"Models have so much pressure today."
So wrote Tyra Banks, who, in her first runway season, booked 25 shows during 1991 Paris Fashion Week. In addition to repping top brands like Victoria's Secret and CoverGirl, the creator and host of America's Next Top Model was also the first black woman to cover Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue.
In an Instagram post Thursday, she acknowledged that the industry has changed—and maybe not for the better. "Models have so much pressure today. They have to look good on AND off the set," the 41-year-old mogul wrote in the photo caption. "They have to arrive backstage at fashion shows looking and dressed as if they are already ON a runway. They have to be slimmer than slim. Skinnier than skinny. They have to compete with actresses, recording artists and reality stars for magazine covers and ad campaigns. They have to have tons of followers on social media to book top notch jobs. And they have to do selfies that make them look relatable, but not TOO relatable, because then people may comment that they don't understand, 'Why the heck is THAT girl a friggin' model?'"
As contestants on America's Next Top Model are often reminded, today's models are expected to do more than merely pose in front of a camera or walk a runway. In Banks' heyday, though, that was enough for some to make a living.
"When I was a young model, yeah, we had to think about our weight, but not like today. I think I was size 6, not a size 0," she revealed. "And backstage at fashion shows, I looked like this photo you're looking at."
In the photo, Banks wore a baggy top and black pants. "Yep, that's teenaged me right before a YSL show was about to start in sneakers, plaid flannel and bad jeans. Mr. Yves Saint Laurent could care how I looked when I arrived to his show. But when I hit his stage, he expected excellence," the TV producer continued. "And I made sure I delivered that every time I was chosen to walk his amazing runway."
"I'm sending love and hugs to all working, aspiring and super models worldwide. You all have lots to live up to," Banks told her 3 million Instagram followers. "And I'm here cheering for you every single day. Stay strong girls."