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Facing mounting pressure to shed pounds, Banks sat down with her mother over a slice of pizza to discuss a career change.The star has repeated this tale relentlessly––on her talk show, in interviews, and as a judge on America’s Next Top Model––each time emphasizing the rebelliousness of the pizza, and the risk of defying fashion industry norms.
Fans commend “Tyra” for her beauty and authenticity, while critics call her “fat,” “crazy” and “fake.” This tug-of-war mirrors the duality of Banks’ public roles: on the one hand, she exists as a supermodel, a performer whose very job it is to present an appealing front.
“Discovered” at the age of seventeen, Banks opted to forgo college, and instead flew to France to pursue modeling. My eyes are too far apart, my chin is narrow, my forehead is very wide” (Ferguson).
What may initially seem like an unobtainable Cinderella tale is tempered by various reiterations of the difficulties that Banks, marked as an outsider by both race and inexperience, faced upon arrival in Paris. Despite these setbacks, the Banks narrative tells of how the young model persevered with hard work and tenacity, transforming her initial disappointments into a shining example of bootstraps success.
When Tyra started to get really curvy, she signed a contract with Victoria’s Secret.
For a black girl, that was incredible” (Hirschberg 45).
In Banks’ own words, her function––the current Tyra Banks brand––represents “attainable fantasy,” the promise that any ordinary woman can make her “dreams come true through work and determination” (Hirschberg 63).