Bikini Babe at Any Age
Banks told Sports Illustrated that her goal in posing for this year’s issue was to squash age-related stereotypes.
“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. “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.”
"You Are Friggin' Fierce!"
In revealing her SI cover to the world on Instagram, Banks made sure to include her message in the post’s caption.
“This is for everybody that has been told that they are not good enough because of their body, their age, their everything. #BanX is here to tell you that you ARE friggin’ fierce no matter what anybody says! Drop mic now!”
Banks doesn’t just talk body positivity in magazines; she does it on social media, too. The model recently shared a “Sunday inspiration” quote that read, “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.” She captioned the post, “Go on girl, be your fierce & beautiful self!”
"The Fashion Industry Is Catching Up"
The Modelland author recently gave a special shoutout to fellow models Ashley Graham and Gigi Hadid, who, just like Banks, have been credited with helping to expand the idea of a model past just a stick-thin catwalker.
“I used to feel like my body was not mine. I’ve been [considered both] too thin or too big. And I used to feel like I was betraying people if I lost weight… [Now,] I’m happy that the fashion industry is finally catching up,” Banks told PEOPLE in March 2018. “What I’m hoping for is that the Ashley Grahams, the Gigi Hadids, everyone is just models. Not plus, not short, not trans, not curvy. I just want it to be normal”
You Wanna Be On Top?
The America’s Next Top Model host explained to Entertainment Weekly in 2017 that she liked working with models of different shapes and sizes on the show because their success translated off screen to the little girls watching at home.
“Whether it’s the girl with alabaster skin and red, frizzy hair with freckles all over her face to a girl with Ebony skin and close-cropped hair and features she didn’t feel were considered beautiful in society,” Banks said. “In putting these girls on the show and saying, ‘You are beautiful,’ I wasn’t necessarily telling them they were beautiful; I was using them as a vessel to tell millions of girls around the world who looked like them that they were beautiful. This has always been a passion of mine. It’s so nice to see it’s normalizing.”
From Mentor to Mentee
Banks also mentors teenage girls through her TZONE Foundation.
“I’ve had some of my girls talk about their weight, and I actually talk to them honestly about it,” she told PEOPLE in 2014. “There’s one thing you can do, which is say, ‘You’re great, you’re great, you’re great,’ which makes them feel good in that moment when you’re talking to them. They go back in the crazy world of attacking, or looking in the mirror and not feeling good about themselves. So what I tell my girls is, ‘health is important, and we need to get our shapes in shape – not looking like somebody else.’ ”
A Now-Iconic Phrase
In one of the star’s most famous body-positive moments, she took a stand against tabloids picking on her size by strutting her stuff on The Tyra Banks Show in the same bathing suit that prompted unflattering headlines.
“[To people] who have something nasty to say about women who are built like me… woman who have been picked on, women whose husbands put them down, women at work or girls at school – I have one thing to say to you: kiss my fat a–,” she said in the 2007 episode.
A Feel-Good Figure
Banks referenced the famous line again on her show two years later.
“I feel good about my curves and my imperfections – my booty, my boobs, my thighs – and I embrace it all,” she said. “Now I really can say… kiss my fit – and still fat – a–.”