Don't mess with former supermodel and talk show host Tyra Banks. When the going gets tough, the tough, Banks says, get back in their bathing suits.
Banks is taking on Australian tabloids that say she's gained 40 pounds, a claim she disputes. The tabloids have shown an unflattering photo of Banks walking on the beach in a bathing suit.
On an episode of her talk show "The Tyra Banks Show," set to air Thursday, Banks will appear in that bathing suit, "dimples in my booty" and all, she told "Good Morning America" today. She also appears on the cover of People magazine this week in a swimsuit.
Banks has always been willing to talk frankly about weight. She currently weighs 161 pounds, 30 pounds more than she did as a supermodel in the 1990s, when supermodels were already several sizes bigger than they are today.
"1996 -- it was the era of the supermodels. We had Cindy [Crawford], Naomi [Campbell]. They were all size 6s," said Glamour magazine fashion editor Suze Yalof Schwartz. "Now you have to be 5 feet 9 inches and a size 0-size 2 in order to fit into the samples."
Banks told "Good Morning America" she first read about the allegations of her being fat by googling "Tyra" and "fat."
"When I googled, I found pictures from my modeling career," she said.
Banks said she has always weighed 20 to 30 pounds more than most supermodels.
"That's a positive thing," she said. "And I think it's so bad that people are saying that's bad."
Banks said Thursday's show and the photo shoot are not just a fight against tabloids but a "fight for women."
"Every night I wake up at 3 in the morning and think about the response," Banks said.
In November 2006, a 21-year-old Brazilian model died of causes linked to anorexia; three more model deaths have followed. Last September, Fashion Week organizers in Madrid, Spain, announced that the average 5-foot, 9-inch model would now have to weigh in at least 125 pounds.
Organizers in Milan, London and New York soon followed with statements encouraging healthy models, but without endorsing a weight minimum. They claim that a minimum would be an infringement on the creative process.
French Designer Jean Paul Gaultier tackled the problem head-on, sending a plus size model down the runway.
Banks said some type of weight regulations in the fashion world would help models but not necessarily impressionable young girls.
"I think the regulations help the models…I think it helps the models say, 'to work…I do not have to be a size zero. I do not have to harm myself to get to that weight,'" she said. "But I don't know if it helps young girls."