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She stars in a television show called America's Next Top Model, where she coaches aspiring models.
Banks was born in Inglewood, California and attended Immaculate Heart High School, an all-girls, independent Catholic private school in Los Angeles. Growing up, Banks was very thin and often teased; she was considered an ugly duckling. In an interview, the model later said that this was a very difficult time for her, as she developed a "very strong self-image problem."
Tyra Banks during a Victoria's Secret fashion show.In 1991, Banks was soon to begin her freshman year at Loyola Marymount University when Elite modeling agency gave the 17-year-old her first modelling job. Prior to this entry into the fashion world, Banks had been rejected several times for modelling assignments. In fact, she states that she did not deem her first job to be the start of a long career in fashion: "An agent saw pictures of me and said that I was the only girl she wanted to take back to Paris […] I didn't leave thinking I was going to be some big fashion model. I just wanted to make money for college."
Consequently, instead of heading to university, Banks went to Paris for fashion shows and soon gained international renown for her work. She has been featured in a variety of magazines, commercials, and billboards. Her modeling credits include CoverGirl, Swatch, Pepsi, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, and Dolce & Gabbana, among many others. After several years, it emerged that Naomi Campbell was not particularly fond of Banks' increasing success, with the British supermodel trying to have Banks excluded from shows for Chanel.
Despite these confrontations, Tyra's career took off: Banks was the first African-American to be featured on the covers of Gentlemen's Quarterly, Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, and the Victoria's Secret catalog. In particular, Tyra is famous for her Victoria's Secret work. In 1997, Tyra won the prestigious Michael Award for Supermodel of the Year. In a time in which some fashion models were described as being too skinny, Banks stood out with a more-voluptuous physique (she is 5' 10˝" tall and her measurements are 34˝-23˝-35˝). Banks had to work hard to persuade fashion designers that her physique was well-suited to the catwalk, and succeeded. "I was proactive [...] I told my agency to call Victoria's Secret, and I told them to call Sports Illustrated [...] I said my body is changing, and seamstresses are calling me grosso in Italian, and I know what the hell that means. And I'm not about to starve."
Banks addressed her physique in an interview with The Sun: "I am totally against plastic surgery. A lot of people think I have breast implants because I have the biggest boobs in the business. But I was a 34C when I was 17… They stay up when I wear a push-up bra. But if people could see me when I come home and take off my bra, how could they think these are fake?"  In fact, Tyra has been known for being proud of her body, as the following comment about her breasts and her posterior show: "Some models are quite flat-chested so they can run around without bouncing. I can't […] Black women don't have the same body image problems as white women. They are proud of their bodies. Black men love big butts." In fact, Banks has made a point of shaking with her posterior, while walking down the runway, particularly during Victoria's Secret fashion shows. This has been commented upon by fans of the supermodel, as well as Banks herself.
Despite her tremendous success as a supermodel, Banks began venturing from modelling to becoming a media personality. She is the host, chief judge, and executive producer (with Ken Mok) of the UPN television show America's Next Top Model. With rising ratings, the show has become very popular, as viewers cheer for their favorite model contestant during the weekly rounds involving "Big Brother"-style elimination of candidates. Banks has also been working on a musical career. In season two of America's Next Top Model the contestants danced in her first music video.
Since then, she has been in the studio working with experienced record producers such as Darkchild; her next single will be called "Baby". She also acts as the patron for TZONE, a leadership programme for young girls that according to the organisation, "reinforces core values of trust and support, challenges teen girls to resist negative social pressures, and enhances self-empowerment—inspiring girls to become confident leaders in their communities." She has also established the Tyra Banks Scholarship, a fund aimed at providing African-American girls the opportunity to attend her alma mater, Immaculate Heart High School.
Regarding her personal life, not much is known. Banks has had a number of high-profile relationships with director John Singleton and, later on, Seal (who married Banks' colleague Heidi Klum in 2005). Banks has expressed her preference for a relationship with a "normal guy" in order to escape the pressures of being together with another well-known celebrity (and the media scrutiny that comes with it). Her personal wealth is estimated to be at US$8.8 million, making her one of the five richest supermodels at this time.
Banks has had recurring roles on The
Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Felicity.
Banks is the host, chief judge, and executive producer (with Ken Mok) of the UPN television show America's Next Top Model. With rising ratings since its 2003 premiere, the show has become a hit.
She has a new daytime talk show that premiered in fall 2005 called The Tyra Banks Show. The show features stories about everyday people mixed in with celebrity interviews, much like Oprah Winfrey's early years, to which her show is already being compared.
Under the slogan "Every woman has a story," Banks is currently promoting her show - also by resorting to emotional flashbacks to her own childhood and adolescence. The show premiered on September 12, 2005, in the U.S. television market. On an episode in the show's first month, Banks underwent a sonogram to prove that her breasts are not fake. 
On her talk show in November 2005, Banks went undercover as a 350-pound woman to show people the ugly side of weight discrimination. Banks says that the reaction she got from people on the street as well as from three "blind dates" she was set up with made the experience "one of the most heartbreaking days of her life".
In music, Banks has appeared in Michael Jackson's "Black or White" video when Glen Chin morphs into her, and with fellow supermodel Linda Evangelista in George Michael's "Too Funky" video. In 2005, she also recorded her first single, "Shake Ya Body," featuring basketball star Kobe Bryant; however, it has not resonated well with the buying public so far.
This Tyra Banks Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub