Tyra Banks AMA

Tyra Banks AMA
Jan 11, 2018

Curated Questions and Answers from Tyra Banks

(born December 4, 1973) is an American television personality, producer, businesswoman, actress, author, former model and occasional singer. Born in Inglewood, California, she began her career as a model at the age of 15, and was the first African-American woman to be featured on the covers of GQ and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, on which she appeared twice. She was a Victoria's Secret Angel from 1997 to 2005. By the early 2000s, Banks was one of the world's top-earning models.

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Source: Wikipedia

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What’s the biggest beauty mistake you see women making?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

What I don’t like is when women contour with blush. That was cool in the '80's. My mom did it. It’s just fake. Contouring is not about being rosy all the way up into your temples. It really is about playing tricks on the eye. Similar to what a camera and light does. It’s just tricking you. So stop your blush at what I call the "oh really, though?" face.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST1
Are you hoping to attract investors in the future?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST1

We shall see. It depends on our growth rate. We’ve had different consultants say, based on projections and sales, it should be able to fund itself if you don’t pay yourself a salary. And then there are other consultants who say, If you want this to be what we know it could be, you’re going to need some money."

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST1
Has this been in the back of your mind for a long time?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

The front of my mind! I actually went to school for this. Throughout my entire career, once I started to become more known, all these licensing companies would say, “Tyra, we want you to do a cosmetics line. Tyra, we want you to do jeans. Tyra we want you to do bras and panties. You don’t have to do anything! Give us your name, your likeness, here’s an advance check.” And I would constantly say no. I wanted to create a business that’s self-funded, I want to create a legacy business. I don’t want to have business that’s based on celebrity and popularity. I want a business that is built on a true value system and a true mission and vision that can outlive me.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
Are there any makeup techniques that you're intimidated by?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

Top liner! Ugh. There were years and years up until recently when we developed [Oops Liner] when I wouldn’t put it on myself or do it on other people. One line would be higher than the other, or crazy and too thick on the end and I would say, "We’ll just do a smoky eye. Smoke it all up!" So ease of use was really important to me. Being innovative, too. And time is so important. When I was a supermodel, I would sit in a chair for an hour, sometimes two hours, and a makeup artist would transform my face. And as a businesswoman, I don’t have that time now. I have to go to meetings, there’s a personal life, there’s a professional life.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST1
So how do you feel about #Iwokeuplikethis?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST1

I think that’s fine if they want to promote that, but I just hope it’s not making other women that don’t wake up like that feel like crap. And I’m sure it probably does make them feel like crap. I wake up a certain way and I share that sometimes. And it’s interesting because I get all kinds of responses. I tend to get a little bit of, "Dayum, ooh really? It’s really like that?" They get a little confused that that’s what I really am, and I’m not ashamed of it, but at the same time I’m not going to walk around like that. But I will tell the truth.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST1
What did you learn there that you wish you had known 10 years earlier?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

Leadership. I want to be a really strong leader. I look at Walt Disney, Oprah, Richard Branson, and how they lead a team, how they inspire a team, because you can't do it by yourself. And my professor coached us to be vulnerable with our team. He said, Show emotions. If you feel like frigging crying, cry. That stuck. It's about being real.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
You graduated from a program at Harvard Business School in 2012. What made you decide to go?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST1

Tyra Beauty. But I just couldn't tell anybody! I knew that I wanted to have a self-funded company—I'm obsessed with ownership. I want to have the say, not just a say. So I needed to have the tools.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
I think if you walk runways in your underwear, you can probably do anything! But you have been very strategic about your career from the beginning. Where did that come from?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST1

Two weeks before my first day of college, I went to Paris and "got discovered." My mom told me, "If you're not going to college, you need to study for Paris like you'd study for college." So I [found] a fashion library in downtown L.A. I went and read magazines, watched tapes, and learned the top photographers; I was like, Wow, there are big pearls at Chanel, and at Yves Saint Laurent they have hair slicked back in a chignon and red lips. So I went to Paris and put beads on my neck to walk for Karl Lagerfeld, and put on some red lipstick in the alley for Yves Saint Laurent's people. And I booked 25 fashion shows.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
When you accepted your Glamour Woman of the Year award in 2008, you said, "If you have a dream and you knock on that front door and they won't allow you in, go through the back. If the back door is locked, go through the cellar. If that's boarded up, climb your butt through the window." What doors were locked to you?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST1

Oh, so many. There was a door that was locked because I was a young black model and the first six agencies I knocked at said no—I think four of the six said, We already have a black girl. And then once I was successful, designers were like, You're getting too thick, and I figured a way to restrategize my career around that and said, OK, who likes curves? Victoria's Secret, Sports Illustrated. When I wanted to be a television producer, I had a lot of people tell me, Oh, you're a model; you could never do that. You walk runways in your underwear.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST1
It’s no secret that the expectations placed on models, particularly in Paris, demand girls maintain incredibly slender frames. Failure to maintain these standards means talent will be not be considered for the primo high fashion gigs. How did you get the courage to transition towards the commercial side of the business when you knew your body was still developing?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

I didn’t make the conscious decision while on the runway that I wanted to stop and pursue Sport’s Illustrated and Victoria’s Secret. It was the impossible physical expectations that pushed me towards a more commercial trajectory. My body was becoming more womanly, it was a natural thing, and my mother wanted me to feel proud of that, not ashamed. Trying to steer my body away from its natural curviness would have been physically unhealthy so instead I steered my career towards an audience who would identify with it and embrace it. This also drilled home the importance of what my message has been since I was a model, which is expanding the definition of beauty outside of the description of “incredibly slender” being the only thing that equals beautiful.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
Was it hard to stay grounded and present when your schedule became very demanding?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

I was obsessed with keeping in touch with my high school friends. This was before cell phones, and Facebook and Instagram, so I wrote a lot of letters and spent a lot of time on pay phones on Paris street corners to call them. To this day I’m still friends with some of my best friends from Elementary, Jr. High and High School. They definitely kept me grounded.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
What did it feel like when things started cooking? Do you feel like you had a sense of the significance of what was about to unfold?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

My agency didn’t want me to get a big head so they would lie to me and say what I was doing was what other models were doing and it was normal and nothing special. It took a while for me to realize how successful I was.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
What fuelled your determination?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

Once I was a part of the fashion world I wasn’t about to take it lightly. A lot of girls around me wouldn’t pass up a party but I knew that this was a business, and a very fleeting one. I was also one of very few African American models in the fashion world at that time so it was important to present myself well and keep that door open for other models that looked like me.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
I read that in the beginning you had trouble finding representation as a model – what were the some of the roadblocks?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

The major roadblock was the color of my skin. It was difficult being an African American face in the industry. Fortunately, my mother taught me that it wasn’t me, Tyra Banks, the person, being picked apart; they viewed me as a product, so I rarely took it personally. After many agency declines I was signed by L.A. Models and offered an opportunity to go to Paris. On that first trip I was the first and only model to ever book 25 shows during one Fashion Week.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
As a young girl, what attracted you initially to the fashion industry?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

To be honest, I wasn’t attracted to the fashion industry, the fashion industry found me. I was discovered on a school bench the first day of high school by a fellow student. I thought I was far too awkward and gawky to ever be associated with modeling but it was actually those qualities that launched my early career. Once I was in the fashion world and walking the runways of Paris I was attracted to the nuance of the industry; the specific things that certain designers looked for in a model and what aesthetic caught their eye. I tried to be a chameleon and studied up on designers prior to meeting them at “go-sees” (auditioning for modeling jobs) in order to be the fashion muse they were looking to cast.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
How was it reuniting with Justin Henry again?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

Justin was one of the best make-up artists that I worked with when I was a young model in Europe. It was great seeing him again. The one thing I didn’t remember was his Aussie accent so that was a nice plus. He is one of the rare geniuses that can do hair and make-up. To be honest, I wish he lived in NY or LA so I could work with him more often.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
Did you have any nicknames?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

I was Ty Ty. My aunt used to call me light bulb head because my head is small at the bottom and bigger at the top. But it was a term of endearment. Around 17 or 18 years old, my friend's boyfriend started calling me Tweety Bird for the same reason.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
What kind of clique were you in?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

In high school I definitely had a clique of friends. And what I loved about it was that we were healthy and good girls. None of us did drugs, none of us drank alcohol. It was very clean fun. I was in a really positive group of girls that still had fun personalities.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
What was your favorite thing to wear when you were 17?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

Believe it or not, I actually loved my school uniform. It felt really good to not have to think about clothes and just really focus on school and my friends. It was so nice to wake up, wash my face, comb my hair into a pony tail, and go to school.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0

I wanted to be a film and television writer and producer.

Curated Source

Feb 2, 2:29PM EST0