Tyra Banks has done it all: she's a model, reality TV host, entrepreneur, and New York Times best-selling author. But did you know that Tyra was also a visiting professor at Stanford University's Business School?
Yes, you read that correctly.
Tyra taught a personal branding course in the MBA program of a prestigious business school.
Aren't you curious about what branding lessons the multi-hyphenate mogul was able to teach her students during her time as a professor?
Are you excited? Let's begin!
Tyra Lynne Banks was a top international model who made her debut at the age of 15 and was the first African-American woman to appear on the covers of GQ and Sports Illustrated.
At only 18, Tyra formed a corporation—Tygirl, Inc.—to manage her multifaceted career after noticing that Caucasians dominated the modeling industry and were earning more at the time.
"It's long past time that black models received the same benefits as white models," she told Essence Magazine.
"However, I'm still not as rich as white supermodels," she added.
From 1997 to 2005, Tyra became a Victoria's Secret Angel and was also active as an actress both in film and TV. By the early-mid 2000s, she was considered one of the world's highest-paid models.
Truth be told, it is more difficult to become a model after the age of 21. Most agencies prefer their models to appear younger and more youthful, and Tyra was no exception to this standard.
By the time Tyra was approaching her 30s, her managers had told her numerous times that her career was over. But she was never discouraged. She was a fighter.
Why compete with 20-year-olds when you can be their leader?
That's when Tyra turned her supermodel abilities into a successful television series—America's Next Top Model.
Tyra continued to seek new opportunities to advance her career after 24 seasons of ANTM success. She was able to:
All of these ventures were successful. Tyra was unique in that she managed to remain relevant and visible long after her modeling career ended.
For the supermodel-turned-TV-host-turned-production-company-founder, experience isn't the only way to learn. Tyra decided to enroll in Harvard's Executive Education Owner/President Manager Program, which she completed in 2012.
Perhaps inspired by her educational experiences, the 19th season of "America's Next Top Model," which Tyra created, produced, and hosted, became a "college edition," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
After more than a decade as a model mentor, Tyra decided to share her experience of "owning your personal brand" with a larger and younger audience.
In May 2017, Tyra began co-teaching a class with Alison Kluger, a Graduate School of Business lecturer.
She named her class "Project You: Building and Extending Your Personal Brand" and covered a variety of topics aimed at answering the following questions:
Aside from the topics mentioned above, the former Victoria's Secret model and TYRA Beauty CEO taught the 25 graduate students in the class how to highlight their strengths using both old and new media and how to handle press exposure as a business leader.
According to the official course description, the first assignment for the course requires students to create a short video introducing themselves and a vision for their personal brand.
The graduate course continued for three years before being halted because face-to-face classes were suspended due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now that you know a little bit about Tyra Banks and how she ended up teaching at Stanford, here are the three most important personal branding lessons our insiders have learned from her class:
People who are willing to put themselves out there constantly are the ones who achieve the most success in their lives.
As any businessperson knows, knowing more people will help you succeed.
Individuals and businesses alike can use social media to gain exposure, make connections, gain influence, and spread their messages further.
It is an excellent platform for companies looking to get their products or services in front of more people.
If you want to start taking advantage of the beautiful stage that is social media but find yourself becoming overly concerned with the opinions of others, Prof Ty suggests you consider the following three principles:
To be memorable, recognizable, and iconic, you must be different. Tyra taught her students that being the best isn't sufficient. Yes, you must be talented. But you must also distinguish yourself from the rest of the talent.
Elon Musk, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Bill Gates, and others have created iconic personal brands. Their distinct "it" factor distinguishes them and makes them difficult to imitate.
Others may be "better" at what they do, but these people are memorable because they are unique.
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What your personal brand isn't is perhaps just as important as what it is.
Tyra had her students write down who they were not and who they never wanted to be in one of her classes. She also told them to list people, brands, and companies they didn't respect.
There will be temptations as you advance in your career. Knowing who you aren't is essential for staying true to yourself and understanding when to say "no."
In the end, your personal brand is defined by what people remember about you.
People will remember you if you are unique and consistent and if you're broadcasting it to the world.
Personal branding can take months, or even a year, if you don't have a team of digital marketing experts on your side.
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