Tyra Banks keeps it fiercely real, especially when it comes to talking about womens' bodies and the dreaded f-word: "fat."
The supermodel has spent her entire career in an industry where negative body image is an everyday reality, so when asked by Special K to speak about banning "fat talk" among women, she was all about it. We sat down with Banks for advice on how women can better accept their bodies and successfully push their careers forward.
SHAPE: Why is banning fat talk important to you?
Tyra Banks (TB): It's something that I realized women do constantly and don't even know that they're doing it: They say these negative things about themselves that they would never say to someone else. I have friends who do it in front of their daughters, which is very detrimental because your daughter inherits your DNA and might look like you or be bigger than you. When she hears her mom say all these negative things about herself, in turn it may make her think she's saying them about her. This issue is one of those things that I really stand for.
SHAPE: Where did you hear the word "fat" in your industry?
TB: Mostly the models would say that about themselves. And models saying that is the craziest thing because they are already so small. But if they gained a few pounds, their agents would tell them to lose weight, and they would translate that to being called fat. I heard it from a lot of designers in Europe. Some of the dressers who helped me get ready for fashion shows called me fat in their own languages and thought I couldn't understand.
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SHAPE: How did you react to that?
TB: Fortunately, I don't have the makeup to actually restrict food in a way that would make me lose a lot of weight. I am just not made that way. So I would try to eat healthier, but I didn't try to starve myself. It reached a point where I was gaining weight and getting curvier and curvier, though. My bust and hips were getting bigger, and the Italian modeling agency that represented me met with my mom and told her that there was a list of designers who didn't want to hire me anymore, and they were going to tell me. But she said, no, I will tell her. So she showed me the list and I started crying. Then she said, "You know what we're going to do with this list? We're going to go eat pizza." Over that pizza, we came up with a plan to go from high fashion to a more commercial type of modeling like Victoria's Secret, Sports Illustrated, and Cover Girl—brands that appreciated curves.
SHAPE: Is that advice you give models who are struggling with their own weight?
TB: There's so many different types of advice I give because I mentor a lot of girls. There are some girls who might be a size 10 naturally, but are trying to get to a size 2 or 4. I'll tell them to relax a little, keep working out, stay healthy, keep the muscle tone, but eat healthy and go in the plus size, which I call "fiercely real."
SHAPE: You've been so successful as a model and a businesswoman. What's your advice to woman who are looking to propel themselves in their careers?
TB: A lot of women are discouraged to ask for title changes or salary bumps, or even ask for what they know they deserve, while men tend to ask even if they don't deserve it. If you feel you deserve something, ask for it! And don't talk about the reasons why you need money. Don't say, "I had another kid. I have to pay my rent." Don't talk about your needs—that's not what it's about. Your boss is not there to supplement your living situation; your boss is there to reward your good work. Stand up straight, look them in the eye, and smile. Don't slouch, don't look away, don't make excuses, and don't mumble. Practice with a friend or loved one, and go in there and ask.
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SHAPE: What beauty trend are you loving for the holiday party season?
TB: Lip color! I have on bright red lipstick today, and I tend to be a girl who only works on my smokey eye. But the red lip is back. And it's fun! Now I realize I don't have to spend time doing my whole eye. I can throw on some concealer and mascara and red lips, and people are like, "Wow, you look so done up!" What just some red lipstick can do!