When Ashley Graham joined the judging panel for Cycle 23 of America’s Next Top Model, the show was undergoing a makeover due to Tyra Banks stepping down from her ANTM host duties. Though Rita Ora had replaced the supermodel as the show’s host, Banks stayed on as a producer and spoke about how the hit reality show had evolved. “My goal is to really get into the minds of these girls that I’m not looking for a successful model and I’m not looking for a social media star. I’m looking for both,” Banks told USA Today in 2016. The series was moved from UPN to VH1.
The ANTM creator had formed a relationship with Graham after seeing her land the coveted cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. “Tyra contacted me earlier this year when my SI cover came out [to congratulate me]Graham told People in 2016. Graham’s cover was notable for being the first plus-size model to appear on the cover, 20 years after Banks became the first black cover model.
Landing the “ANTM” gig opened many doors for Graham and allowed her to be a vocal advocate for body positivity. Although Banks was no longer the host at the time, the “ANTM” judge said her impact was still being felt. “Tyra started ‘ANTM’ and Tyra started Smize, so of course we’re smiling,” Graham said in a 2016 interview with Marie Claire. The relationship between the two models continued to change after they worked together.
Tyra Banks mentored Ashley Graham
After briefly leaving her presenting duties, Tyra Banks returned to her role in front of the camera on America’s Next Top Model for Cycle 24. During this time, Ashley Graham worked with Banks and gained invaluable experience watching the veteran reality TV host work. “Tyra didn’t need cue cards, she didn’t need a teleprompter, she didn’t need an earpiece,” Graham told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018. “She had it easy. She’s ‘America’s Next Top Model’.”
The ‘Coyote Ugly’ actor not only worked with Graham, but also took the younger model under her wing. “Tyra has been such an incredible mentor to me since I met her,” the former ANTM judge told THR. Graham went on to follow in Banks’ footsteps and host and produce her own reality series, American Beauty Star. “The biggest thing I learned from Tyra is that no matter if you make a mistake, you just have to know that we all make mistakes and keep it moving,” she said.
While watching Banks on set, Graham received a master class in presenting. “I used to take mental notes every day,” Graham told People in 2018. The mentoring relationship between the two models stretched beyond working on television projects. “I could call her right now and be like, ‘OK girl, what would you do with this business decision?'” Graham added. Banks had similar praise when discussing her ANTM co-star.
Ashley Graham was appointed by Tyra Bans
Ashley Graham translated her success as a model into television roles and a huge online following. In 2017, she was named to Time’s list of The 100 Most Influential People, with Tyra Banks writing her a dedication for the honor. “Every inch of Ashley Graham’s face tells the story of beauty – inside and out,” wrote the Modelland writer, while proclaiming Graham a force in the modeling world. “It’s time for everyone to salute the — no, do that beauty — the new queen of fashion,” she added in the blurb.
After having her son through a surrogate, Banks gained some weight as she adjusted to motherhood. This weight gain drew criticism from the press, but Banks fired back at her critics. She also mentioned how refreshing it was to see how Graham and others had helped change the industry’s perception of beauty. “What I hope is that the Ashley Grahams, the Gigi Hadids, are all just models. Not plus, not short, not trans, not curvy,” she told People in 2018. “I just want it to be normal. “