If there is one woman who knows the international modeling industry, it’s Tyra Banks, former supermodel and presenter of the Next Top Model franchise. So, when she says the pressure put on young women is reaching a crisis point, you have to take her seriously.
In recent days, Tyra took to social media to school society and the media on how the industry is treating young models, saying that success hinges on them to be “skinnier than skinny”. While some outlets applaud how Instagram has given models more agency in controlling their brand and career, Tyra sees this as just another avenue for women in the industry to feel stressed about. Street fashion, and its accompanying crescendo outside shows during fashion month, means models have to be runway ready before even sitting down for hair and makeup.
Tyra used the TBT trope to talk about what she perceives is a major issue. She posted an Instagram photo of her backstage at a Yves Saint Laurent show decades ago, she started her career aged 15, in scruffy clothes with undone hair – in fact the designer himself said he couldn’t have cared less what she looked like when she arrived at the show.
The caption she wrote reads:
“Models have so much pressure today. They have to look good on AND off the set. 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??!!!!”
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. And backstage at fashion shows, I looked like this photo you’re looking at. 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 less how I looked when I arrived to his show. But when I hit his stage, he expected excellence. 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. And I’m here cheering for you every single day. Stay strong girls.“
While the industry claims progress is being made regarding caring for women working the runways, such as fresh food and relaxation spaces backstage as well as laws banning underweight models, the fact that someone like Tyra feels the need to say these things publicly, is worryingly telling.