Tyra Banks Reveals The Frustrating Reason Victoria’s Secret Almost Turned Her Away


by Georgia Aspinall |
Published on

The way in which women of colour are excluded from the beauty industry is a longstanding cause of outrage. From not producing foundations with a wide enough colour range (yet one million different versions of beige) to hairstylists not knowing how to work with natural hair, the beauty market continues to completely ignore a huge section of its audience. For models, this is particularly damaging, because it can affect their ability to work.

This was certainly the case for modeling legend Tyra Banks, who recently revealed that her iconic role as a Victoria’s Secret Angel almost never became a reality thanks to this very problem. Promoting her new book, Perfect Is Boring: 10 Things My Crazy, Fierce Mama Taught Me About Beauty, Booty, and Being a Boss, she gave a tell-all interview to W magazineopening up about the issues black models face, her own experiences and her nose job.

On almost missing out with Victoria’s Secret, she said, ‘I was sent home the first day because the hairdresser didn’t know what to do with my African American hair, so it looked crazy.’

However, she decided to take things into her own hands and upon begging her agent to get them to give her ‘another chance’, she styled her own hair for the next audition.

‘I had my hairdresser come to my apartment in Union Square and wash, blow-dry, and flat-iron my hair’, she continued, ‘and then I wrapped it and put a scarf on until the next day, when I was on my way to Victoria’s Secret and stepped out of a cab and whooshed it off my head, walked in, got my makeup done, didn’t let the hair people touch me, went to the bathroom, redid my face, put on extra lip gloss, and walked on that set.’

Of course, this led to her 10-year contract, and her becoming a Victoria’s Secret legend. ‘I’m the first black woman on the cover of their catalog,’ she said, ‘I’m the first black woman to have a contract, to be an Angel, to wear a Fantasy Bra—all of these different things, because I stopped silently suffering.’

Tyra Banks

And having garnered the elusive contract, she spoke up about her first experience and demanded change. She continued, ‘I talked to them and said, "Look, my hair is different, I need somebody who can do my hair." After that, they hired people who could do my hair for 10 years.’

And while Tyra’s success allowed for more and more women of colour to enter the modeling industry, she claims that the current climate of modeling is much less inclusive than when she was starting out.

‘I see such diversity in girls that are very known, from Jourdan Dunn to Joan Smalls to Duckie Thot’, she said, ‘but there’s still a long way to go, particularly on the runway. During my day, there was Naomi Campbell, Veronica Webb, Karen Alexander, Beverly Johnson, Brandi Quinones—the list goes on and on and on of the black girls who were all over the runways in Milan, Paris, New York, and London, and we still thought it wasn’t enough back then. So now to see no black girls in tons of fashion shows is crazy; there was still a lot of discrimination back in my day, but now I think, damn, maybe we didn’t have it as bad as we thought we did.’

However, just as Tyra stood up for herself when she was beginning in modelling, she has faith younger models will too.

‘The great thing the girls have today is social media, so they don't always have to suffer in silence. We didn’t have that,’ she continued, ‘we had to create the Black Girls Coalition and do a press conference to get our voices out, and now you can pick up a phone and say, "I’m so tired of going to jobs and then not having my foundation and makeup color or hairdressers who don’t know how to do my hair and I’m looking crazy."’

In Tyra’s tell-all interview she also revealed why she decided to open up about her nose job, which was ‘kind of medical and kind of cosmetic’, which came about after her make-up artist raised concerns about how her nose was growing in a strange way.

A consultation with a doctor revealed she had broken her nose years before, and it was healing in the wrong direction, however she waited for years before finding a doctor who ‘specialized in ethnic features’, because she didn’t want to erase her African American heritage.

On why she spoke up about it, she said, ‘I just wanted to be real, because although the procedure was in part medical, I just feel like celebrities do so much work and they just kind of say they woke up like this.’

Citing Kylie Jenner revealing she had lip fillers, she continued ‘People don’t need to tell every damn secret, but I just feel like when it comes to young girls, there are some things we need to talk about and share. So, I want to lead the charge of people now saying, “okay, I did my nose, I did this.” That’s what I like about Kylie Jenner—she was like, "Yeah, I did [get lip fillers].”’

Tyra’s new book promises to divulge even more personal information and stories about the models long illustrious career, focusing on her relationship with her mum Carolyn London. You can buy the book here.

Click through to see all of the VS models who walked in last years show...


2017 Victoria's Secret angels SLIDER

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Adriana Lima

An Angel since 2000, the Brazillian beauty is the longest-running model to grace the VS catwalk. The 35-year-old opened the show in 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010 and in 2012, just two months after giving birth to her second child. She has worn the Fantasy Bra three times, in 2008, 2010 and 2014.

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Lily Aldridge

Lily first walked for Victoria's Secret in 2009, aged 24, and got her Angel wings in 2010. The American model has walked in every show since, and last year she wore the Fireworks Fantasy Bra worth an estimated $2 million.

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Alessandra Ambrosio

An Angel since 2004, this Brazillian model became the spokesmodel for the Victoria's Secret PINK line in 2006. She has worn the fantasy bra in 2012 and 2014, and in 2011 when she was pregnant with her second child she wore the heaviest ever Angel wings (weighing 30 lb).

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Stella Maxwell

Stella Maxwell is an Irish model raised in New Zealand. She was awarded Victoria's Secret Angel status in 2015.

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Josephine Skriver

Danish model Josephine Skriver made her Victoria's Secret Fashion Show debut in 2011, and was given Angel wings in 2015.

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Lais Ribeiro

Lais Ribeiro is a Brazillian model who has walked for Victoria's Secret since 2011. During the dress rehearsal for the 2012 show she sprained her ankle and so her outfit was given to Angel Behati Prinsloo. Because of this, the VS producers decided to award Lais with the opportunity to open the Birds of Paradise segment in the 2013 show, and she was given her wings in 2015.

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Jasmine Tookes

Jasmine Tookes, an American model was one of the 11 new faces to join the Victoria's Secret family in 2012, and she became an Angel in 2015.

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Leomie Anderson

The Brit model will walk in the show for a third time this year.

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Megan Williams

The English model and face of Guess debuted on the Victoria's Secret runway in 2016 and is back again this year for round two.

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Vanessa Moody

The Texas model shot to fame last year when she was plucked from obscurity at an open call and cast in a Michael Kors campaign.

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Frida Aasen

The 22-year old Norwegian model has fronted campaigns for H&M, Tory Burch and DSquared, and has walked in shows for Prada, Louis Vuitton and Fendi.

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Amilna Estevao

The Angolan model is just 18 but has already starred in campaigns for Tom Ford and walked high profile shows for the likes of Givenchy and Lanvin.

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Taylor Hill

The Palatine born model became a Victoria Secret's model in 2015, and the youngest one of the runway at the age of 21.

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Elsa Hosk

Swedish 29-year old model has appeared on The Victoria Secret show since 2011!

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Martha Hunt

This will be the 4th time for the American model to appear on the Victoria Secret show.

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