models who seemed unhealthy backstage at fashion shows. They appeared to be abusing their bodies to maintain a certain weight. These girls were booked over and over again for countless fashion shows and photo shoots. I’m sure many of you today have witnessed this, or even live it. Now, real progress is finally on the horizon. Vogue is stepping up, doing the right thing, and protecting that girl. Perhaps that girl is you!

People get upset with you if you’re a very thin model. What many don’t know is that a certain sample size has been set by the industry, and you’re doing everything in your power to keep working. At times, I feel there’s an unspoken rule that says, “there’s no such thing as being too thin, as long as you don’t pass out.”

In my early 20s I was a size four. But then I started to get curvy. My agency gave my mom a list of designers that didn’t want to book me in their fashion shows anymore. In order to continue working, I would’ve had to fight Mother Nature and get used to depriving myself of nutrition. As my mom wiped the tears from my face, she said, “Tyra, you know what we’re going to do about this? We’re going to go eat pizza.” We sat in a tiny pizzeria in Milan and strategized about how to turn my curves into a curveball. In a way, it was my decision not to starve myself that turned me into a supermodel, and later on, a businesswoman.

On America’s Next Top Model, I mentor girls on television. When that TV goes off, I actually mentor other girls in the modeling industry—girls that have not been on Top Model, but who appear in Vogue worldwide. On late night calls, I console them as they confide in me about their bodies maturing, and not being able to fit into sample sizes anymore. Now I know you all will still call me for advice, but I don’t think there will be as much of: “I’m hungry, Tyra, and I’m tired. But I still want to do runway and high-fashion work. I want to stay on top.” With Vogue’s new mandates, things, I hope, will now change for the better.

You can read the rest of the letter at TheDailyBeast.com.

Are you on Tyra’s side?

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