The business of beauty is considered glamorous by the millions who dream of being a part of it but it can come with great sacrifice. As young girls, one of the first rituals enrolling us into our girlhood is the gift of the baby doll—the symbol of our future womanhood. Eventually, we upgrade to Barbie or ‘adult like’ dolls, which introduces to us a mature woman’s body shape. As an adolescent, this was often the first introduction to the perception of what defines beauty.
Today, we are met with various platforms of media, which present us a spectrum of what defines beauty breaking down what was very narrow. Broadening the perception and scope of beauty is in part due to a young African American woman from Inglewood, California who fought through her own body perceptions to bring her story to millions of people.
Tyra Banks is known to millions as a trailblazer in the modeling world and an innovator for many young people seeking the American dream. Becoming the first Black model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated and GQ, the first woman of color to become a Victoria’s Secrets Angel and executive producer/ host of CW’s longest-running reality series America’s Next Top Model— a groundbreaking show that has led the way for all the modeling shows that have followed. Her talents are limitless garnering film credits, music projects, authoring books and hosting an Emmy-award winning daytime talk show, “The Tyra Banks Show” which ran for five years, ending in May 2010.
With America’s Next Top Model currently being licensed in over 30 countries, Banks has decided to re-enter the daytime arena with a brand new show called the “Fab Life”. The “Fab Life” premiered Monday September 14 on ABC, featuring a solid co-star panel of familiar and fresh faces including Chrissy Teigen, Joe Zee, Lauren Makk and Leah Ashley.
Banks told the Chicago Defender that it feels good about her latest venture, “The panel shows are doing well–”The Real” is doing well, “The Talk” ratings are climbing and even surpassing “The View,” she said. “I look at that as a student and I study them. What is everyone doing and what are they not doing? In Harvard business school we call that the ‘white space’, the space that is open. I feel that these ‘themed pillars’ that the “Fab Life” offers is not out on daytime television.”
In between her time as executive producer and host of “America’s Next Top Model,” Banks decided that she needed to polish her skills as a top-level executive. The invitation to participate in the Harvard Owner/President Management program, which is a three-week admissions based course that focuses on corporate growth, leadership expertise and financial success was timely.
She said, “Everything that I’ve done with my business and career has been with my instinct and guts. I knew that I couldn’t continue with just gut. I hadn’t told the world why I was at Harvard but it was because I was starting a cosmetics company.”
Unlike other celebrity endorsed beauty lines, Tyra longs to own and operate her new company creating an infrastructure. “For me ownership is super important. I want us to be very successful. If I have to get business partners to invest in the company then I will do that.”
Although, what she learned in the Harvard O/PM program has rejuvenated her ability to look at how she approaches business differently, she continues to credit her mom for laying the foundation for her success.
“My mom was my business manager and my partner. She helped me to strategize and helped me reserve my self-esteem when the agencies were telling me that my butt was too big, my boobs were too big or I was too fat for the runway. She was that person that said, ‘We need to talk about this Ty.’ I said, ‘Okay, I’m on a diet.’ She said, ‘No, we’re going to talk about it over some pizza.’” After recording their new plan on parchment paper in an Italian pizzeria, they returned to New York where they informed their agency to pursue clients that loved the opposite of ‘skinny’ images. Banks never looked back and has always become an advocate for various body shapes and sizes.
Her pride and joy is the TZONE foundation, which she and her mom initially created as a camp. Since its inception, the foundation’s mission is to inspire and cultivate self-esteem in young women with her key pillars to success– Elocution, presentation, entrepreneurship, health and wellness and financial literary. “I want to teach how to be business women, how to how to present and conduct themselves on job interviews.”
The foundation has partnered with the Lower East Side Girl’s Club sharing a 30,000 square feet space and has transitioned to an after-school program catering to New York students daily.
“The girls also learn dance, yoga, cooking and bio labs. Organic gardening, computer retouching, radio station, band are also available – it’s a huge facility. There’s a Project Runway inspired room. You have to go through TZONE to experience all of the other stuff.”
In her role as executive producer and ‘life stylist’ for “Fab Life” Banks say’s, “It’s a unique title,” but one that feels befitting without compartmentalizing her position. She explains, “You have to touch as many senses as you can in order to connect with the audience. I worked really closely with the stage designer. The theme song, is not a talk show jingle – it could be played on the radio.”
With this new chapter in her life, Banks still maintains the grind of producing America’s Next Top Model in its 23rd season, preparing to build a cosmetics dynasty, mentoring young adults and becoming a personality that ABC Networks can ‘bank’ on. She doesn’t take anything for granted and allows herself to relax more. “My weekends are precious. I spend time with my boyfriend and his kids. I love to get a massage, go to the movies, hang out in the house and do absolutely nothing.”