Tyra Banks: Snapshot

Name
Tyra Banks
Date of Birth
December 04, 1973
Birth Place
Inglewood, Calif.
As a kid, Tyra Banks described herself as a "tall beanpole freak," but the voluptuous knockout went on to become the first African-American to grace the covers of GQ and the iconic Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

After donning bras (and wings!) for Victoria's Secret, Banks blazed a trail beyond modeling by serving as creator, producer and judge on America's Next Top Model – a modeling competition that is now syndicated in more than 100 countries. But, it was her talk show that made her "far, far more than just a body in a bathing suit," according to Time, who twice listed Banks as one of their 100 Most Influential People.

The supermodel mogul, who disputed claims of being called fat on the cover of PEOPLE, launched her "So What" campaign to promote positive body images and won her first Emmy for telling critics on daytime TV to "kiss my fat a--!"

Tyra Banks: Five Fun Facts

  1. The former runway veteran admitted to having cellulite, wearing control-top undies and used a butt double to stand in for her nude scene in the low-budget movie Larceny.
  2. Tyra Banks appeared as one of the morphing faces at the end of the 1991 Michael Jackson video "Black or White".
  3. "I've been afraid of [dolphins] ever since I was 8 or 9," Tyra Banks told PEOPLE. "I have dreams that I am in a pool and there are dolphins bumping me and I'm frightened."
  4. Tyra Banks did a one-day stint as a The Price is Right model in 2006. "It lived up to my childhood fantasy," Banks told PEOPLE.
  5. After being the first African-American model featured solo on the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, Tyra Banks revealed modeling secrets to PEOPLE. "The oil on our bodies reflects muscles that aren't even there," Banks said. "I don't have muscle tone, but it looks like I do on the cover because of the oil."

Tyra Banks: Biography

1984

Tyra Banks

Growing Pains

At 11, a growth spurt turns Banks into "this tall beanpole freak all the girls would laugh at." She tells PEOPLE, "I wasn't just skinny and tall; I was sick looking. If anybody called me skinny, I would just smile, then run into my room and burst out crying. It was a really unhappy time."

1991

Tyra Banks

The European Catwalk

''My ankles would shake, and I would bend my knees and stick my lips out,'' Banks tells PEOPLE of her first model walks. But within a week, she accumulates 25 bookings. Model Niki Taylor says, ''She can work a runway like you would not believe.'' Designer Todd Oldman adds, ''She reminds me of an antelope. She was just born with grace.''

1997

Tyra Banks

February 21

Fashion Pioneer

She has a Cover Girl makeup contract and is a regular in magazines and on runways, but the 23-year-old Banks makes history with a triple achievement in 1996. She is the first African-American woman to pose on the covers of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (with model Valeria Mazza), GQ (February 1996) and the Victoria's Secret catalogue (1996). On Feb. 21, 1997, she'll grace the cover of Sports Illustrated for the second year in a row – this time, by herself.

Read More on Tyra Banks' Life

Photo Credits

Top Left: JOHN PAUL FILO/UPN

BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): COURTESY TYRA BANKS; RETNA

Edited by Julia Wang

Tyra Banks

Celebrity Central / Top 25 Celebs

From Our Partners