Tyra Lynne Banks (born December 4, 1973) is an American model, media personality, comedienne, actress, occasional singer, and businesswoman. She first became famous as a model in Paris, Milan, London, Tokyo, and New York, but television appearances were her commercial breakthrough. Banks is the creator and host of the UPN/The CW reality television show America’s Next Top Model, co-creator of True Beauty, and host of her own talk show, The Tyra Banks Show.
In 2009, she was honored by Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) with the Excellence in Media Award.
Tyra Banks was born in Inglewood, California, the daughter of Carolyn (née London), a fashion manager and NASA photographer, and Donald Banks, a computer consultant. The couple divorced in 1980, when Banks was 6 years old. However, the relationship between her parents, and between her and her brother Devin Banks (born 1968), stayed friendly. Later, Carolyn married Clifford Johnson; she now goes by Carolyn London-Johnson. Banks attended John Burroughs Middle School and graduated in 1991 from Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles. She was accepted by USC and UCLA but declined to attend, instead pursuing a career in modeling.
Banks began modeling in the 11th grade. She later went to Paris, France to do some runway modeling. Within Banks’ first week in Paris, designers were so entranced by her presence on the runway that she was booked for an unprecedented twenty-five shows – a record in the business for a newcomer. She has done extensive print and/or runway work for fashion/advertising giants, such as Anna Sui,Coors Light, CoverGirl, Badgley Mischka, Bill Blass, Cynthia Rowley, Chanel, Christian Dior, Victoria’s Secret, and Yves Saint Laurent. She has appeared on the covers of high-fashion magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and Elle.
Banks was the first African American woman on the covers of GQ and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. In 1997, she received the VH1award for Supermodel of the Year. That same year, she became the first-ever African American chosen for the cover of the Victoria’s Secret catalog.
Banks retired from modeling in May 2005 to concentrate on her television career. She walked the runway for the final time at the 2005Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
In 1998, Banks authored a book entitled Tyra’s Beauty, Inside and Out. The book was advertised as a resource for helping women to make the most out of their natural beauty.
In 2010, Banks re-signed with her former modeling agency IMG Models.
Move into television and film
Banks’s television career began on the fourth season of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, in which she played lead character Will Smith’s old friend Jackie Ames. She made seven appearances in the series. Other TV credits include Felicity, MADtv, Nick Cannon’s Wild ‘n Out (in which she was featured as a special guest host and team captain) and The Price Is Right (guest-starring as a “Barker’s Beauty”). She also appeared as a guest in the animated talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast in an episode entitled “Chinatown.”
Tyra Banks has also started her own production company Bankable Productions, which produced The Tyra Banks Show, America’s Next Top Model, and the 2008 movie The Clique.
Currently, Banks can be seen on television as the hostess, judge and executive producer of The CW Television Network show America’s Next Top Model. In addition, she hosts The Tyra Banks Show, a daytime talk show aimed at younger women, which premiered on September 12, 2005. The show features stories about everyday people mixed in with celebrity interviews. Under the slogan “Every woman has a story…and it happened to Tyra too,” Banks promotes her show using emotional flashbacks to her own childhood and adolescence. Many of the episodes deal with issues facing women today. Banks and other experts give women advice on fashion, relationships and more. The first two seasons of the show were recorded in Banks’ hometown of Los Angeles but, beginning with the fall 2007 season, the show moved to New York City.
In 2008, Banks won the Daytime Emmy Award for her work and production on The Tyra Banks Show.
In late-January 2008, Banks got the go-ahead from The CW Television Network to start work on a new reality television series based on fashion magazines called Stylista. The show premiered on October 22, 2008.
Banks’s first big screen role came in 1994, when she co-starred in the drama Higher Learning. She went on to co-star with Lindsay Lohanin the Disney film Life-Size, playing a doll named Eve who comes to life and has to learn how to live in the real world. Other notable roles include Love Stinks (1999), Love & Basketball (2000), Coyote Ugly (2000) and Halloween: Resurrection (2002). She and Miley Cyrus poke fun at the excesses of the Hollywood lifestyle with a battle over a pair of shoes in Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009).
Banks appeared in the fourth episode of the third season of Gossip Girl playing Ursula Nyquist, a larger-than-life actress who works with Serena.
– I love so much Tyra! 🙂