Tyra Lynne Banks (born December 4,
1973) is an American media personality, actress, occasional singer, former
model 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 colleges
such as USC and UCLA for television producing.
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, Dolce & Gabbana, Donna
Karan, Gemma Kahng, H&M, Isaac Mizrahi, Maria Snyder, McDonald's, Aislinn
Dubois Modeling Agency, Michael Kors, Milk, Nicole Miller, Nike, Inc.,
Oscar de la Renta, Pepsi, Perry Ellis, Randy Kemper, Richard Tyler, Rifat
Ozbek, Swatch, Todd Oldham, Tommy Hilfiger, 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 VH1 award 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 2005 Victoria's
Secret Fashion Show.
Aside from modeling, 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.
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
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,
much like the early format of The Oprah Winfrey Show. 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 Lohan in 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:
Banks has confirmed that she will appear in Gossip Girl, in the fourth
episode of the third season, as Ursula Nyquist, a larger-than-life actress
who works with Serena.
Banks has appeared in several music videos, including Michael Jackson's
"Black or White", Tina Turner's "Love Thing", Mobb Deep's "Trife Life" and
George Michael's "Too Funky" (with fellow supermodel Linda Evangelista).
In 2004, she recorded her first single, "Shake Ya Body," which had a music
video featuring the final six contestants on America's Next Top Model,
Cycle 2. The video was world-premiered on UPN, but the single turned out
to be a failure. On America's Next Top Model, Cycle 2 Banks said, "Singing
has been a passion of mine for a long, long time...six years on the down
low - been ducking in and out of studios cutting tracks." Later, on her
talk show, she said, "I can't believe I wasted six years of doing
something that I didn't finish...I was almost able to release my album
T.Y.R.A., but since my music career hit rock bottom, I quit."
Though "Shake Ya Body" was a failure, record producer Rodney Jerkins told
Jet magazine in 2004 that Banks "has what it takes to pull it off...she
had a hungriness to want to be in the studio all the time. Some people
want to be divas in the studio and work for three or four hours. You had
to tell Tyra to stop, or she will keep you going." As for her voice,
Jerkins said, "People will be shocked. She can really sing. She's like
between soprano and high-alto. I challenged her vocally. I pushed her, but
not too far. I pushed her where vocally it fit the track."
Banks released a single with NBA player Kobe Bryant, entitled "K.O.B.E.,"
which was performed on NBA TV. She also has a single on the soundtrack to
Disney Channel's Original Movie Life-Size called "Be A Star." She is
credited with performing the theme song to America's Next Top Model.