18 years old. Backstage at some grand fashion show. In Europe. France? Italy? Can’t remember. But what I DO remember is that even though I may look self-assured and confident, there was a lot of pain in my heart. There were roadblocks and people who wanted to halt my success, but the fire in my heart and support of my mother kept me going. If I could talk to my 18-year-old self, I’d tell her that she will grow up and be a voice for all models. For all women. That she will have a responsibility to speak up when she sees things going awry. When she sees women that are sisters having conflict, she must be bold. She must be unafraid. She must speak out. And she must do it today. And I will. Get ready.
Yet again, Tyra Banks has reached a decision.
In this instance, the girls (metaphorically) standing before her, Kendall Jenner and Stephanie Seymour, represent two modeling factions: today’s leading ladies (Kendall) and those who dominated the 90s (Seymour). However, Tyra (symbolically) holds not just one picture in her hand, but two. The America’s Next Top Model creator is here to end the generational war once and for all, via blog post. (For those who haven’t heard, Stephanie Seymour, Rebecca Romijn and other 90s fashion mainstays have allegedly said the new set isn’t worthy of the “Supermodel” title.)
This supermodel war is raging and it’s really tearing me apart. I wanna quote Rodney King so badly right now.
— Tyra Banks (@tyrabanks) June 22, 2016
Last Wednesday, Tyra foreshadowed the unveiling of said peace treaty cum personal essay with the above tweet. Shortly thereafter, the reality television queen shared a link to the post, entitled “Model War,” claiming it was her “duty to speak up” on the matter.
— Tyra Banks (@tyrabanks) June 23, 2016
In the essay, Tyra holds that she is the ideal person to settle the debate, not because her career consists of judging models’ talents, but because she, like Stephanie, remembers trekking all over Europe sans Google Maps and Uber rides and she, like Kendall, knows what it feels like to be neither here nor there. “Why do I feel in the middle? I’m a model that started my career in high fashion, that transitioned to the girl-next-door sexy Supermodel, and then created a modeling reality show that catapulted my career and personal brand further than I could have ever imagined. I’m not 100% couture, nor am I 100% TV star,” she writes.
Banks outlines the distinct struggles the OG and newer supermodels faced as they climbed their stiletto-clad way to the top. She answers the question at hand. Yes, today’s It girls are undoubtedly supermodels. “Are you a Supermodel? A REAL Supermodel. You’re on countless covers, rule all the campaigns, walk everyone’s runway, have top designers on speed dial and everyone knows your name. I think the answer is obvious,” Tyra holds.
Addressing both parties, she then asks her “sisters…[her] girls…” to “take a step back” and consider one another’s viewpoints. “My mom always tells me to imagine things from someone else’s perspective,” she explains. She asks Kendall, Gigi and the rest to imagine how they’ll feel when, in their 50s, the even newer wave of models arrives (for dramatic effect, she posits that these will be avatars who don’t even need to work out or sleep). She speculates that Stephanie and the others may have trouble understanding how and why models are “chosen” in this day and age, since the new system is so foreign to their experience. “Change is hard. And when you’re a legend, and have ruled the roost, it’s even harder. It can be frustrating, painful, and sometimes can leave one in disbelief,” Tyra says in her peers’ defense.
Ultimately, she asks that models of all ages band together to support one another — “we all must remember is that we are stronger together” — and embrace the “democracy” that is today’s modeling world. “The modeling industry is no longer an exclusive, unattainable club that few can access. Anyone can be a model! If you have social media accounts, you can pose and post away, build your followers and make cold hard money all while having lots of fun. The modeling world is now a democracy and we need to celebrate it, lean into it,” she proclaims.
I don’t usually address rumors, but since feelings have been hurt I would like to set the story straight. At an event last week I was jokingly asked if the “era of supermodels” was over, what should we call the new great “it” girls?? There were no names mentioned, and NO ill intent involved. A supermodel is a supermodel. I respect and admire all these women in my industry, in particular Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner. Having been in the business over 20 years I know how hard these women work. Bravo to both Gigi and Kendall for their success!! @gigihadid @kendalljenner
The modeling industry has a long way to go in terms of diversity but we do see Tyra’s point. Recent years have seen more minority representation and calls for inclusivity than ever before. Although the post does seem a bit belated, given that all offending parties have already come forth to apologize and finger-point the media’s hunger for “clickbait,” it is heartening to hear the almighty Tyra speak out in favor of inclusion and hopefully influence her peers and disciples to lend their voices to worthier discussions.