Tyra Banks and her mother Carolyn London outline the difficult journey to success in their book Perfect is Boring. At the height of Tyra Banks’ high fashion career, she was called “too big” by designers during Milan Fashion Week. In response to this criticism, Tyra questioned her body and how she could change it to adhere to the industry’s rigid standards. Her mother had a different plan and instead took her daughter out to pizza.
Tyra and her mother, who at the time was acting as her manager, decide to leave high fashion and pursue mainstream brands. Several years later, Tyra Banks has established an empire from being the first Black covergirl on Sports Illustrated, the first Black Victoria’s Secret Angel, to creating America’s Next Top Model. There is still more yet to come from Tyra Banks.
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Following is a transcript of the video:
Tyra Banks – I’ve been told that my butt was so big and just not marketable anymore. She gave me the tools, and the self esteem, and the self love, and the strategy to get around all of that hardship.
The fashion industry is a dog-eat-dog, very difficult world where you’re broken down from your head to your toe, constantly told that you’re not good enough, waitin’ for the phone to ring.
When I was a very young model, and at the height of my high fashion career, high fashion meaning Chanel and Dior and Armani and all the wonderful high fashion designers in the world, I was told one season that I wasn’t good enough. They said your daughter is too big, her butt is getting too big, and you need to go tell her to lose some weight. This happened in Milan, Italy. So my mom came to me and she showed me the list of eight designers that did not want to hire me anymore. And I started crying and I was like, mom, okay, what do I do? Should I diet? Should I work out twice a day? Should I just have salads for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? And my mom said, “You know what we’re gonna do?”
Carolyn London – We gonna go get some pizza. And we’re gonna come up with a plan.
Tyra Banks – Over a big, juicy, wonderful pizza with lots of cheese and sauce, we made a plan. There was a butcher paper on top of that table and she put a pen in my hand and she said, “You write down every client that likes ass. Your ass, because it’s growing and there’s nothing wrong with that. And I’ll be damned if my baby starves for this industry.” I was like, eatin’ the pizza like. Likes ass? Okay, um … Victoria’s Secret?
Carolyn London – And I said write it down.
Tyra Banks – And then she was like, okay now, who has an ass? And I was like, Cindy Crawford?
Carolyn London – Write it down.
Tyra Banks – So I wrote that down and other models that had curves. And my mother said, “Those are the careers that you need to look at and figure out how you can implement some of those strategies, and those are the clients that you are gonna call to see if they will hire you. Goodbye high fashion, hello girl next door.”
Cut to me, you know, being the first black woman on the cover of a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, and doing that twice, back-to-back. Me being the first black Victoria Secret Angel. One of the original Angels in fact. Me being the first black woman on the cover of the Victoria’s Secret catalog, the first black woman to have a Victoria’s Secret contract, the first black model to wear the Victoria’s Secret Fantasy Bra, and I did that twice.
Tyra Banks – Most of the time the road, we all know this, the road to success, no matter what the story says on Business Insider, people are like, oh yeah, I made it and I … Honey. My mother was super instrumental in so many aspects of my career. You know, my mom was fearless and she was creating an empire, not just saying be on this cover or work this runway. I had her there. She was my rock, my mother was there.
And it all started on a pizza butcher paper in Milan, Italy with my mama sayin’,
Tyra Banks and Carolyn London – Write it down.