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Not entirely banking on the Tyra mode

BY MERYN FLUKER | APRIL 07, 2009 7:30 AM

Tyra Banks might be her own worst enemy. Why else is it so impossibly hard to cheer for her?

Tyra Banks is SO hot. With her mouth closed.

As a big, busty, and dare I say beautiful black woman, I want to support my kin. I worship our first lady’s aura of perfection (though I would never place her in the “big and busty” category), and I can’t say enough nice things about Oprah. But I REFUSE to get on the Tyra Banks bandwagon. No amount of sugar can make me drink her Kool-Aid. With last week’s début of reality show “Pretty Wicked,” hosted by “America’s Next Top Model” winner CariDee English, I’m forced to be even more upset at Banks for unleashing more of her progeny on the world.

I’m not just a hater. Sure, I could be jealous that Miss Tyra dated my favorite member of the Fab Five, Chris Webber, or that she had a recurring role as Jackie on “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” That’s not it. My ill will towards Miss Tyra has to do with her utter fakery. Is that a word? I don’t even care, because Tyra would say it without shame.

“America’s Next Top Model” is the source of my Tyra ire. No longer are Vassar and Wellesley the destinations of choice for the nation’s young women, it’s now Tyra-town with the possibility of a stint on “The Surreal Life” and a potential spinoff. “America’s Next Top Model” focuses on the most superficial of all careers — modeling — and then each week Tyra tries to imbue it with undeserved and overacted sincerity. Sure, occasionally the judges kick off a girl who takes bad pictures, but the minds behind “ANTM” also have no problem evicting girls for personality reasons, i.e. in Cycle Three when plus-sized Toccara supposedly lost her fire and subsequently lost her place. Never mind that no plus-sized model was ever going to win that show as long as Janice Dickinson sat at the judges’ table, but I digress.

Tyra also loses points because as a judge, she constantly encourages hopefuls to be themselves and embrace their flaws … ON A FUCKING MODELING SHOW. Does anyone think it’s just a little hypocritical to tell girls to love themselves and be true to their spirits while giving them makeovers? P.S. Tyra, way to embrace your racial identity … keep giving all the black contestants ruler-straight extensions (or cutting their hair off completely). Now you, too, young Nubian princess, can look like all the white images forced down your throat by the media. Thanks, TyTy.

Tyra is most obnoxious in her natural habitat, her talk show. On “The Tyra Banks Show,” she gets to display a level of narcissism not commonly seen outside of Congress. Here’s her persona, distilled into two steps.

First, Tyra makes a “funny,” self-effacing comment designed to appear as if she’s being honest about her flaws and truly engaging the audience. In reality, this “quip” — though it often takes the form of a silly face or awkward gesture — is an attempt to show how superior Tyra truly is. Imagine: those looks, that success, and she’s funny.

Then Tyra shares an intimate moment with a guest who’s sharing a heartbreaking tale. Perhaps this guest suffers from body dysmorphic disorder or her parents were killed by Afghan rebels. Maybe the guest is in an abusive relationship. It doesn’t matter, because Tyra has gone through it, too, and has some completely useless advice to dispense. Oh, and on the rare case Tyra hasn’t been in that exact situation, she’ll relate it to something from her life. It goes something like this, “While I have never been a victim of a plane crash, one time I fell during a Victoria’s Secret runway show, and it was pretty awful.” Mama Tyra feels your pain.

As much as I cannot stand Tyra, it is slowly becoming her world, and I have to live in it. But maybe, much like the claim that many homophobes are secretly gay themselves, my hatred for Tyra might be due to our common traits. We both have giant foreheads, we both think we’re hilarious, and we both don’t want to admit what the scale says when we step on it. If Tyra’s insecurities didn’t feel so false, maybe I could actually embrace our similarities. But because Tyra hides her persona through airbrushing, inane catch phrases, and clever editing (notice how the camera is rarely on her while she’s speaking during “America’s Next Top Model”), I can’t believe she’s nearly as fierce as her image. Yet I have a feeling she knows exactly what I mean.


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