Tyra Banks grew up in Inglewood, California. Her parents are Carolyn London (a photographer) and Don Banks. Her parents divorced when she was six years old and she regards her mum as her best friend.
She began her television career as an actress with recurring roles in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Felicity. She starred in the Disney made-for-television movie, Life. Tyra's film experience includes leading roles in John Singleton's Higher Learning and Jerry Bruckheimer's Coyote Ugly.
Tyra began her modeling career in Europe and evolved into a world-renowned supermodel who has become a pioneer in the industry. She was the first African-American woman to grace the covers of GQ, Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue and the Victoria's Secret catalog. In 1997, she received the prestigious Michael Award for Supermodel of the Year. She later secured an exclusive contract with Victoria's Secret. In addition, Banks has been contracted by Swatch and Cover Girl, and has appeared in ad campaigns for Nike, Pepsi, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Dolce & Gabbana.
Tyra also authored Tyra's Beauty Inside & Out, published by Harper Collins (1998).
Tyra founded T-Zone, an annual weeklong summer camp experience, which is a leadership and life skills development program for primarily disadvantaged teen girls in the greater Los Angeles area. As of 2005, more than 240 girls have gone through the program. In addition, Tyra established "The Tyra Banks Scholarship" in 1994, a fund that grants African-American girls the opportunity to attend her alma mater, Immaculate Heart High School, an all-girls private school in Los Angeles.
Tyra is creator and executive producer of America's Next Top Model which currently airs on UPN. She is also the founder and CEO of Ty Ty Baby Productions.