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How Kim Kardashian convinced Tyra Banks to come out of retirement to model for Skims

The supermodel is back in the barely there fashion spotlight 25 years after appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated. 

Tyra Banks traded catwalks, magazine covers and ad campaigns for a booming career as a television host, producer and businesswoman many years ago.

But now the 48-year-old is returning to her supermodel roots — thanks to Kim Kardashian

A quarter of a century after first gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, Banks is once again baring almost-all in an ad campaign for Kardashian’s shapewear and loungewear brand Skims. It’s a modeling maneuver that all started with a chat between the old friends. 

“I’ve known Tyra for a really long time, so we hadn’t talked in so long,” the reality TV star and entrepreneur explained when the pair appeared in an interview that aired on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna Thursday. “It was just really good to catch up and reconnect. I just have so much respect for her.”

Then the topic turned to business.

2011 VH1 Do Something Awards - Blue Carpet
Kim Kardashian and Tyra Banks together in 2011. Christopher Polk / Getty Images for VH1

“We just had an honest heart-to-heart conversation, and she got to hear what the brand stands for, why I started the brand — and I’m just all about supporting women,” Kardashian, 41, said.

And Banks seemed like a perfect fit for Skims’ new Icons campaign, which features fellow supermodels Heidi Klum, Alessandra Ambrosio and Candice Swanepoel.  

"(Kim) helped me to step into my own, I guess, power and influence as an icon in the modeling industry," Banks recalled of that talk. "Then she talked about that — I was a role model for her back in the day, which really touched me. And she said when I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, she hadn’t seen boobs that were real and big and curves. And she said that gave her self-esteem for her body."

Banks called it a "a serious conversation" that led her to say, "Let’s do this!" 

Marchesa - Front Row - Spring 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
Tyra Banks, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West attend the Marchesa spring 2013 fashion show on Sept. 12, 2012, in New York City. Chelsea Lauren / Getty Images

The timing couldn't be better for the "Dancing With the Stars" host to get back into modeling.

"I think I’m more confident today because the world accepts so many different types of beauty," she told Hoda Kotb. "This is something I’ve been talking about for decades. So me, curvier me, damn near almost 50 years old in this campaign, I think it is pretty empowering." 

And she thinks Kardashian is pretty inspiring as the boss of a $3.2 billion company.

"I have to tell you that after that call that we had, I was impressed from entrepreneur to entrepreneur," Banks raved. "I was like, 'This is a whole 'nother level that the world doesn’t know about you, and I want them to know that it's next level.'" 

But according to Kardashian, she doesn't mind if she's underestimated. It fuels her.

"I’ve always been the underdog, always, and that’s OK with me," she said. "If anything, I like for someone to really be pleasantly surprised. ... So I really don’t mind being the underdog and proving myself because I think that’s what always has kept that fire under me."