Matrix Winner: TYRA BANKS

Much More Than a Pretty Face

by Jessica Bruno
Tyra BanksIt may appear as if Tyra Banks has it all — and she may — but she had to break down plenty of barriers to become the highly influential media figure she is today. Tyra began her spotlight career path at the tender age of 19 when she made history during her first season in Paris by being the first model to book 25 shows. But, modeling wasn’t all that she wanted.
Tyra proves to the world in countless ways that she is more than just a pretty face. She transformed to businesswoman in 2003 after establishing Bankable Incorporated (now known as The Tyra Banks Company) and is currently enrolled in Harvard Business School. Additionally, Tyra has partnered with Demand Media for the launch of, a revolutionary new fashion and beauty site. And recently, she wrote her first young adult fantasy adventure novel titled Modelland, which became a New York Times bestseller.
Tyra also has a full-time role on television as creator, executive producer and host of "America's Next Top Model,” which is now syndicated in more than 100 countries. And, as if that weren’t enough TV exposure for the super-mogul, she was also the host and executive producer of her own daily talk show titled "The Tyra Show," which was awarded two Daytime Emmys.
Her energy and motivation stem from young girls who feel they aren’t good enough because they don’t look like images they see in magazines. She is committed to her personal mission to empower women and expand the definition of beauty. She has even been dubbed the “Queen of Self-Esteem” for this ongoing effort, and she is rightly so proud of the designation. On her daytime talk show, she regularly addresses these topics to continue this important dialogue.
Not surprisingly, Tyra suggests people “think outside the box — if one door closes, go to the next.”  And she practices what she preaches. Did you know that when she began modeling she was rejected by seven agencies? Instead of giving up, she kept going until finally one agency said yes. That same year, she funded a scholarship to help young women attend her alma mater, Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles.
Another Tyra claim to fame — she was the first woman to be seen simultaneously on primetime and daytime television. She also has a high profile on social media sites as the fourth highest-ranked celebrity on Google+, and with more than 5 million followers on Twitter and more than 1 million Facebook friends. With that broad audience spectrum, Tyra strives to help people stand up to unrealistic stereotypes created by images we are bombarded with in popular culture. Similarly, she hopes that by being honored with the Matrix Award her message of expanding the definition of beauty inside and out will reach an even greater audience.
She works to reinforce her goal of inspiring girls around the world to not only accept who they are but to embrace their individuality and go on to be the best version of themselves they can be. “Stay laser focused on your goals by defining what you want to accomplish — both in your career and your personal lives,” asserts Tyra. “Realize that any current struggles you’re going through are only temporary and with hard work they will lead to greater things.” Good advice indeed, and, no doubt, words her mother, Carolyn, whom Tyra cites as her biggest influence, likely shared with Tyra many years ago.   
Jessica Bruno is a senior writer at AECOM, a global provider of professional technical and management support services to a broad range of markets.  
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Jessica Bruno