By Natasha L. Foreman
Earlier today I read an article and viewed a short video featuring media mogul and former supermodel, Tyra Banks. Now age 38, Tyra shares in an interview stories of her childhood, her transformation from introvert to mean girl, back to introvert from the ages of 8-13, and her life before, during, and after her modeling career.
She began modeling in 11th grade (after the seed was planted in her mind in 9th grade), and the semester she was to attend Loyola Marymount, instead of starting her classes she took a modeling assignment in Paris—which catapulted her into a supermodel in one year, as she landed a record 25 assignments.
Tyra said in her interview that as she grew more into womanhood and developed curves, various designers refused to book her because she wasn’t thin enough for them. By the time she was in her mid-20s she was a size 4, and having issues with designers. But the kicker is, that she admits that if she was a size 4 teen attempting to enter the industry now, she would be told she was “too fat”. Many designers wanted and still want, a size zero.
I want you to consider this for a moment. Tyra is 5’10” and was a size 4, and was gradually being denied assignments because she was “too fat” for the designers!
Years ago Tyra never knew a size zero existed. Neither did I, I’m still trying to figure out when they slid that onto the racks. Heck, I remember going from kids sizes and then eventually I was in junior sizes. All through high school and undergrad I was a size four. Nowadays a size 4 in most designers’ minds is placed into a different model designation, which isn’t the mainstream ‘supermodel’ path. Nope, a size 4 isn’t a top runway model—that’s designated for the size none’ers!
Not all designers and fashion magazines however are cool with models being a size 0 or 2 anymore. According to the article, Vogue magazine now refuses to place within any of their 19 worldwide editions, any females who “appear to have an eating disorder”. The Israeli government has gone a step farther and passed a law banning modeling assignments to any female with a body mass index lower than 18.5; and Diane von Furstenberg, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, sent guidelines to participating designers on how best to handle a model that they believe may be suffering from an eating disorder. She also required designers to provide models with healthy meals and snacks backstage. Believe it or not, all of these decisions are a big step towards progress.
The article did mention that one model didn’t think (back in 2007) that the industry was to blame for girls poor self-image, eating disorders, and desire to be rail thin. She instead thought that it’s the parents fault. That model was Gisele Bundchen and she told a Brazilian newspaper this back in 2007. She argued that her strong family base is the reason she didn’t have these issues. Well, that’s awesome for her of course, but she is in the very, very, very small minority. I agree, that your family base can have an impact on you and your esteem, however, if a girl wants to be a model and the industry says, “you aren’t thin enough” then she will either get there or walk away and look elsewhere.
To also go deeper, we’re not gaining feedback from a woman who is a size 6 or even a size 4— let’s gain some perspective respectfully, Gisele is 5’11 and weighs a reported 125.7 pounds. So at 31 years old, she has a body mass index of 17.4— which means no modeling assignments for her in Israel! It also means continued modeling assignments everywhere else, because right now she is the highest paid model in the world. By 2007 she had raked in over $150 million in earnings, and in June 2011, Forbes magazine estimated that her total earnings over the last 10 years have surpassed the $250 million mark. According to the Forbes article she is quite possibly on track to becoming a billionaire. Yep, you read that right!
I wonder how her earnings impact her viewpoint and her stance on shared industry-responsibility? I wonder if Gisele’s thinking on this topic has changed since 2007?
Whatever it is, let’s step away from it to instead congratulate Tyra Banks, the Israeli government, Vogue, Diane von Furstenberg, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and other members of the fashion industry who are stepping up, speaking out, and attempting to do their part to right the wrong that has plagued young girls and women around the world for over 40 years.
To read the article in its entirety and to see Tyra’s interview visit
Antunes, Anderson. “Could Supermodel Gisele Bundchen Be On Track To Becoming a Billionaire?”. Forbes.
Scordo, Lisbeth. “Tyra Banks: At 17 and a Size 4, I ‘Would’ve Been Considered Too Heavy’ to Model Now”. A-Line Celebrity Style.
Copyright 2012. Natasha L. Foreman. Some Rights Reserved.