Tyra Banks is no stranger to breaking boundaries – in 1996 she became the first black supermodel to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition, and now she’s back at the age of 45.
The world-renowned supermodel is one of three cover girls for this prestigious issue – which the likes of Beyoncé, Elle Macpherson, and Chrissy Teigen have all appeared on.
Banks started modelling when she was a teenager, walking in shows for all the big names, including Chanel and Dior. She went on to become a fully fledged mogul thanks to America’s Next Top Model and her talk show, The Tyra Banks Show – and it’s here we really got to see her personality.
On these shows, Banks really started to take on the role of teacher – and these are some of the main lessons we’ve learned from her…
1. It’s all about the ‘smize’….
Even if you’ve never been an avid watcher of America’s Next Top Model, it’s hard to escape the show’s power. It’s had 24 seasons, with Banks hosting all but one of them. The show’s set-up is simple: a group of aspiring models battle it out to be crowned America’s Next Top Model in a series of photoshoots and fashion challenges, with one contestant eliminated every week.
Perhaps the biggest thing rookie models could learn from Banks is how to ‘smize’. This is smiling with your eyes, but don’t be under any illusions – it’s no easy feat, and something many models struggle to nail. It’s how you bring personality and life into photographs, while still being ‘fierce’ (as Banks would say).
2. Anything can be made fashion….
Banks is all about knowing your angles, and learning how to work them. Her main thing was making things high fashion – one pose might look ‘hoochy’, but a small adjustment will make it editorial.
Let’s face it, not many of us are actually posing for professional photographers, but still – this knowledge sticks with you.
3. Fashion is about facing your fears…
If you’ve seen ANTM you’ll know the contestants are made to do some pretty extreme things. Whether it’s posing for the camera while on a moving rollercoaster, or walking in a giant bubble on water, the show’s producers really came up with some unusual ideas.
Almost every season there was an inevitable photoshoot with a wild animal (like a bird or snake) which a contestant was terrified of, making for a truly victorious storyline when they did manage to successfully pose with a viper around their neck.
The lesson? Fashion is all about facing your fears, and you won’t get anywhere without taking a few risks. Not to put too philosophical a point on it, but could Banks’ modelling lessons be applied to life more broadly as well?
4. Create a personal brand….
With her various TV shows, books, non-profit organisations, and beauty products, Banks has managed to build herself an empire. She’s done so by carving out a very distinct personal brand.
Knowing who you are and what story you present to the world is something Banks constantly talks about, and is how she’s become such a prominent public figure and businesswoman. In fact, she’s even become a case study in personal branding and marketing, published by Harvard Business.
5. Believe in yourself…
The modelling industry isn’t particularly diverse in terms of age or race, so Banks’ Sports Illustrated cover is a refreshing thing to see. Even if you don’t look like Banks or know how to work the camera like her, her words are inspiring alone.
She writes on Instagram: "This is for everybody that has been told that they are not good enough because of their body, their age, their everything."
In a video for Sports Illustrated she talks about her journey, saying: "Being the first black woman on the cover, I didn’t dream it because I never thought it would be possible – and almost like this, I never thought it’d be possible, I’m 45 years old and on the cover of this magazine again."
And yes, even supermodels get nervous – Banks talks about how she didn’t know how it would go down, but "after the first shot I was like, ‘I got this’," she says.
Don’t know how to smize or pose like a top model? Banks still wants you to know: "You ARE friggin’ fierce no matter what anybody says!"