Tyra Banks Urges Women to Raise their Voices
Education and Careers The fierce model and savvy businesswoman is encouraging women and girls to stand up, speak out and study hard.
Mediaplanet: You recently completed an Owner/President Management Program. Congratulations! Was it difficult going back to school?
Tyra Banks: I am a sponge when it comes to learning new information, so being back in school was like being a kid in a candy store for me. I was obsessed. I welcomed the changes like living in sweatshirts and running on coffee while pulling all-nighters in a study group, but I was intimidated about living in the dorms. But it turned out that dorm life was one of the greatest aspects of my Harvard experience because it created community and closeness amongst our groups.
MP: How has going to business school changed your life?
TB: I now feel fiercely empowered in running my business. I learned so much in subjects I already felt confident in, like strategy, marketing and leadership. I was challenged and grew exponentially in finance and accounting. The courses were ripe with relevant information and I immediately integrated the learnings into my business. Sometimes, right after a class, I’d run to call my team back home to share my new ideas. On a personal level, I’ve met some of my dearest friends through the OPM program.
MP: Was there anything in the program that surprised you?
TB: I was surprised by how much I had to offer in the classroom. I went in thinking that I was going to gain a ton as a spectator. I didn’t realize how much I could offer from my own business experiences. It was extremely gratifying to raise my hand, participate and hear positive feedback from my classmates and professors, who thought my input added value to class discussions.
MP: How did you get the idea for Fierce Capital, LLC?
TB: Supporting the dreams of entrepreneurial women is something that I’ve always had a passion for. I’ve also had my eye on the startup world for a very long time. I’ve come to love my frequent trips to San Francisco to stay on the cutting edge of technology; I eat up all the innovation (and the food at the fab restaurants.) Because of these passions, starting an investment arm of The Tyra Banks Company was natural. I am happy to have met and supported so many inspiring entrepreneurs who are either women themselves, own startups being run by women or own startups targeting women.
MP: Why is it so important for you to help promote and empower women in business?
TB: Women can be just as much, if not more, of a powerhouse in business as men. It hurts when I see women feeling like they have no choice but to take a lesser role in the business world, are not offered positions they deserve because of their gender, or women that shrink themselves to not seem overbearing. From my TZONE Foundation, which empowers our young generation of girls to learn skills like financial literacy and entrepreneurialism, to my investment arm Fierce Capital, as well as my own startup that I am launching soon, the core message is that women can be their own source of income and be empowered to use their full voice without fear of being called certain names (like bossy or that other pesky “B” word).
"I’ve had failures that made me want to shrink under my bedcovers for days and feel sorry for myself, like my world was crumbling around me. I realize now that failure is just as valuable as success."
MP: What has been the biggest challenge in venturing into the business world?
TB: There are not enough hours in the day. Balancing my on-camera duties, behind-the-scenes business responsibilities and my personal life has been very challenging. And not just being present in each segment of my business, but being a strong, present leader who is steering my team forward.
MP: You support the empowerment and future of young women through your TZONE foundation. What advice do you have for girls thinking about pursuing the business world?
TB: My advice to girls who are pursuing careers in the business is to work hard to obtain the skills and knowledge you need. That translates to education and being laser focused on graduating. And when you get to the top, never dull your shine for anyone.
MP: So many find it hard to strike a balance between careers demands, family needs and personal wellness. How have you been able to balance all the demands of business and taking the time to take care of yourself?
TB: I used to feel like if I wasn’t working all the time, I was falling behind. I’ve realized in the past few years that only true success can come from having a real balance. Even with the highest of accomplishments, at the end of the day when you turn around, you need people there to share it with. I am in the process of learning how to prioritize my time, delegating to people more knowledgeable than I am in specific fields and being able to bask in my down time. Now, I’ll regularly go to the spa to unwind, however, I’ve found that some of my best creative ideas come when on the massage table. I’ve stopped the masseuse multiple times so that I can write down great ideas that you’ve probably seen on one of my shows. It’s ironic that I thought working non-stop was the only way to excellence when my best ideas actually come while relaxing.
MP: How do you deal with failure and what is your advice to young entrepreneurs with regards to failure?
TB: I realize now that failure is just as valuable as success. I’ve had failures that made me want to shrink under my bedcovers for days and feel sorry for myself, like my world was crumbling around me. In the end, I learned from each failure. I am a true believer that if you’re not experiencing failure in your work life or business, you’re playing it too safe. Shake it up. Take a risk. Without struggle, your success will be marginal.