Tyra Banks, international supermodel, actress, TV host, author, and philanthropist, turns the big 4-0 this year. Queen of the Smize, the booty tooch, and modeling H-to-T, Banks sure has a lot to celebrate.
Banks got her modeling start at the age of 15 when she signed with L.A. Models after being rejected from six other agencies. But, her determination paid off. After spending a year learning the ropes in L.A., she switched agencies, joining Elite Model Management and soon whisking off to Europe. During her first runway season in 1991, Banks booked an unprecedented 25 shows and did advertising campaigns for Dolce & Gabanna, Yves Saint Laurent, and Ralph Lauren. She went on to become the first African American woman to cover GQ and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and she walked in the first broadcast of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, reigning as an Angel for ten years.
After winning the Supermodel of the Year award in 1997, Banks tried her hand in acting with a recurring role alongside Will Smith on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She amassed a collection of television credits before starting her own production company, Ty Ty Baby Productions (later renamed Bankable Productions). In 2003, she launched America’s Next Top Model, a reality show aimed to discover fledgling models and make them superstars. The show, about to enter its 21st cycle, is broadcast around the world, with subsequent shows in over a dozen countries including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, the U.K., and Germany. Not content with just a reality show, in 2005, Banks became the host of her own daytime talk show, The Tyra Banks Show, which won two Emmy’s before ending in 2010.
Banks isn't only about on-screen stardom, however. She founded The Tyra Banks TZONE Foundation in 1999, a leadership and empowerment program for girls. And in September 2011, she added "author" to her resume, releasing her first novel, Modelland, about four girls accepted in an exclusive model academy. The book made the New York Times Bestseller list in October of that year.
As Banks prepares to celebrate a milestone year, a look back at her twenty plus career.