Tyra Banks is one of the most iconic women ever to have graced our TV screens. Tyra is famous as a model, businesswoman, producer, host, writer, and just about anything else you can think of. In fact, many people regard her as one of the most beautiful women in the world, and we wholeheartedly agree!
Very few models can claim to have as much influence in the modelling world as Tyra does. What with challenging traditional (and sometimes problematic) ideals of beauty and helping promote body positivity, Tyra Banks has arguably had a very strong effect on pop culture as we know it today.
Whether she’s stealing the show on a runway, or giving business advice to Stanford students, it’s plain to see that Tyra has no intention of stopping any time soon. Her career is strewn with record-breaking (and sometimes record-setting) moments, so we decided to take a look at the best ones.
A Big Break Despite A Prejudiced Industry
Tyra Banks began modelling as a teenager, but it was a long time before she was signed by an agency. In fact, she had just gone through a growth spurt that left her looking tall and awkward, but it only took a couple of years for her to grow into the beautiful woman she is today.
Tyra recalls being bullied for her appearance at the time, but also claims that it was one of the “best things” to ever happen to her because it taught her the importance of kindness. Now, this is a strong woman!
Even later on though, Tyra was rejected by four modelling agencies before her big break. Some claimed she looked too “ethnic” and one even said that they already had a black model and didn’t want another one! Eventually, Tyra signed with Elite Model Management, one of the biggest agencies in the world. EMM then offered to send her to Paris to model high fashion, and she decided to accept this offer instead of going to college.
Tyra was a huge success in Paris, but a few years in she began to gain weight, which was unacceptable in the world of high fashion. But Tyra, being the icon that she is, moved to the US to model lingerie because she wasn’t willing to starve herself for her job.
“I was taught to enjoy food, not to fear it,” she said once.
Setting Records In Fashion
These days it’s very easy to see how Tyra Banks is different from other people in the fashion industry, by how she continues to do new, unexpected things. But the thing is, Tyra has been setting and breaking records ever since her career began.
In fact, her decision to change her career path to suit her, rather than changing herself to please other people (switching from high fashion to lingerie and swimwear, as we’ve just talked about) was in and of itself revolutionary; this was a time when women were doing everything they could to become high fashion models, including starving themselves.
After Tyra moved to the US, she began to model for Victoria’s Secret. She was much heavier than the other models, but this was seen as an advantage in the lingerie world. “Victoria’s Secret said I sold more bras and panties than anybody else, and I was traipsing down that runway with 30 pounds more booty than the other girls,” Tyra says.
Tyra Banks also became the first black woman to be featured in Victoria’s Secret’s catalogue. Around the same time, she became the first black woman to be featured on the covers of GQ and Sports Illustrated as well!
Slaying On TV And In Film
Just when Tyra Banks was making a name for herself in modelling (in the nineties) she began to dabble in some acting as well. She has made many iconic cameos as well as a couple of films.
Tyra’s first appearance was in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, where she plays Jackie Ames, a childhood friend and past girlfriend of Will Smith’s character (needless to say, the two of them make a steamy pair!). Tyra appeared in a few episodes on the fourth season, and she certainly showed off her acting chops.
Since then, Tyra has made many appearances in movies such as Coyote Ugly, Love and Basketball, and even the Hannah Montana feature film! Other TV shows that she has made cameos in include Felicity, New York Undercover and All of Us.
The most noteworthy, however, is the TV movie Life-Size, where she plays an Eve doll owned by Lindsay Lohan’s character that comes to life. Tyra Banks is certainly beautiful enough to look like a real-life doll, and she slays the acting as well. In fact, Life-Size 2 recently came out after much anticipation!
America’s Next Top Model
America’s Next Top Model is perhaps what Tyra Banks is most known for. She created and produced the show for about 24 cycles (or seasons), where she also acted as a host, judge, and mentor, leaving out the year where Rita Ora hosted the show. Rita did a good job but, let’s face it, there’s no one like Tyra!
ANTM is a lot more than just a reality show competition. It’s not just a show about modelling; in fact, it’s more about the models. ANTM was revolutionary, and way ahead of its time because it treated models like human beings. Not only that, Tyra has worked very hard to create an environment of diversity, acceptance, and body positivity with this show, and we are so proud of her for it!
If you need an example, look no further than the last cycle. Tyra cast Ashley Graham as a judge, a beautiful model that has faced a lot of backlash for being plus-sized. In fact, when she appeared on the cover of British Vogue, designers went so far as refusing to dress her!
Tyra claimed that Ashley was a “living embodiment” of everything that she had always wanted the show to represent, adding, “Ashley’s the dream for so many women that are not super-duper skinny.”
Being A Positive Mentor On ANTM
Tyra Banks has always taken her mentoring duties on ANTM very seriously, to say the least. She spent the show teaching girls all the things that she’s learned about modelling throughout her career and going from being warm to downright mean at times. Who can forget the “WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU!” moment?
But even that just went to show how much Tyra cared about these girls. Many former contestants on the show have spoken about how great it was to work with Tyra. Isis King was a contestant on season 11 of the show, and she is a transgender woman. This in itself was way ahead of its time, but Isis has said that all she wanted was to be treated like the other girls, and that’s exactly what Tyra did.
“It taught me to keep my head up and always be battle-ready,” Isis said when speaking about how much the show had helped her career. Tyra herself has talked about how she wanted to use the show to help girls get careers in the industry.
“There was a time when my models couldn’t get hired because they were on a reality show. Now, the top models in the world have gotten famous because they were on reality shows,” Tyra said, adding that she hopes things will continue to improve this way.
The Tyra Banks Show
After ANTM, Tyra had already made a name for herself on television. Her company Bankable Productions (formerly known as Ty Ty Baby Productions) became a powerhouse that went on to produce all the seasons of ANTM, and even some movies such as The Clique.
Tyra created her own talk show called The Tyra Banks Show, in 2005. She claimed that her goal with the show was to focus on women in a positive light. The show tackled issues such as body image, relationships, and discrimination.
The most famous moment of the show was when in 2007, several unflattering pictures of Tyra surfaced in tabloids. She then came on stage wearing the same swimsuit and proceeded to tell haters to kiss her “fat ass.” Such a queen!
Tyra won two Daytime Emmy Awards for her work on the show, but had to end it in 2010 to focus on other projects because she felt she had already accomplished what she’d intended to with her talk show.
Tyra also debuted a new talk show, FABLife, in 2015, but decided to shut it down after just a couple of months.
Killing It On America’s Got Talent
Tyra Banks replaced Nick Cannon as the host on America’s Got Talent in 2017, and hosted the show for two seasons. And while Nick did a terrific job, there’s no beating Tyra. To be specific, there’s no beating her amazing looks night after night!
On each episode of America’s Got Talent, Tyra would make a grand entrance in a jaw-dropping outfit, treating the stage as her personal runway. And we have to say, there seems to be no outfit that she can’t pull off.
Some of our favourites are the wine-red Marc Bouwer dress she wore, complete with a sexy slot and metallic heels, her red and silver custom-made dress by Usama Ishtay, and her sizzling yet angelic sparkling dress by La Bourjoisie that she rocked for the finale.
Tyra Banks was replaced by Terry Crews as host after she bid farewell to the show in 2019. She claimed that while it had been a wonderful experience, she simply had too much on her plate at the time, especially with shooting Life-Size 2.
Becoming A Best-selling Author
It doesn’t matter how many times we say this because it will never be enough: there is nothing that Tyra Banks cannot do! Tyra began writing quite early in her career as well, and has about three books to her name for now (with a fourth one in the making, but more on that later).
Tyra’s Beauty: Inside & Out is an autobiography that Tyra wrote in collaboration with Vanessa Thomas, in which she talks about things such as makeup, health, fashion, and self-love. The book was widely praised for being positive and empowering.
Tyra also wrote a young adult novel called Modelland in 2011, which was based on her experiences in the fashion industry. The most famous one, however, is Perfect is Boring: 10 Things My Crazy, Fierce Mama Taught Me About Beauty, Booty, and Being a Boss, that came out last year and which Tyra wrote in collaboration with her mother, Carolyn.
The book was an instant success and has received acclaim for being raw, real, and honest. It details Tyra’s journey from being an insecure teen to becoming a successful model and going on to be an entrepreneur. We highly recommend giving it a read!
Tyra Banks, Businesswoman
Since Tyra did not go to college so that she could pursue a career in modelling, she opted to take a nine-week course at Harvard Business School in 2011/2012, where she completed a special course for CEOs and executives.
In 2017, Tyra taught a course at Stanford Graduate School of Business about personal branding, adding ‘professor’ to her ever-growing resume! The course was called Project You: Building and Extending Your Personal Brand, and she co-taught it with GSB lecturer Allison Kluger. Only 25 lucky graduates got to take this course!
In 2014, Tyra also launched her own beauty line called TYRA Beauty. In 2016, she added a skincare line to this collection as well. Banks has always been a beauty icon, and we certainly appreciate her willingness to share her beauty secrets with the world!
Both the makeup and skincare in Tyra’s line were designed to suit the schedules of busy women like herself, so she focused on creating straightforward products that give you more bang-for-your-buck, rather than endorsing complex, time-consuming routines.
Fighting For Motherhood
Tyra Banks is one of the few celebrities who like to keep their lives private, especially their love lives. However, after Tyra became a mom in 2016, she shared her heart touching story with the public.
At the time, Tyra was still with her boyfriend Erik Asla, who is a Norwegian photographer. The pair remained together for five years but called it quits soon after the birth of their son. Reports say, however, that they ended things on good terms and share responsibilities when it comes to raising their son, York Banks Asla.
When promoting Perfect is Boring last year, Tyra opened up about her struggles with infertility. In fact, the reason Rita Ora replaced her on a cycle of ANTM was that Tyra needed some time off with everything she was going through.
Tyra had her child through in-vitro fertilization and using a surrogate, but she revealed that every step of the journey was a test. Tyra’s mother also spoke about this, adding, “It hurt me so much to watch her struggle through that. She set up a nursery and in the bathroom, she put a tile on the floor that said, ‘Mommy Already Loves You.’ And then she found out the IVF had failed. It ripped my heart out.”
Tyra also added that she was “constantly living on the edge,” until she was finally able to hold her baby boy for the first time. Hats off to Tyra for staying strong and not giving up!
Beautiful On The Inside; Tyra’s Philanthropy
Tyra may be a supermodel and an overall icon, but she also has a heart of gold. Although this is already evident from how hard she works to promote self-love and acceptance, she has worked extensively with many charities as well throughout her career.
In 1994, she established the Tyra Banks Scholarship, which aims to help young women receive higher education. She also owns The Tyra Banks TZONE Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that aims to help disadvantaged young girls.
The TZONE Foundation also aims to “foster supportive female relationships through innovative programs and services that promote personal accountability, self-esteem, goal-setting, and healthy lifestyles.” Sounds very Tyra to us!
Tyra has also worked with other charities such as the Yele Haiti Foundation, the Get Schooled Foundation, and the Dream Foundations. Some of the other issues that she has tried to work on include poverty, education, hunger, and family support.
Modelland: Real People In Fashion
Remember when we said that Tyra had another book in the making? She does, and it’s a graphic novel based on her 2011 Modelland novel. But Modelland is actually two things now. It’s a theme park too! Sounds crazy and surreal, doesn’t it? Let us explain what we know so far.
First, the graphic novel. Tyra called it, “high-fashion meets comic illustration.” The characters will be played by everyday people, not just professional models. Literally anyone can apply because the casting is taking place through Instagram right now! Every once in a while, Tyra posts some character descriptions, and if you feel you fit them then you can apply with some pictures of yourself.
And second, the theme park, which Tyra announced earlier this year. She had been hinting at a massive, secret project for a long time, and this seems to be it! This theme park will be located in the Santa Monica Place mall in California, and Tyra says it’s her, “calling to bring modelling to the masses.”
The idea of this park remains somewhat a mystery still, but Tyra has revealed that it will have interactive entertainment and special retail. Sounds exciting, and we can’t wait to see how Tyra slays this project!