Tyra Banks (1973- ) was one of the top black supermodels of the 1990s. She was the first black woman ever to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, GQ and Victoria’s Secret – all in 1997. In 2003 she moved into television. By 2008 she had two shows: “America’s Next Top Model” (2003- ) and “The Tyra Banks Show” (2005- ), a talk show.
“America’s Next Top Model” is a fashion modelling contest. It is like “American Idol” but instead of singing, they model. Tyra not only created the show, she is one of the judges. She takes a personal interest in each of the young women in the show , trying to guide them in the right direction in the fashion industry. Some of the models to come out of the show are Toccara Jones, YaYa Da Costa and Eva Pigford.
“The Tyra Banks Show” is a talk show. It is like Oprah’s talk show but it is aimed at younger women. Again, Tyra wants to guide young women in the right direction. She seems down to earth, like Oprah did in her early days. On the other hand, sometimes she tells guests what they should believe.
Television is not something she suddenly thought of because she was getting too old to model. When she applied to universities (she never went), she was thinking of getting into television then.
She also wanted to be a singer, but gave it up in 2004 after six years of hard work: her song “Shake Ya Body” did badly.
She grew up in Inglewood, California in Los Angeles county. Her mother was a photographer and her father worked in computers. They broke up when she was six. She went to an all-girls Catholic high school. She became very tall and thin. In the last year of high school she joined the Elite modelling agency.
Instead of going to university she went to Europe to become a model. Her mother went with her.
While she did have the height and weight (or lack of it) to be a model, her breasts were large and her face did not seem to be model material. Being black in such a white industry did not help either. But in whatever she does she gives it her all, works hard, aims to be perfect and has a never-say-die spirit.
In the end Paris loved her.
Her secret: “Believe it or not, I just really know how to pose well. It took me five years to learn what my best angles are.”
Naomi Campbell, the other famous black supermodel of the time, tried to get Tyra kicked out of fashion shows (fashion shows do not like to have “too many” black models). They were at odds and did not make up till 2005 when Naomi came on her talk show.
Tyra Banks has dated John Singleton and the singer Seal.
Playboy has asked her several times to appear in their magazine. Unlike Naomi, she always says no.
She says everything you see is completely natural except for her hair.