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Tyra Banks Biography and Background

Who is Tyra Banks and what is she all about?

line Tyra Banks Most models are thought of as mute objects of beauty. We're used to them being seen and not heard. But in a few short years, starting with her highly-rated show America's Next Top Model, the feisty former supermodel Tyra Banks turned that notion on its head. Once a favorite of fashion designers and beauty magazine editors, the notoriously outspoken Tyra has become a whole lot more. To some she's an egomaniac and a favorite punchline for pop culture jokesters, to others she is a no-nonsense role model who uses her TV show as a platform to help and inspire her fans. No matter what anyone thinks of Tyra, there is no doubt that she's a savvy businesswoman who has made the transition from fashion icon to media queen with terrific success.


Born in California, Tyra Banks was still in high school when she began modeling, and in no time she was the toast of the high fashion world, sashaying down runways from New York to Paris to Tokyo. The designers that Tyra has modeled for are a virtual Who's Who of the fashion industry, among them Chanel, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, Perry Ellis, and Tommy Hilfiger. She has appeared on the covers of all the major fashion magazines, including Vogue, Cosmo, Elle, and Harper's Bazaar. And although today nobody blinks when they see an African-American model on a magazine cover, a lot of that is due to Tyra Banks, who broke barriers by being the first black model to feature on the cover of such magazines as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and the Victoria's Secret catalog. In 2005, after deciding that she was ready to fully commit to a new phase in her life, Tyra officially concluded her modeling career by walking down the runaway for Victoria's Secret one last time.


Very soon after Tyra Banks established herself as a top model throughout the world, she started working on her acting career, beginning with a recurring role on the Will Smith sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It pretty much went downhill from there, with guest shots on other TV shows like Felicity and New York Undercover, supporting roles in forgettable films, or small cameos in bigger features. Since 2004, Tyra has appeared in little else but the Hannah Montana movie, which would seem to indicate that she is no longer pursuing legitimate acting work. But for someone who clearly relishes the spotlight as much as Tyra, it seems unlikely that she will ever formally give up that pursuit. Tyra Banks


Rather than fading into the background like so many models with failed acting careers, Tyra Banks found an unexpected way to catapult herself back into the public view. America's Next Top Model - created, co-produced, judged, and hosted by Tyra Banks - became a runaway hit for the UPN network (now The CW) when it debuted in 2003. It is very much Tyra's show, and she's not afraid to show it, frequently making herself a major part of the contest, in which modeling hopefuls vie to win the coveted title of "America's Next Top Model". Although the show has yet to actually produce a bona fide supermodel, it has produced dozens of versions of itself in countries around the globe.

But Tyra Banks hasn't stopped with America's Next Top Model. In 2005, she started her own talk show, The Tyra Banks Show, which has also been a huge success, winning a Daytime Emmy, garnering a massive fan base of young women, and even seeing such distinguished guests as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the lead-up to the 2008 Presidential election. Tyra often uses her talk show, which moved from Los Angeles to New York City in 2007, to cross-promote America's Next Top Model by having the aspiring models on it, but the show's special focus is on contemporary women's issues, from family problems and relationships to health and social issues. Most notably, Tyra has done major stunts, like going undercover dresses as a man, or dressing up in a fat suit and recording people's reactions to her to examine how society treats overweight people. Tyra herself faced criticism from the tabloids when she put on some weight, and she famously used her TV show to respond to those critics by screaming "You can kiss my fat ass!"

While still doing both her daytime talk show and her primetime hit America's Next Top Model, Tyra has already followed up with more fashion-oriented reality shows. She is a co-producer on True Beauty, which judges modeling hopefuls on both their looks and their inner beauty, and she is executive producer of Stylista, a Devil Wears Prada type reality show where contestants fight to win a position as fashion editor at Elle magazine. Having created her own company Bankable Productions in 2003, Tyra Banks is sure to churn out many more shows - and to continue making herself a super mogul to be reckoned with.