Model, actress and reality star Eva Marcille became the first Black winner of Tyra Banks‘ America’s Next Top Model in 2004.  Now, 17 years after that win and with more than two decades of being on magazine covers, runways, and starring on other series like The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Marcille says she enjoys using her platform to represent the women she didn’t see growing up. 

“Young girls and even older women, women my age, my peers can look at that and see themselves,” the 36-year-old admits in the cover story of Hello Beautiful’s June ‘Confidence Issue.’  “From my natural hair to minimal makeup, to my wide lips, to not contouring my nose and just being an example and a representation,” Eva says.

“When I was a young girl, you only knew a few names — it was Tyra, Naomi [Campbell], and Vanessa Williams. If you didn’t look like them, then you weren’t beautiful as a Black girl,” she continues. 

Marcille, who won season three of ANTM, defended Banks earlier this year after some of the show’s most problematic moments circulated on social media. Fans took issue with fat-shaming commentsmade toward the show’s first Black plus-size model, Tocarra Jones.

“You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t,” Eva says. “Tyra created this show to give a platform, a voice, and a visual to beautiful people — women and then men alike that would not normally get any kind of attention because of the standards of beauty.”

“She worked to try to dismantle this machine that said, ‘This is beautiful, and this is not,’ giving people like me and one of my closest friends, Toccara, a chance,” Marcille adds.

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