Tyra Banks' body positive Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover feels a little hypocritical
It's great to hear someone who is as amazing as Tyra talk about embracing your body, but there was a time when Tyra herself was very much part of the problem
Tyra Banks is back with a bang! She's the latest face on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit's cover, 23 years after she made history with the same magazine by becoming the first black woman to ever be on the cover back in 1996. Posing in a bright yellow string bikini on the 'Shattering Perceptions' edition, the supermodel talks about a body positive message. "This is for everybody that has been told that they are not good enough because of their body, their age, their everything," she said.
It's great to hear someone who is as amazing as Tyra talk about embracing your body and everything else and to be honest, this looks better on her than the "smize" but — there was a time when Tyra herself was, as some would say, very much part of the problem.
Much before the famous 2012 speech that some, arguably, say was the defining moment of the body positive movement where Tyra went on to her talk show in a bikini to say "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. I have one thing to say to you: 'Kiss my fat ass'" She went on to sit and watch as a contestant on 'America's Next Top Model' was eliminated because she was gaining weight.
London Levi, who was a contestant on 'ANTM' back in cycle 12 had admitted in interviews that she was out because of her obvious weight gain — gain that she had because she was dealing with not one, but two eating disorders. "When I went to the competition, I was recovering from an eating disorder, so my self-confidence was already kind of shaky because of my experience with my problem beforehand," London had told E! in an interview at the time.
"And, I'm pretty sure it did show in my photo shoots. In my personal opinion, it was just kind of obvious to the judges who would move on just by photographs." If that wasn't bad enough, Judge Jay Manuel had to point it out to London. "It's just clear that you're not taking care of your body in a short period of time, and if this is tough, how are you going to deal with it in the modeling world?" he had told her.
Then there was that infamous trailer from cycle 14. Ann from Texas, 6ft 2inches tall left the judging panel stunned with her tiny frame. "You have the smallest waist in the world. Look at that waist!" Tyra tells her in the trailer. If this isn't creepy enough for you, there was fellow judge Miss J. Alexander, who got up to put his hands around Ann's waist to show just how thin she was - and found they could touch on either side. But Tyra soon got over her surprise and went on to say gleefully, "There's something about her I quite like."
Two years later, after she was slammed for gained weight in what the tabloids deemed unflattering, she was suddenly the unofficial spokesperson for body positivity. Yes, since then, she's slammed contestants who fat-shamed others but that still doesn't change the fact that until the last season wrapped up, season 24, the show has had about only a handful of plus-sized contestants — Robyn Manning, Anna Bradfield, Toccara Jones, Diane Hernandez, Diana Zalewski, Whitney Cunningham, Whitney Thompson, and Kasia Pilewicz to name a few.
Thompson made history by becoming the first curvy model to win any cycle of 'ANTM'. But, when one looks at the pictures of these models, it wouldn't be hard to argue that these models aren't really the measuring tape for plus size. Better yet, its worth wondering why plus-sized models in Bank's 'ANTM' are sprinkled like toppings? Out of the 22 odd contestants each season for about 24 seasons, why haven't we had more inclusivity?
It's a really good thing that Tyra is all about body positivity now and there's no denying that she's one of the reasons why the later seasons of 'ANTM' are at least watchable but there's so much work that needs to be done.