Tyra Banks: I Was “Too Heavy” at 17 to Make It as a Model in 2012

Tyra Banks attends the 2012 Matrix Awards Luncheon at Waldorf Astoria Hotel on April 23, 2012 in New York City. Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Tyra Banks says Vogue's new ban on underage and too-thin models is something worth "smizing" about.

Earlier this month, all 19 international editors of the legendary fashion magazine pledged to stop featuring models who are "under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder."

Though the restrictions might seem like common sense to outsiders, Banks, 38, says the abuse of underage models and the prevalence of eating disorders are even worse now than when she first started–and that the industry is in dire need of reform.

In an essay on The Daily Beast, Banks writes, "There needs to be more industry-wide protections for models, and we need to be more consistent with what the acting world does: protect our minors, as well as the health and well-being of models."

Drawing from her own experience as a teen model in Paris, Banks says she was only able to avoid the pitfalls so many others haven't with the help of her mom, Caroline.

"In my early 20s, I was a size four. But then I started to get curvy," the 5-foot-10 supermodel reveals. "My agency gave my mom a list of designers that didn't want to book me in their fashion shows anymore. In order to continue working, I would've had to fight Mother Nature and get used to depriving myself of nutrition."

tyra banks modelling
Dior Ready to Wear Spring Summer 94 show in France in 1994 – Tyra Banks. Pool ARNAL/GARCIA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Banks' mother wasn't going to stand for it. "As my mom wiped the tears from my face, she said, 'Tyra, you know what we're going to do about this? We're going to eat pizza.' We sat in a tiny pizzeria in Milan and strategized about how to turn my curves into a curveball. "

Adds Banks, "In a way, it was my decision not to starve myself that turned me into a supermodel, and later on, a businesswoman."

The America's Next Top Model host admits that working models today face a very different climate.

"The truth is that if I was just starting to model at age 17 in 2012, I could not have had the career that I did. I would've been considered too heavy," Banks explains. "In my time, the average model's size was a four or six. Today you are expected to be a size zero. When I started out, I didn't know such a size even existed."

Applauding Vogue's new initiative, Banks concludes that the most important attitude shift of all has to come from within each individual. The Modelland author has even coined a new term to encourage wanna-be models–and young women everywhere–to embrace who they are "right now."

"I've been using the word 'flawsome' a lot," she writes. "It's you + your flaws + awesome = flawsome . . .Never forget that you are fabulous, you are fierce, you are flawsome."

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