was a skeptical beauty, Growing up, she thought of herself as a "tall, beanpole freak." But when she was in 11th. grade
, a modeling agent discovered her
, and soon she was on her way to Paris for runway modeling. Designers were struck by her exotic beauty and booked her for an unprecedented 25 shows. She made modeling history again as the first African-American woman featured on the covers of GQ, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and the Victoria's Secret catalog.
Despite her success
, the supermodel remains mindful of the challenges faced by other girls and young women, including the same kinds of self-doubt Banks faced when she was younger. Her TZone Foundation identifies and provides resources to community nonprofits to help young women grappling with self-esteem, self-respect and body-image issues. "TZone is not a place; it is a commitment to empower girls to be fierce, focused and in control of their futures," Banks says on the foundation's web site. Banks took control of her own future early on. She sought a career beyond modeling and, in 2003, started Bankable Productions, which launched her hit reality show, America's Next Top Model, followed in 2005 by her Emmy-winning talk show, The Tyra Banks Show. This year, she launched the reality show True Beauty.
In all her shows
, Banks comes across as a mentor, a big sister, and aunt. In America's Next Top Model, Banks gives advice to aspiring models and teaches them that their intellect, humor and attitude can make--or break--their careers. The Tyra Banks Show often featurs themes aimed at helping young women improve their self-esteem and their lives. The pagentlike True Beauty judges contestants on their inner beauty. If they appear on surveilance cameras to be rude or selfish behind the scenes, they're kicked off the show after a little advice and encouragement on how to become better people. "I feel I have a responsibility to lead by example and bring attention to the issues facing girls and young women," Banks says.
Banks has sought to dispel the notion that young women need to fit a certain image to be beautiful
. Pointing at herself on an episode of The Tyra Banks Show, she said her own famously high forehead makes her distinctive as a model but that it prompted teasing from other children when she was younger. When some media outlets tried to portray 5-foot-10-inch Banks as heavy at 161 pounds, she came out fighting--in her bathing suit. Talking directly into the cameras on her show, she asked if she looked fat. The response? If the cheers from the audience and fan mail were any indication, it seems she's the picture of health and beauty.
"Im passionate about inspiring people to fulfill their own dreams and fantasies through entertainment that is engaging, uplifting and, of course, fun! This is my dream realized."
As I read this amazing story in the July issue of Success magazine, I immediately thought of our EMpact Leadership Summit "Redefining Beautiful
". Dedicated to helping women and girls make significant life changes that lead to them becoming catalysts of change within their families, communities, and the world.
There has never been a better time for advancement than today. Though EMwomen has the vision of reaching women and girls around the world, founder, Staci Wallace
states, "You can't change the world around you till you've changed the world within you."
Living with excellence,