Tyra Banks Was Sent Home Because Of Her Natural Hair When She First Tried Out For Victoria’s Secret
Three years ago when Maria Borges walked the Victoria Secret Fashion Show runway with her natural ‘fro, she received massive praise and support. So much so, that the following year Victoria Secret decided to encourage all of their models to embrace their natural beauty, forgoing wigs and extensions and styling the angels’ natural strands. Twenty years ago, however, that was far from the case.
Tyra Banks recently chatted with W magazine about the new book she co-wrote with her mother, Carolyn London, Perfect Is Boring: 10 Things My Crazy, Fierce Mama Taught Me About Beauty, Booty, and Being a Boss. And, naturally, the 44-year-old discussed her beginnings in the modeling industry, which included almost missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime with Victoria’s Secret because of her hair.
“I had to figure out how to make sure I looked good at work, because I almost lost my opportunity at Victoria’s Secret,” Banks shared. “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. Then a year later, I finally begged my agent to get them to give me another chance, and I had my hairdresser come to my apartment in Union Square and wash, blow-dry, and flat-iron my hair. 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.”
We don’t have to tell you that move worked out for Banks, but speaking up for herself — and her hair needs — also worked out for the supermodel.
“Cut to a 10-year contract. I’m the first Black woman on the cover of their catalog; 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,” she explained. “And I do have to take my hat off to Victoria’s Secret, because that was the last time I ever had to do that—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.”
Asked how she feels things have changed in the industry today regarding diversity, Banks is happy to see a broader range of Black models but “now to see no Black girls in tons of fashion shows is crazy,” she said.
“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. But the great thing the girls have today is social media, so they don’t always have to suffer in silence,” she added. “We didn’t have that—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.'”