This story originally appeared on PEOPLE.
Before Tyra Banks became one of the most famous models of her time, the host of America’s Next Top Model, or launched her own cosmetics and skincare lines, she was a major runway model with a few major obstacles to overcome: Her weight — and her feud with Naomi Campbell.
Banks (along with her Norwegian boyfriend, Erik Asla), was a guest on Norwegian/Swedish talk show Skavlan, and she was candid about about the early days in her career. After being declined by six Los Angeles modeling agencies and accepted only for runway modeling by the seventh, Banks went to Paris — where she was finally welcomed into the industry, but not by everyone.
“I got to Paris, and it was very difficult. I did really well really fast, but then the industry was saying, ‘Oh, look out Naomi Campbell, here comes Tyra Banks! So Naomi Campbell, sit your butt down,’ ” Banks explained. “It wasn’t fair to Naomi, but her response was … to this day, I’m very scared of her. It was very difficult. — like some of my lowest times of my life — dealing with that.”
They eventually made up on Banks’ mid-’00s talk show (“I cried like a baby,” she confessed), but Campbell’s animosity wasn’t the only obstacle she had to overcome.
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“My agents in Italy gave [my mom] a list of designers that did not want to hire me anymore because my body was getting thicker,” Banks says. “And she showed me this list of designers and I just started crying and said ‘Oh my gosh, Mommy, what do I do? Am I supposed to like starve myself? OK, maybe I won’t eat any bread anymore. Just salads with no dressing, salads for breakfast, lunch and dinner.’”
With her mom on her side, however, starving wasn’t an option. “‘She says, ‘You know what we’re gonna do? We’re gonna eat pizza.’ And she took me to a pizzeria in Milan, Italy … She said, ‘You write down every client in this world that likes ass. Your ass is growing, and I’ll be damned if my baby starves herself for this industry. So we’re gonna go where your ass is going.’ ” And the rest is history.