Born on December 4, 1973 in Los Angeles, California, Tyra Lynne Banks is the daughter of business manager and medical photographer Carolyn London and computer consultant Donald Banks. The couple divorced when Tyra was just six years old, but their relationship as parents still ensued. While in Immaculate Heart High School, Banks was often made fun of because of her height and weight, but despite this, she was determined to become a model. She was later accepted to Loyola Marymount University, but did not take the chance to study as she decided to move to Paris to pursue her modeling career.
For a newcomer, Banks had an array of impressing offers which included advertisements for Anna Sui, Coors Light, CoverGirl, Badgley Mischka, Bill Blass, Cynthia Rowley, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, Gemma Kahng, H&M, Isaac Mizrahi, Maria Snyder, McDonald's, Michael Kors, Milk, Nicole Miller, Nike, Inc., Oscar de la Renta, Pepsi, Perry Ellis, Randy Kemper, Richard Tyler, Rifat Ozbek, Swatch, Todd Oldham, Tommy Hilfiger, Victoria's Secret, XOXO, and Yves Saint Laurent. She soon appeared on covers of magazines such as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and Elle. She also became the first African American woman to appear on the covers of GQ Magazine and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
In 1997, Banks was given honor with the Michael Award for Supermodel of the Year. In the same year, she was chosen to grace the cover of the Victoria's Secret catalog, thus becoming the first African American to be land the spot.
After years of her successful modeling, Banks ended her career in May 2005 by walking the runway at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. From then on, she focused on her television career, beginning with the fourth season of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
, where she played Jackie James, the girlfriend of Will Smith
's character. Her other television credits include Felicity
, MADtv, Nick Cannon's Wild 'N Out and The Price is Right.
Banks also worked on films Higher Learning in 1994, and the Disney movie starring Lindsay Lohan, Life-Size, where Banks played a doll named Eve who comes to life. Bank's later film projects include Love Stinks, Coyote Ugly and Halloween: Resurrection.
Currently, Banks is spearheading her two hit television shows, The Tyra Banks Show, where she serves as creator, host and executive producer and America's Next Top Model, where she serves as creator, judge and executive producer.
(Photo courtesy of CW)