20 Times Tyra Banks Proved She’s a Pop Culture Phenom
by Gryphon Adams
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Love her or hate her, you can’t be neutral about fierce supermodel-turned-producer/business maven Tyra Banks. From her breakthrough modeling career to TV shows and product lines, Banks infuses her endeavors with determination and style. She persisted as a young model and overcame racial barriers, stood up for herself against cruel jabs at her weight, made a fortune—and now she’s become a mom at age 42.
Tyra didn’t set out to become a model. She says modeling found her. Either way, modeling started Tyra’s empire and allowed her to pave the way as a barrier-breaking icon.
Confident Young Woman
Despite obstacles, Tyra used her confident nature to perservere. “There was one woman in the agency who said to me, ‘I know you are all excited you got your new little pictures in Seventeen magazine and things, but, um, you’re not gonna get far in this world because you’re black, so you should learn how to type, because the furthest you’re gonna get in this agency is being the head receptionist like me,'” Banks told ABC News.
Tyra Banks was the first black model to appear on many major magazine covers, including GQ and the Sports Illustrated‘s swimsuit issue. She was also the first black model to be signed by a number of major designers.
Tyra modeled internationally, walking catwalks wearing Armani, Chanel, Donna Karan, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Isaac Mizrahi, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, and more. She has appeared on the covers of top magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Elle, and Vogue.
Truth-teller About Body Image
Banks frequently speaks out about the excessive pressures on models to be too thin. She faced similar pressures and criticism herself as a young model, but used it as an opportunity to stand up to those who made mean comments about her weight.
After breaking down barriers in the magazine industry, Banks also spent some time as a Victoria Secret angel. She had a long association with The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and wore the much-coveted angel wings. Reportedly the show rejected her offer of a walk-on in 2015, leading to a rift between the two.
The Tyra Banks TZONE foundation benefits girls and young women to help them achieve their dreams.
Producer and Host of America’s Next Top Model
Who hasn’t binge-watched an entire Saturday of ANTM? The popular reality TV show and modeling competition lasted for 22 seasons and spawned sister shows in other countries, largely thanks to its charismatic and knowledgeable host.
Drawing on her years as a supermodel, Tyra Banks engineered many dramatic makeovers on America’s Next Top Model. While some were better than others, Banks is responsible for a few of the most iconic looks in fashion today.
While she’s famous for being in front of the camera, the former model often got behind the camera to capture the young ANTM models in action. It was her coaching that helped many of the new models find their footing.
Advocate for a Wider Definition of Beauty
With so much of her career affected by her race, Banks naturally has some opinions on beauty and race in modeling: “I think it had to do with my coloring and the fact that my eyes were green and my hair is sandy and my skin is caramel-colored. And I look at who society puts on a pedestal when it comes to black beauty, and a lot of the times it’s a biracial girl, or a girl that does have lighter skin. I have made it one of the missions of my life to redefine and to open up the small box of what beautiful is.”
Daytime Talk Show Host
Taking advantage of every opportnity afforded to her, Tyra also was the host and producer of her own daytime talk show. The Tyra Banks Show lasted five seasons and won two Emmys for outstanding informative talk show.
Executive Producer of FABLife
After The Tyra Banks Show ended in 2010, the former model returned to daytime TV with the short-lived panel talk show FABLife. Tyra left the show after only three months to devote more time to her cosmetics company, TYRA Beauty.
Her multimedia company Bankable Enterprises produces TV and movie projects—like her own Tyra Banks Show and FABLife. But they recently launched a book partnership with Random House to create and release Tyra’s novel Modelland.
CEO of TYRA Beauty
Designed to recruit young women as “BeautyTainers” or direct makeup salespeople—like AVON or Mary Kay—TYRA Beauty is Banks’s first foray into the makeup industry. The company has recently come under fire, however, for the minimal opportunities to make money in the program.
Between Bankable Enterprises, TYRA Beauty and a variety of other income sources, Tyra’s net worth is approximately $90 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
After meeting on the set of Norway’s Next Top Model more than two years ago, Banks started a relationship with handsome Norwegian photographer Erik Asla. The two seem happier than ever; she captioned this Instagram post, “Everyone deserves to be loved like this.”
Despite infertility struggles, Tyra’s desire to have a family has never waned. In January 2016, she announced on Instagram that she and boyfriend Erik Asla had welcomed baby boy York Banks Asla with the help of a gestational surrogate.
Even as a new mom, Tyra’s work never seems to slow. Her recent projects include reality TV show Celebrity Apprentice with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In a recent tweet, she confirmed that the Life-Size movie sequel is underway, too.
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