“America’s Next Top Model” Judge/Founder/SuperModel Tyra Banks is serving up nothing but fierceness in “West East” magazine’s November/December 2012 black fashion issue.
There was a China’s Next Top Model at one point. I think it had one or two cycles. I am not sure how long it went. I am in the process of making appearance in Pan Asia’s Next Top Model. I think that’s every single country in Asia except for main land China and Japan. As far as China itself, I don’t know. I think they need to bring it back. There are a lot of Chinese women with amazing features and there’s a lot of tall women, which the fashion industry loves. China’s the perfect place for it (Top Model), I just don’t know why it didn’t continue there.
Your look that you created is very powerful and I have noticed that you are aware of the impact it has on others. Because of that, you have embraced women and created platforms to help women feel better about themselves and to embrace their own flaws. Is that part of your “FLAWSOME” motto?
It really is. Even when I created Top Model, I didn’t want to do this show where there was a bunch of girls that were ‘cookie-cutter’ beautiful or pretty stereo-typical girls. It was important that I had girls that were plus size girls or girls whose skin tone were not the stereo-type we find in the beauty industry. Or girls with big foreheads, eyes that are too far apart, gaps in their teeth… things that were quirky and not stereotypical. And I think what has happened over time is that it has raised the self-esteem of girls who were not even trying to be a model. They will send me pictures and ask, “Tyra, is this picture FIERCE? You know, I am trying to pose like your girls.” And they don’t want to necessarily be a model, but it has done something to them as on-lookers. Every week when I am telling a girl that she is beautiful and she is not a typical beauty… I guarantee you there are millions of girls that look like that one girl on my show. And she represents that ‘beauty’. And that’s making her feel beautiful as well as the young ladies who look like her. They all understand that they are beautiful.
With Top Model, there’s a lot of ‘candy’ and fun and it is a Cinderella story, but there is so much medicine in there too… messages about being professional or not giving up or having a look that is not typical and embracing your uniqueness. I consider uniqueness to be very beautiful. Hopefully, we are changing what beautiful means and introducing new beauties to the world. I think this is the success of the show and the success of the message.
I visited Vietnam’s Next Top Model, which I know it is not China… It’s the same continent. It got down to three finalist and we were discussing who we thought should win, with the Vietnamese team and I really wanted a girl to win that was from a village. She had no electricity. Just from a simple village. Her skin was darker. She had very high cheekbones and had very indigenous features. I was told by the VNTM staff, that her type of beauty was not the type of beauty that was heralded in Vietnam.
I found her beautiful with my western eyes. From my point of view I thought that she was absolutely stunning. And they said that she was not an aspirational beauty. I said, all the reason why she should win! Because there are so many beautiful girls with darker skin, that do not have porcelain skin, that have her type of features. She’s the aspirational version of that type of girl. She should win so they can help raise the self-esteem of girls that are not born with white skin in Vietnam.
So that was my push. Culturally, I am coming from a totally different country and I respect their culture but, at the same time to me, a universal theme is a stereotypical type of beauty. And if you think about us as African-American ‘light-skinned’ girls… I am not confused in anyway as to why I was successful as a commercial model… you know, when I changed my career. A lot of my success had to do with my coloring and I understand that. I get that. I still think it is important to highlight darker-skinned Black models or white girls with freckles all over their face, big curly hair and brown Asians. Just things that are not considered the typical beauty. So, I was happy to do that in Asia.
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