Tyra Banks remembers the day her mother helped her change the direction of her career.
She was a young model barely out of her teenage years. As she grew into womanhood, she was becoming a little too curvy for the traditional catwalk, particularly when it came to her posterior. Banks had been told by an agent that she would not be hired by top designers or advertisers unless she lost weight.
Banks was distraught and planning to shift to a diet of “one egg white a day.” Her mother’s response? Let’s go out for pizza.
“She took my by the shoulders and she shook me like a rag. She said ‘I will be damned if my daughter starves for this industry,’” Banks recalls. She and her mother, Carolyn London, sat at a restaurant place in Milan, munching away and making a list of potential clients who favored “big ass” on models.
In the latest episode of “Strictly Business,” Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment, Banks recounts her transition from supermodel to super-entrepreneur. Banks made herself a household name as the host and producer of “America’s Next Top Model,” the reality-competition franchise that has been going strong since 2003.
Banks is the epitome of the new breed of media mavens who are brands unto themselves. Banks appeared at Variety’s Path to Parity Summit on June 6 in West Hollywood to offer insights on how she steered her professional growth as a TV star, social media dynamo and retail success story with her Tyra Beauty line of makeup. At present, Banks is focusing on revving up content development activity at her Bankable Productions banner.
Banks also recently began teaching a course on personal branding at Stanford Business School. In 2012, she completed a management training course at Harvard Business School. But her early instincts to become a businesswoman and control her own destiny came from the challenge of clearing high hurdles and finding a way to get around closed doors.
“A lot of my success has really come through pain, and fighting through pain when you feel there’s no hope,” Banks says. “My mama told me that the front door is going to be closed for you because you are a woman, and that door is going to be doubly closed for you because you are a black woman. But there is a window. There is a side door. There is an attic, there’s a cellar, there’s a basement. It doesn’t matter how you get into that house of success, just get in.”
Strictly Business is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Listen to the podcast below for the full interview, or check out previous “Strictly Business” episodes featuring comedian/actor/producer Kevin Hart, HBO chairman/CEO Richard Plepler and producer Colin Callender. A new episode debuts each Tuesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.