How Tyra Banks Turned A Career In Beauty Into A Brand Of Feminism


It’s no secret that Tyra Banks is more than just one of the biggest and most badass supermodels in the world (remember that time she told the tabloid media to kiss her fat ass live on TV?). But along with her unique brand of badass-ery which includes her own vocabulary (“smize” anyone?) comes immense pressure to be a role model for today’s generation of women.

When we talk about feminism, which we often do here at GTHQ, we don’t often talk about it in a fashion setting per say, unless it is outlining why Karl Lagerfeld’s “feminist protest”at Paris Fashion Week completely missed the mark. But over the past couple of decades Tyra Banks has cemented herself as a prominent feminist figure in the industry for a number of reasons.

In an interview with Yahoo Beauty, the entrepreneur and TV producer spoke about why her career played an important role in how she sees feminism today. If the movement is all about the social, political and economic equality of the sexes, then her life basically embodies that definition.

Yahoo points out she was the first black Victoria’s secret Angel, and the first African-American to cover Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit edition.


Aside from modeling, she has her own successful TV show ‘America’s Next Top Model’ which has been making headlines with its 21st season and is also one of the longest running reality shows on broadcast television, launched her own ‘Smize’ app in 2012, went to Harvard Business School and enrolled in the Owner/President Management Program, had her own talk show between 2005 and 2010, and in 2015 will return back on our TV screens for a new talk show aimed at women.

“The fire to inspire women and help them to blaze new paths fiercely burns inside of me,” Ms. Banks said in a statement.

But that’s not all, she has also just launched her own range of beauty products called Tyra Beauty which is all part of her female domination plan. The coolest thing about this line is how it came about. After learning all she could (or that her busy schedule permitted) at Harvard, she decided to use her own seed money to create her brand.

“It was important for me to create a brand that wasn’t a licensing deal, but a true self-funded startup. Something that could be a legacy business, not something that would be hot for a moment and then go away,” she said.

“Everything is saturated today. But I’ve always been about zagging when everyone else is zigging. I hate ‘me-too’. So I became obsessed with innovation—with being unique, first, and different.”

That’s kinda been the Tyra Banks signature from day one, and we’re quite sure it has inspired millions of her fans around the world to follow suit.


One thing you won’t find in the line just yet is concealer or foundation, and for a good reason.

“On photo shoots, when I was a young model, they didn’t have my color, and I said, ‘That’s not going to happen with my project’.”

Until she has the money and magic formula to create a line that caters to literally every shade of skin that exists, she doesn’t think she will do it justice just yet.

Tyra was asked about her thoughts on feminism, and her response gives a little glimpse as to why she has always been outspoken about diversity, body image and female empowerment.

“I do consider myself a feminist, yeah. Even when I was a model with my bra and panties on for a Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Sure, I was stompin’, and I know guys were like, ‘Woo, look at Tyra.’ But I know that my body being thicker on that runway meant something. A lot of the things I did in my modeling career as a woman of color was part of that feminism—of expanding the definition of beauty and making women feel beautiful, no matter what color their skin is.”

And if you think her beauty line has nothing to do with her feminist ideals, you’d be wrong.

“Right now, with women in power, and not apologizing for being strong or wanting to make money or to be on top, that’s my message—and that’s all feminism. I just feel like you should be able to have a fierce face at the same time.”


In another interview with Fast Company, she talks about her unique model of distribution, which will be akin to that of Avon (with personal door-to-door salespeople as opposed to a brick-and-mortar store) because she believes in creating a culture around her product, not just selling something that will make her rich.

She has a different perspective on makeup than most of us. While we are huge advocates of natural beauty and embracing the skin you’re in, Tyra says makeup can be a great equalizer, and that is empowering.

“Natural beauty is unfair. I would have never been a supermodel were it not for makeup. Makeup truly transforms me and the more I put on, the more I look like a supermodel, to be honest. And so I look at makeup as the great equalizer. You don’t have to necessarily be born a certain way; you paint it on and you can compete in whatever way we deem to be necessary.”

With comments like this, it is no wonder she sold more bra’s than any of the other Victoria’s Secret models during her angel days, and she was a whole 30 pounds heavier than the rest. Her whole career has been based on operating outside the boundary lines, “zigging while everyone else is zagging” as she says, and it is something worth taking a closer look at.

Sure she has the fame, money and status to do whatever the heck she wants, but she started out as an ordinary LA girl who had a dream and worked hard to make it happen. Tyra Banks ain’t just fierce, she’s a fierce feminist!






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  1. Pingback: Brands Promoting Body Diversity In Response To Victoria's Secret "Perfect Body" Campaign

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