The Transformation Of Tyra Banks From Childhood To 48

The '90s brought us many iconic things: Beanie Babies, "Friends," and Google, just to name a few. But it also brought us Tyra Banks, and for that, we must remain forever grateful. Though Banks was born in the 1970s, her career exploded in the 1990s, and the runway, magazine covers, and reality television haven't been the same since. 

Banks changed the modeling industry simply by being herself. Clearly beautiful and talented, the model carved her own niche and made space for herself that hadn't been there prior. Her bold personality and strong work ethic made her unafraid to go for what she wanted, despite having to break barriers along the way. 

Banks is now known for much more than just her modeling credits, and has paved the way for others to make their own history. "[Young] girls everywhere [are] going to look at that and go, 'Wow, Tyra kind of looks like me. And they put me on that cover. Maybe that means that I'm beautiful,'" she told Sports Illustrated Swimsuit of the impact she knew she was about to have. After over 30 years in the industry, she's undoubtedly made an impact by staying true to herself and lifting up others. This is the transformation of Tyra Banks.

Tyra Banks thrived as a child

Tyra Banks grew up in Inglewood, California. The daughter of a computer consultant and medical photographer, her parents divorced when Banks was just six years old, per Biography, however, she believes she was too young for the divorce to affect her, and still thrived in school as a young girl.

Much of Banks's career, and many of her habits, stem from her life as a child. Banks developed healthy patterns like exercising and abstaining from smoking as a young girl, but she also developed what she characterizes as an unhealthy love for food.

Banks also discovered some of her heroes as a young girl. "When I was growing up there was a news anchor. Her name was Angela Black; she is this beautiful African American woman. And I was just obsessed with her, seeing this black woman in this prominent position," she told the Los Angeles Times when asked whom she admired while growing up. "For me [Angela Black showed me] that anything is possible."

She had great success early in her career

As a teenager, Tyra Banks went through a bit of an awkward stage, as most teens do, and it caused some intense bullying at school. Banks went from having lots of friends to being ridiculed for her tall and gangly figure, according to Biography.

But Banks had her eyes set on her goals, and she didn't let the opinions of others deter her. By age 17, Banks had signed a contract with Elite Model Management and was soon found on high fashion runways all over the world. Banks moved to Paris to find work, and in 1991 she booked 25 runway shows. "My runway walk with something extra special. There was a lot of sass, often times too much for some designers' tastes, but in the end, it did set me way apart," she told The Cut of her quick success.

Though she found success on the runway, it was short-lived due to the modeling industry's rigid weight standards. Tyra Banks had started gaining weight, and she lost work, forcing her to return to the United States to begin modeling in swimsuits in lingerie, as that avenue was more accepting of different body types. But in 1993, Banks struck gold and signed a contract with CoverGirl cosmetics, cementing her status as a bona fide supermodel.

1997 was a big year for Tyra Banks

In 1997, even more magic happened for Tyra Banks when she was the first Black woman to appear solo on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Banks had been on the cover the year prior, but she was photographed with another model, Valeria Mazza, making her 1997 cover more surprising and special. "This was something that I never thought would ever happen, at least not to me. To be a Black woman on the cover of a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, this is Americana. This is not about color, it's just about being a female," she told the magazine of her monumental feat.

Banks's success didn't stop with Sports Illustrated. That same year Banks became a Victoria's Secret Angel. Though the lingerie brand has since then come under fire, at this time it was the premiere brand to work for. Being named a Victoria's Secret Angel was high praise for a model, and appearing in the fashion show was an honor. Banks was further honored by wearing the special Fantasy Bra, once in 1997 and again in 2004.

Victoria's Secret almost wasn't in the cards for the model, though. The first time she auditioned, the hairstylist ruined Banks's chances. "The hairdresser did not know what to do with my hair ...  And I got on the set, and they sent me home because my hair looked bad," she told Yahoo!.

She dove into acting

Tyra Banks had always planned to take over every industry, not just modeling. In 1994, the model officially turned into an actor when she landed her first gig on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." "I love performing. I love it to death," she told E! in an interview about her career.

In between her busy modeling schedule, Banks found time to act in various television shows and movies, and her acting career hit its peak in the early 2000s when she starred in movies like "Coyote Ugly," "Love & Basketball," and the cult classic "Life-Size," in which she starred as a doll-come-to-life alongside Lindsay Lohan.

Banks has also starred in a variety of music videos, like "Stand Up" by Ludacris, "Too Funky" by George Michael, and "Black or White" by Michael Jackson. Some of her later acting credits include one-episode roles in "Gossip Girl," "Glee," and "Insecure," as well as a cameo in "Hannah Montana: The Movie."

Tyra Banks changed reality TV

In 2003 Tyra Banks started a revolutionary reality competition show called "America's Next Top Model," in which she and her crew of judges searched for supermodels. Banks used the opportunity to find models who didn't necessarily fit the mold.

"Being black and being curvy made me empathize with people who didn't fit the cookie cutter. Whether it's the girl with alabaster skin and red, frizzy hair with freckles all over her face to a girl with Ebony's skin and close-cropped hair and features she didn't feel were considered beautiful in society ... I was using them as a vessel to tell millions of girls around the world who looked like them that they were beautiful," she told Entertainment Weekly about her goal with the show.

"America's Next Top Model" was instantly popular, and to this day is referenced in pop culture, particularly moments like when Banks yelled her infamous quote, "We were all rooting for you!" Fans have pointed out some of the more problematic moments of the show, too, which Banks has addressed, but nevertheless, the show created space for diversity in the modeling industry, just as Banks intended.

She hosted her own talk show

In 2005 Tyra Banks took her career to daytime television. "The Tyra Banks Show" was similar in format to most daytime talk shows. Banks spoke to the audience and interviewed celebrities, but she also did bizarre things on television, like teaching her audience how to burp and pretending she had rabies.

Banks also gained notoriety on her show by walking on stage in the same swimsuit she had recently been photographed in. A paparazzi photo showed her in an unflattering light, and Banks addressed it, noting that if she "had lower self-esteem, I would probably be starving myself right now." Banks noted that body image is an issue for many women across the world and sent a message to anyone who had a problem with it by yelling, "Kiss my fat a**!"

In addition to her appearances on television, Banks is working behind the scenes through her production company, Bankable Productions. The model acts as president and is responsible for producing both "America's Next Top Model" and "The Tyra Banks Show." In 2020 it was revealed that Bankable Productions had signed a deal with ABC Signature to create both scripted and unscripted shows, which hopefully means more bizarre moments and iconic memes from the model.

Tyra Banks went to Harvard

Always wanting to learn and improve, Tyra Banks headed back to school in 2012. Well, sort of. Banks completed the nine-week Owner/President Management program at Harvard Business School, per The Washington Post. Banks came under fire for calling herself a Harvard graduate, but nonetheless, she left the campus with a diploma, just not a degree.

Still, Tyra Banks's success in business and personal branding is apparent, and in 2016 she was asked by Stanford to teach an M.B.A. course. "I love teaching; I think it's something that I really want to focus on when I do a bit of retiring from that entertainment, at least, on camera .... It's one of the most gratifying and actually fun things that I do," she told the Los Angeles Times.

If that wasn't enough to keep her busy, Banks also launched her own beauty line, Tyra Beauty, and in 2016 she added skincare products to her product line. Banks dedicated herself to selling good products, particularly her skincare. "For years, me and my crew have worked with scientists and developers, testing, tweaking, and fine-tuning these products to bring you a new kind of skincare," her website read, via Marie Claire. In 2017, Tyra Beauty became available exclusively through digital sales, per Direct Selling News, whereas it had previously been sold through direct sales, like Mary Kay or Avon. These days, though, it's rather hard to find.

She became a mother

After conquering modeling and television, Tyra Banks switched her focus from her career to her personal life. The model began dating Norwegian photographer Eric Asla in 2013, and in 2016, the two had a son via surrogate, York Banks Asla. Banks had long wanted a child, but due to the demands of her career and infertility, she struggled to get pregnant. "We are so excited for our new baby boy bundle of joy. The journey to now has not been an easy process, as I've shared before. But there was a beautiful bright light at the end of the tunnel for me and his father, Erik," she told People after her son's birth.

These days Banks is very reticent to show her child publicly, and he is rarely photographed. "I'm very protective of my personal life. So if you look at my social media, you don't see my child. I know my followers would quadruple if I posted pictures of him, but I don't want to use my child for my career," she told The Guardian of her choice to remain more private.

Banks is also private with her relationship, and in 2017, shortly after welcoming their son, she and Asla split, per People. The split was amicable, and the two still worked together professionally soon after their breakup.

Tyra Banks has had plastic surgery

At this point, it's probably harder to find a celebrity who hasn't had plastic surgery than one who has. The list of famous people who have gone under the knife is ever growing, as is the list of those who are sharing their experiences.

Tyra Banks opened up about her experience in her memoir "Perfect is Boring." The star got a nose job when she was younger, and noted that although she didn't need corrective surgery in order to breathe, she wanted to make her nose look better while she was being operated on for other reasons. "Fix it or flaunt it – I think women should be able to do both ... You want a hair weave? Fine. You want permanent eyebrows? Fine. We as women need to stop judging," she told People magazine.

Banks also revealed that if she could, she wouldn't stop at her nose. Cellulite is an insecurity of the model's and if there were a procedure to remove it, she would do so. "When I walked down the Victoria's Secret runway, I always covered up my butt ... I was covering up my cellulite. Thank you Victoria's Secret for working with me, they knew where I was doing it," she shared with People.

She sometimes goes makeup-free

With her plastic surgery, and years of modeling at the highest level, Tyra Banks has gained some confidence — enough for the model to go makeup-free every now and then. Banks has been very open about appearing sans makeup, and she has even become famous for her "no makeup-makeup look."

Though the model has shared her secrets, she's still been criticized in the press for her appearance. Banks doesn't seem to mind the criticism, though, and even took to Instagram to show herself without makeup, saying, "This morn, I decided to give you a taste of the really real me. I wanted to smooth out my dark circles so badly!!! But I was like, 'Naw, Ty. Show 'em the REAL you.' ... Maybe you're thinking, 'Whoa, she looks ROUGH.' And if you are, great! You deserve to see the REAL me."

Though she's confident showing herself bare-faced, Banks is still a fan of full glam and has no problem wearing makeup when she wants. "As a model, I needed makeup. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. It leveled my playing field. Gisele, you don't need it? I do! And we're both modeling for Victoria's Secret," she told People.

She's an expert host

Tyra Banks has been just as busy in the latter half of her career as she was in the first. In 2017, she returned to the hosting world, this time for "America's Got Talent," and again in 2020 as host of "Dancing With the Stars," which she will now be hosting with her former fellow "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" actor Afonso Ribeiro.

Banks also made history by returning to modeling to pose for the cover of the 2019 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. "Tyra Banks is the epitome of what we hope for all the women who are a part of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. What she has achieved so far in her career is extraordinary ... She has refused to be singularly defined and is constantly working to inspire everyone within her reach," editor MJ Day said of the model. "Being the first Black woman on the cover, I didn't dream it because I never thought it was possible. And almost like this, I never thought it would be possible. I'm 45 years old on the cover of this magazine again," she gushed.

It seems that Banks won't be going anywhere. She is still modeling occasionally, and in 2022 joined three other supermodels — Heidi Klum, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Candice Swanepoel- for a Skims campaign with Kim Kardashian, a fellow Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover model.

Tyra Banks is super rich

All of Tyra Banks's business ventures have paid off, and she is now one of the richest supermodels in the world. Per Celebrity Net Worth, the model has an estimated $90 million, and she only continues to make returns on her investments. In late 2021, the model sold her Los Angeles home for $7.895 million, which, according to Los Angeles Times, is $900,000 more than she paid for it in 2018. Not a bad profit.

Banks gives back, too, and she has since the beginning of her career. "A lot of times I feel really guilty because ... I'll be making all of this money ... I have a lot of guilt when it comes to that, so I try to give to charities," she shared in an interview with E! decades ago.

One of those charities is one that she formed called the Tzone foundation which works to support females of all ages, particularly of low socioeconomic status. If Banks's career success is any indication, it pays to be yourself.