Tyra Banks, the 43 year-old model and head judge on reality TV show America’s Next Top Model, has made a move to banish ageism within the fashion industry by removing the upper age limit for hopefuls wanting to compete on her program.
The entrepreneur and executive producer, who has led the judging panel for 22 of the show’s 23 series, explained on social media that she constantly receives messages from fans who want to compete for the chance to win a prized modelling contract, but are older than the show’s previous age limit of 27.
“You know I’ve stood for diverse beauty and erasing cookie-cutters when it comes to what is deemed beautiful,” Banks told her 4.9 million followers in a video post. “There have been 23 cycles of America’s Next Top Model and every single cycle, we say, ‘You have to be 27 years old or younger.’ You know what I hear all the time? ‘Tyra, come on! Why have an age limit?’ So you know what? I’m taking that age limit off. You want to audition for America’s Next Top Model? I don’t care how old you are, honey, you just need to know how to smize [smiling with your eyes] and be open to learning how to work the runway like a supermodel.”
Signing off with the hashtag #ageaintnothingbutanumber, Banks’ post has been viewed over 300,000 times since it was uploaded last night, with fans praising the decision via the comments box.
Tyra’s modelling career began in the early 1990s, when she was signed to Elite at the age of 16 and made appearances for American Vogue, as well as Chanel, Christian Dior and Marc Jacobs on the runway. She was the first African American model to grace the covers of GQ and Sports Illustrated, and made her first move into television with a part on The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air. Now a multimillionaire, Tyra’s business empire spans a production company (which produces America’s Next Top Model and her chat show, The Tyra Banks Show) as well as several books and her own cosmetics company. She is a judge on America’s Got Talent, starring alongside fellow supermodel Heidi Klum.
Banks’ move comes after the fashion industry experienced its most age-diverse season of runway castings for years, as designers from Dolce and Gabbana to Simone Rocha included models in their fifties, sixties and seventies in their shows. That said, the total number of models over the age of 50 who were included in the autumn 2017 shows was still only 21, accounting to 0.29% of all bookings according to The Fashion Spot’s annual diversity report.
Perhaps Banks and her team are hoping that by next year, there will be a new star name for designers to book – and someone who reflects the women actually buying their clothes.