Tyra Banks is known for having taken her star power from the runway to the boardroom and back again, and she shared what pushed her towards creating her own shows, brand,s and other business ventures on Wednesday at Variety's first Path to Parity Women's summit.
"Me being a boss came from pain," she explained, recalling the rejection she faced as a black woman in the world of high fashion modeling. "Being told no you can’t....[those experiences] created in me an empathy for women and physical discrimination." Banks began modeling in her teens, and when she started to gain weight as she went through puberty, her agency gave her mother a list of eight designers that no longer wanted to work with her, she says. Banks said she considered giving in and losing weight for the sake of her career, but her mother was having none of it. "My mom, she took me by the shoulders like this and she shook me," she recalled. "She said 'I will be damned if my daughter starves for this industry.'"
Banks may have made a name for herself outside of modeling but it didn't come without its challenges. "One early producer on America's Next Top Model, every editing session, he would combat me and contest everything," she said. "I didn’t understand my power, but he was definitely an issue and a problem." Later, when the show was a huge success after debuting in 2003, she says the same producer apologized to her. "He came to me and said, 'Everything that you did was right, and I’m sorry,'" she said. "He said, 'I was being prejudiced because of where you came from, this whole modeling thing… How can she come off a runway and have more instincts than me?'"
Tyra also shared that she's grown immensely since then, and has since learned to harness her power in the best ways. "As all of us expand and want to scale, it is so important to find strong people that specialize in those things," she said. "My strength is the creative side of the business."