Tyra Banks: Standing in the Spotlight

For Tyra Banks, modeling was a detour on the way to her true calling: making things happen behind the camera. ESSENCE senior writer JEANNINE AMBER chats with the TV titan about building her media empire, her mission to change the Hollywood game

Tyra Banks—she of the thigh-high boots and ever-changing hairstyles—is having a decidedly unglamorous moment. She’s recovering from an upset stomach, the details of which she’ll happily share, and now she’s got a runny nose. So instead of getting dressed for the day, she’s wrapped herself in a chenille bathrobe, white socks and a paisley head scarf, and, ensconced in her home office overlooking Manhattan, has turned on her computer to do a little research.

“Believe it or not,” she says with a laugh, “I was just on Essence.com.” Tyra was looking for more information on December’s cover subjects, actresses Nia Long, Gabrielle Union and Sanaa Lathan because, she says, she’s concerned that the women are receiving unfair treatment in Hollywood. “Sanaa, Nia and Gabrielle are strong, powerful women and they are all very successful in our industry,” Tyra says. “So it really upset me to read about how the money they make doesn’t match up.” In fact, after reading that article, she phoned her mother at 5:30 in the morning and announced, “Ma, I have a new calling.”

Tyra Banks, 34, who shot to fame as the first African-American woman to grace the covers of GQ, Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue and Victoria’s Secret catalogue, is embarking on a new mission—to transform Hollywood by putting Black women front and center. And with a recently inked multiyear development deal with Warner Bros. Entertainment, she’s actually in a position to do just that.

Photo Credit: Matthew Jordan Smith

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