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Tyra Banks Interview
with Prodigy/Spotlight

This interview was taken from a Prodigy/Spotlight chat...

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Hey Tyra, how does it feel being Little Penny's girlfriend in the Nike ads?

Making those spots is really fun, only thing is I can't walk down the street without someone saying, "Stop the car, that's Tyra Banks, fool!"

What's the most surprising thing you've found about the modeling industry?

The careers are so short and the competition is so strong, models tend to get very insecure. I've been lucky enough to come from a really strong family, where I was taught only to compete with myself.

Food stylists use some pretty yucky tricks to make food look even more appealing to the camera. Are similar tricks used in the modeling industry?

Well, to make your boobs look bigger, they'll shade between them to make a deeper shadow. If I have to smile a lot on a shoot, I'll put Vaseline on my teeth. [Then] it's not a strain to smile, it just sliiides. Sometimes, if a shirt is too small, they'll slice it down the back. If it's too big, your back is usually covered in safety pins to make it smaller! And of course, lots of hair and makeup! No model wakes up looking like you see her in a picture!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Right now, I'm watching Heat on HBO with my buddy! I love listening to all types of music. I love to paint pottery in L.A. And I'm always at the movies, cause it's about 40 seconds from my house in L.A.

Is your "buddy" anybody we know?

Well, his name is Todd. No romantic connection. He's a freelance writer. Never been on the cover of People magazine, but he was on America's Most Wanted.

Did you have trouble getting dates in high school?

I have trouble getting dates now! Guys don't ask me out. I guess they're intimidated, but I wish they'd ask me out.

Who are your role models?

I think my mom would have to be my strongest role model. She always told me, "Don't ever let anyone tell you you can't do something." And when things get really tough in my career and my personal life, I just look at my mom's life. She's gone through some pretty serious, heavy things, and she's just stronger because of it.

What city did you grow up in?

Born and raised in Los Angeles. Second-generation Angeleno!

How do you feel about being the first black woman - and the first model - to be featured on the cover of GQ? Did you get a lot of positive feedback about that phenomenal picture?

It's nice to be a part of history and to be breaking barriers. [But] it'll be nice one day to have no more "firsts"! Just 50ths and 60ths and 70ths. A lot of guys, even now, come up to me and they have [the magazine] in their bags and want me to sign it!

What is the shooting schedule like for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue?

We'd get up at about 3 a.m., start makeup and hair about four, then shoot until about eight in the morning, nap and rest until 4 p.m., and then shoot until sundown. It was really grueling, but I guess that's the best light of the day, so you have to go with the flow.

How would you respond to the idea that you are in an industry that drives females to feel insecure about themselves?

I just came from a Knicks came, and the men on the court were doing things that are almost supernatural. That probably makes little boys feel insecure, like they can never be Patrick Ewing. I think anything in entertainment has that potential. I think with the modeling industry, it's easy to go there, level that criticism. [However] at the same time, I do get a lot of letters from girls, about their insecurities, and I do feel the obligation to explain to them that 99 percent of the modeling industry is fantasy. It's fake. So, I am writing a book with Harper-Collins about self-esteem for young girls.

Is our society becoming more accepting of the black image of beauty?

I think its a struggle everyday, and I'm glad I have a large part in breaking those barriers.

So you're you a big Knicks fan?

I just came from a Knicks game about 20 minutes ago... And yes, I did have court side.

Tell us about your experience appearing on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. How was it working with Will Smith and the rest of the cast?

Will Smith is really great. He's pretty much the same in real life as he is on the show, in fact.

Are you going to do any more screen work in the near future?

I just finished a movie called Love Changes a romantic comedy that comes out in September. I play a really shallow, conceited bitch! She's the total opposite of me!

What's in your CD player?

I like so many people. I love Alanis Morrisette. I love Snoop's new stuff, 'cause it's not so violent. I love Jewel - I constantly play "Who Will Save Your Soul" over and over again, it drives my mom crazy. The Cranberries.

What about books?

I'm actually reading a book right now called An Actual Life by Abigail Thomas, and it's actually really funny. It's about a slightly neurotic wife whose husband is cheating on her, but she doesn't know, even though it's obvious. I just read Push by Sapphire. Very scary!

What are your long-term goals?

I really want to have a family. I'm such a maternal person. I'd love to adopt a little boy in about 10 years. [And] I want to continue acting and take my modeling career to the top!

Do you have advice for young people who ask you about breaking into the modeling industry?

There are a lot of different jobs in modeling. If you don't want to be involved in another way, be an assistant or intern. Start from the bottom up. But when it comes to the modeling, I got turned down by five agencies before one said, Yes. So I didn't give up at the beginning.

How do you keep your skin and body looking so healthy?

I never sleep in my makeup; I wash my face twice a day. I run three miles, five times a week.

What's your best feature?

I'm not really stick-skinny. The public considers me a voluptuous model. I like the meat on my bones!

Do you get tired of traveling the world? Which city do you despise?

When I first started modeling, I lived in Paris for one year, and every time I get a job where I have to go to Paris, I get extremely depressed. I couldn't speak the language, I was only 17, my roommate was very mean to me. It just brings back bad memories.

Who's your favorite designer?

I can't say, because they get mad and jealous. I don't want to get in trouble!

What's the best thing about being a "supermodel"?

Nothing, because nobody asks me out on dates!

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