Tyra Banks: “Painful” Feud With Naomi Started Because She Was Made To Believe There Could Only Be One Black Supermodel

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Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell

Source: Jamie McCarthy/WireImage for Full Picture / Getty

Despite setting aside a feud of sorts with Naomi Campbell years ago, Tyra Banks isn’t fond of people referring to their past issues as a “rivalry.”

“It wasn’t a rivalry and I’m very sensitive to that word because a rivalry is with two equals to me, whereas one was very dominant, she was a supermodel, and I was just some new girl that got on a plane from Paris and was studying fashion in magazines at a fashion library,” she told the Wall Street Journal. 

Now 45, Banks has a better idea of why it seemed that at 17, while working in Paris, and for years later, she and Campbell couldn’t seem to get along. She blames the idea of tokenism.

“I had very painful early days in Paris. As much as I was booking every single fashion show, people didn’t know I was going home at night crying my eyes out because a woman I was looking up to seemed like she just didn’t want me to be there and was doing everything in her power to make me go away,” she said. “I didn’t understand that as a young girl, like ‘Why is she doing this? This is so evil, this is so awful.’ The adult me understands that she was reacting to an industry that was all about a token.”

“When this one girl, Kate Moss came on the scene, they weren’t telling Christy Turlington,’You better look out, Kate Moss has some high cheekbones like you do, Christy!’ When Shalom Harlow came on the scene, they weren’t ‘Linda Evangelista, look out! Another brunette is on the loose!’ But when I came on the scene, ‘Naomi look out! There’s a Black girl that’s going to take your spot!'” she added. “Only one spot available.”

For the record, in 2005, Campbell sat down with Banks on her now-defunct eponymous talk show and they were able to seemingly hash out their issues. Before doing so, Banks accused her of having her cut from fashion shows and saying the newer model was trying to be like her and even look like her. Campbell didn’t recall a lot of these incidents, but took responsibility for her behavior, admitting that she was young, immature and a little bit jealous.

“I didn’t know myself at that age. I don’t know what between 20 to 25-year-old really does know themselves at that age, especially in such a whirlwind career,” Campbell said. “What I was envious of you was that you had your mother with you. I was never able to have my mother with me. I always remember you had your mother with you at all your shows and she was always there with you and I wished that I could have my mother with me.”

In 2013, Campbell also admitted what Banks now sees was the case, which is that the fashion industry made the women feel as though there could only be one “it” Black girl.

“It does bug me and irk me that two women of the same ilk, we’re women of color, have to be pitted against each other. You can have more than one woman of color in a fashion show. Unfortunately, back then, it was like, ‘O.K., we’ll just have one,’ so the other one would feel like, ‘Oh, she put me out,'” Campbell told Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live. “I’m very proud of Tyra and what she’s done with America’s Next Top Model. I’m proud of her, I’m proud to know her. And I’m not into the pitting game.”

Check out Banks’ thoughts on why there previously wasn’t a sisterhood between them at the 11:03 mark below:

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