ET caught up with the two stunning models at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2018 launch party at the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge in New York City on Wednesday, and they reflected on what Herrington’s cover represents for models everywhere.
“It means everything for me, because I didn’t dream of being on the cover because I didn’t think it was possible. I’d never seen a black model on the cover, so I didn’t dream that,” said Banks, who ended up serving as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue cover girl for two consecutive years in 1996 and 1997. “But Danielle did dream it because she saw me.”
“She paved the way for me,” Herrington marveled. “This is my idol… she’s so cool and so smart, and I feel like she’s always thinking about the next thing. [She is] just so business-oriented, and that’s how I want to be. I want to be a businesswoman like her.”
The 24-year-old model — who is only the third black woman to ever appear on the cover of the magazine after Banks and then Beyonce in 2005 — found out she’d been selected for the coveted placement when Banks surprised her with the news.
In a super sweet video Sports Illustrated shared to Instagram on Tuesday, Herrington was led into a studio where Banks was pretending to pose for a fake photoshoot. When the two were introduced, Banks sprang the exciting news on her by revealing a blowup of the upcoming cover, bringing Herrington to tears.
According to Banks, the surprise came together when she was contacted by Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor MJ Day, who told her that this year’s cover would feature a black model.
“I was like, ‘Danielle. I hope it’s her. I hope it’s her,'” the 44-year-old America’s Next Top Model host recalled. “I was so happy.”
Banks is also excited about the idea of guiding Herrington and serving as a source of advice and experienced wisdom.
“We kind of talked about this, but like, this is a moment and all eyes are on you,” Banks explained to the new cover girl. “There’s all of these things that you do with strategy to make sure their eyes stay on you. And you don’t have to be gutter and crazy to do it. We’re going to strategize.”
While Banks didn’t dismiss the idea of working on a project with Herrington in the future, she said she’s really interested in “mentoring and really making sure that she’s on the right path.”
“Because they’ve given it to her, now it’s [her] job to grow,” Banks added.