The longtime Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model built an empire based on her looks, but was nearly dethroned in 2006, when unflattering bathing suit pictures emerged alongside hurtful tabloid commentary crying, “America’s Next Top Waddle!” Not one to be brought down, the fierce 37-year-old put on her best smize (smiling with her eyes) and fought back, telling her haters to “Kiss my fat ass” while donning the notorious bathing suit on her talk show. Tyra later told the New York Times, “What bothered me is that [my critics] were saying there’s something wrong with a woman’s body if she’s not super-skinny.”
Why we love her: Banks puts her money where her mouth is: She founded the TZone self-esteem camp for girls, has worn a 350-pound “fat suit” to experience the pain of obesity, and once asked everyone in her audience to wear identical red swimsuits in an effort to appreciate their less-than-perfect bodies. She's also appeared au natural on the cover of her online magazine: Beauty Inside and Out. And the model and media mogul has proven she's got brains as well as beauty. Recently, Banks, who's built a multi-million-dollar business empire, revealed that she's been taking classes at Harvard Business School. And on March 15, she'll launch her latest venture: a new beauty & fashion site, TypeF.