Tyra Banks feels 'empowered' to model again, no matter her size: 'I don't have the body I used to'

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Tyra Banks' body has changed, and the legendary supermodel is comfortable with that.

The America's Next Top Model star, 49, stepped back in front of the camera to strut her stuff for Karen Millen's ICONS campaign, and opened up to People about her constantly-evolving body.

"I don't have the body I used to have when I was on runways, and so to have these clothes fit me like this ... it's rare to have a tailored piece look good on curves," Banks explained, noting that she feels "empowered" by the opportunity. But that doesn't mean she always feels right at home on set with the wardrobe that's provided for her.

"Sometimes I'll go to a photo shoot and I'll be like, 'This stuff ain't going fit me. It ain't going to fit right.' I'm going to have to do all these tricks and stuff. But I feel proud to have these clothes and that they look so good," she noted about the capsule collection, which features women of different ages, sizes, and styles.

Banks has broke many barriers in her long career. As the first Black woman to cover the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue on her own, she was used to hearing criticism based on her skin color.

"Modeling and having to be in so many different places, and hearing you can't do something every single day of my life because of my skin color was stressful," she recalled. "Then after I got through some of that hearing, 'Oh, you're curvy and you can't do this fashion show anymore, and you can't do that.' It was very difficult.".

Banks managed to bypass that criticism once again, taking the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2019 at age 45, making her the oldest woman to ever do so.

In 2021, Banks celebrated her 48th birthday by acknowledging how her body has changed over time.

"It’s my BIRTHDAY! And every year this BODY of mine keeps changing. My body of work and my 'body ody ody,'" the entrepreneur wrote on Instagram, referencing the hit Megan Thee Stallion song. "My body is fuller. And so is my mind. Happy Birthday to all my fellow Sagittarius out there. Here’s to growing together, in more ways than one."

It's been a long road to body acceptance for Banks, who once shared that her Italian agents gave her mother a list of designers who didn't want to work with her anymore because her "body was getting thicker," Banks told People in 2016. Panicked at the thought of being unable to book jobs, she "just started crying and said ‘Oh my gosh, Mommy, what do I do? Am I supposed to like starve myself? OK, maybe I won’t eat any bread anymore. Just salads with no dressing, salads for breakfast, lunch and dinner.'”

Despite her worry, Banks says it was her mom who kept her on the straight and narrow, encouraging her to eat pizza and work with the designers who did appreciate her body. The duo went on to publish a book together, titled Perfect Is Boring: 10 Things My Crazy, Fierce Mama Taught Me About Beauty, Booty, and Being a Boss.

Over the years, Banks has been outspoken about the pressures of being a model, and the expectation it carries to wear a size 0. During a 2007 episode of The Tyra Banks Show, she famously called out critics who mocked her weight in a photo taken of her enjoying a day at the beach in a bathing suit. On the verge of tears, the host made it clear she wasn't going to take the attack lying down.

"So I have something to say to all of you that have something nasty to say to say about me, or other women that are built like me, women that sometimes or all the times look like this [sticks out stomach], 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," she said at the time. "Kiss my fat a**!"

The episode went down in history as one of the most notable chat show moments ever. Reflecting on the experience and its influence on the discussion of weight and body positivity, Banks told Entertainment Tonight in 2018 that her decision to air the moment wasn't just about gaining viewership. Instead, it was about holding people accountable for perpetuating impossible beauty standards.

"I felt like I had a responsibility, you know? I wasn't just thinking ratings. I was thinking, like I have a responsibility to be strong, to be noble and to say, 'Kiss my fat a**' like this," she told ET. "And I thought any emotion, any breaking, any tears, was weak and that I had all these women I felt on my shoulders and I needed to support them."