The “America’s Next Top Model” host just finished teaching personal branding at Stanford Business School
For a moment, Tyra Banks wasn’t feeling fierce.
The entrepreneur and “America’s Next Top Model” host had spent months preparing for her recent role co-teaching a class on personal branding at Stanford Business School. But despite her success, Banks was worried Stanford’s MBA students might not take her seriously. “I thought they might think ‘what the heck is she gonna teach me?’” Banks tells Moneyish.
The host of “America’s Next Top Model” quickly warmed up. “I told my students to put on their ‘Kanye West vest’ and not be shy,” says Banks of the course, which covered everything from the history of branding, advice on differentiating yourself and best practices for social media. “Personal branding is about the most egocentric stuff.”
Taking a page from Yeezy’s playbook has served her well. The former Victoria’s Secret angel appeared in publications from Vogue to GQ before becoming an actress. She later parlayed her fame into executive producing and hosting programs like “The Tyra Banks Show.” “I’m intrigued by how she’s pivoted her career in so many ways,” says Allison Kluger, the Stanford management lecturer and former ABC TV producer who invited Banks to co-teach with her. “I’ve worked with celebrities my entire life and wouldn’t have invited her if she weren’t amazing.”
To help her career along, Banks completed a course in owner/president management that spanned three years at Harvard Business School. Coincidentally, that’s where Katie Holmes recently attended a week-long program on entertainment, media and sports. To keep up with the accounting lingo in Cambridge, Banks prepped in advance with an accounting professor then at Columbia University. Still, she had “a bit of a strategy” to avoid getting cold-called by professors with algebraic questions. “I would raise my hand early and talk about the human part of a case because I knew an hour later, we’d have [math] questions on the board,” she says.
“It’s about tunnel vision and being in the moment, then moving on to the next thing.”- Tyra Banks
Working in the female-dominated fashion industry meant that Banks hasn’t faced the sort of gender discrimination that many professional women report. “I would be on a set with a male model and make 10 times what he’s making,” she says. Rather, the obstacles she’s faced have been to do with her work as a model. “When I was trying to be a TV producer, I’d get ‘you’re a model,’” she says, adding that being curvier than many of her fellow models sometimes felt like a wall she had to jump over.
In Palo Alto, the 43-year-old Banks lectured to 25 students, many of them millennials. But she doesn’t buy the stereotype of a lazy and entitled generation of young adults. “At Stanford, they’re the polar opposite,” says Banks, who heard several promising business concepts from students (she won’t discuss them, citing how the ideas haven’t been patented.) “I have a lot of millennials work for my company and don’t see it with them. I don’t care if you work at the coffee shop or beach, as long as you get the work done.”
Banks recently began filming the latest “ANTM,” which she’s back hosting after a season away. Alongside running her Tyra Beauty cosmetics company, she also replaced Nick Cannon on “America’s Got Talent.” Her key to doing everything is great scheduling and tunnel vision. Earlier in life, “I was making so much money and unhappy because I was doing everything at the same time,” she says. “Now I realize, it’s about tunnel vision and being in the moment, then moving on to the next thing. All chunks and no overlap.”
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