Written by Debbie Hall / Photography by Kate Gilbert
Tyra Banks has certainly demonstrated that she not only creates opportunities, but also is a force in business and entertainment. When she began her career as a supermodel over 25 years ago, Banks was the first African American woman on the covers of GQ and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (twice). She was a Victoria’s Secret Angel and at the peak of this career, Banks was one of the top-earning models. While many of her modeling contemporaries either retired or rely on past accomplishments, Banks reinvents herself, takes risks and remains relevant.
There is “America’s Next Top Model,” one of the most successful and longest-running fashion reality TV series that she produces and, until recently, hosted. Banks also produced and hosted other talk shows as well as become an author, actress and singer.
In 2014, Banks founded the cosmetics brand Tyra Beauty, for which she completed a non-degree certificate program at Harvard Business School specifically to manage the business. Tyra Beauty uses a multi-level marketing system to recruit sales distributors, known as “beautytainers.” A totally self-funded startup, her dream is to create a legacy brand that gives everyone access to become an entrepreneur.
In the summer at The Venetian, she hosted the Tyra Beauty LIVE + Model Search 2016 with “America’s Next Top Model” winner Nyle DiMarco to discover the new faces of the 2017 Tyra Beauty campaign. In partnership with L.A. Models, the modeling agency that helped launch Banks’ career, they cast women of diversity of all heights, shapes, sizes and ages. In fact, two women were signed by the agency that night for other gigs. Banks admitted she is obsessed with Las Vegas because she loves things that are created by man and felt that Las Vegas was the most immersive experience to share with others.
Banks decided to create these opportunities for herself and others while on tour promoting her book about makeup, hair, eating healthy, working out and positive body image. “One girl came up to me during a book signing and asked how to cover up a black eye from when she was hit by her boyfriend,” Banks explained. “She acted like it was nothing. This was happening constantly so I created my foundation.” Tyra Banks TZONE launched TZONE camps in 1999 that consisted of a self-esteem building program that addressed battling gender stereotypes, elevating body and beauty love, and creating an atmosphere of trust led in a non-traditional, immersive and entertaining format. The foundation (tzonefoundation.org) has since expanded nationally.
Her mother is her inspiration as well for both her strength and grace. Banks witnessed the lack of choices her mother had and Banks decided to develop options for her own life as well as for other women. It was also why Banks chose to start a business that was very hands-on.
“Originally I was just going to offer products in retail outlets but my business mentor introduce me to social selling so women can become their own bosses,” Banks said. “So that is the direction of my business.”
Banks continues to demonstrate fierceness and a desire to make a difference. For more information, visit tyra.com.