by Rachel Ogbu
38-year-old Tyra Banks looks fierce in a black & white photo on this month’s Arise Magazine cover.
The business mogul poses for Nigerian photographer, Seiji Fujimori in this spectacular issue where she speaks openly about what people don’t know about her, her guilty pleasures, and her happiest moments.
What are most people surprised about you?
That I don’t have the personality I have on America’s Next Top Model [AMTM]. I don’t say ‘Your pictures are not fierce, you’re not smizing and hello nice to meet you’. It’s a character that I created, but it’s not really me. I’m more like I am on my talk show, that’s not me trying to be a thing. On Top Model it’s a character… it just so happens the character’s named Tyra Banks, but she’s not me.
It’s easy to get into character now, so I don’t have to think about it. I don’t do it as much as I used to – I have a lot more me now. [But on AMTM] you sit behind a desk and she just appears.
Driving my car on the weekends… far. Washing my make-up off at the end of the day… it just feels damn good, it’s really me when I look at the mirror. I’m like ‘That’s who she is, they don’t know her’. [And] making young girls feel good, having a young girl coming up to me and me complimenting her on something physically and see her face light up, that just makes me happy.
Smize. It was an accident so that’s why I like it. I created this word because for years on Top Model I’d say smile with your eyes, smile with your eyes. I’m always watching myself, because I watch it [the show] more than the average person as I’m in the editing bay, and I’d be like ‘This is so long’ and one day I was like ‘smize!’
What gives me satisfaction is I’ve been in a restaurant totally incognito in the corner and there’s a group of girls who don’t know I’m there and they’re like ‘Let’s take a group picture… smize!’ And I’m like ‘Oh my gosh’. I’m proud of that word.
Have tunnel vision but do not forget your personal life. I’m all about teaching people to go for your goals, work extra hard, tunnel vision, tunnel vision. Now I say have tunnel vision but don’t forget your personal life. Now I talk to them about not forgetting your friends; yes you have to sacrifice but don’t forget your family, don’t forget if you want to have children. I waited too late for all of that. So I feel it’s important to have the balance, and I’m learning that now.
Earliest fashion memory?
Me sitting on the edge of the bath tub while my mother beats her face [i.e. puts on a tonne of make-up]. That’s where I learnt to be a drag queen – from my mother. She likes a lot of make-up and I like a lot.
What advice would you give to a stranger who doubted themselves?
I’d tell them to do something my mum says: look to the other side, and that this moment of self-doubt and not feeling good about yourself is fleeting and it’s not gonna last.
Write down what you’re feeling bad about and then write down some solutions to get out of it. And even if you don’t have a solution, even just writing down what’s bad will help as it gets out of your system. Close your eyes and lie down and imagine a month or tomorrow or a year from now when you’re past this. Imagine what it looks like and what does that feel like. Now work backwards to make that a reality.Regrets on not having a family?
“Have tunnel vision but do not forget your personal life. I’m all about teaching people to go for your goals, work extra hard, tunnel vision, tunnel vision. Now I say have tunnel vision but don’t forget your personal life. Now I talk to them about not forgetting your friends; yes you have to sacrifice but don’t forget your family, don’t forget if you want to have children. I waited too late for all of that. So I feel it’s important to have the balance, and I’m learning that now.”