Tyra Banks Discusses Her Weight, Smiling With Her Eyes, and Herself in General

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Photo: Getty Images

Tyra Banks told New York Times Magazine writer Lynn Hirschberg that she gets up in the morning every day to “expand the idea of beauty.” Speaking at the TimesTalks series, Banks offered this as an explanation for her “short season” of America's Next Top Model. The talk provided Banks with yet another platform to discuss the struggles she faced in her modeling days, including the battle with her weight. Once she started developing curves, Banks said, her agency gave her a long list of designers who wouldn’t use her unless she lost “a lot of weight — hips and breasts.” But Banks chose pizza and planned her jump to commercial modeling. “I like to say that I was one of those girls that helped bridge high, high fashion and commercial fashion. Back then, you were mass or you were class. Now you have girls like Gisele Bündchen — high fashion with a Victoria’s Secret contract,” she said. But blackness, she adds, is still not commercial. “In the high-fashion world, darker black skin is considered beautiful. But on the commercial side, you have girls like myself, Beyoncé, and Halle Berry, with light black skin. I make a point to have beautiful chocolate girls on Top Model who are also girls next door.”

Tyra's spending the summer overhauling her talk show. "What you will see in September 09 is not what you see now,” she said. Hirschberg said Banks has an “athletic focus” that made her feel pretty inadequate when they spent time together. “I feel like a teenager still,” Banks said. “It lives inside of me.” But she adds that she’s never been drunk, isn’t really into clothes, and works weekends — so we’re not sure what kind of teenager she’s talking about.

And, of course, Banks addressed those 275 smiles she made an Internet video about for the Times last year. She even called a few audience members up onstage to demonstrate these smiles. Oh, Tyra. Never leaving the house without humiliating people. Herewith, her wisdom:

The Flirting-With-a-Man Smile: “Turn your shoulder to your man, move your face down, and use a sound effect, a little hmmmmmmmmm,” Banks said. (That “hmmmmmmm” is more of a cat purring than a “What should I have for lunch today? Hmmmmm,” obviously.)

The Surprise Smile: “We’re not smiling like the surprise is real — it’s not ‘OMG, are you serious?’" Banks said. It’s a hand to the cheek, and a gasp. Remember, the surprise isn’t like, swine flu or an unexpected breakup; it’s more of a “I forgot my contacts at home!”

The Catalogue Smile: This is the smile that sells J.Crew sweaters. “Put the left foot forward, and turn your head ahead as if there’s wind whipping you that way, and smile with your hand on your head and parted teeth. So walk forward with your hand on your right cheek, and step with your left foot, so your booty sticks out.” She then suggests you add a dainty “ahhhh” as a sound effect. Still following?

The Angry Smile: Save this one for “bitches,” Banks said. You move a hand to your hip, look forward, “dip that booty to the right,” and let your face say “Okay, okay, okay, uh-huh.” This actually make sense in person.

The Smile With the Eyes ©: “This is crucial,” she said. “It’s on magazine covers, it sells perfume, it sells shoes.” Hirschberg admitted this smile "has changed everything” for her. Tyra recommends pulling your shoulders down, facing forward, pretending there’s a string pulling your head up and that a dentist shot you in the mouth with Novocain. She said it’s “almost like you’re in Star Trek.” But if we could all do it, Tyra Banks wouldn't be so special now, would she?

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