When it comes to diversity and inclusion, the fashion industry still has a long way to go. Supermodel Tyra Banks was the first black woman to appear on the cover of GQ in 1996, Sports Illustrated a year later and to be featured in the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Her latest interview with W Magazine reveals she almost lost the opportunity with VS because the hairdresser didn’t know how to style black hair.
To promote Perfect Is Boring, Banks new book with her mother Carolyn London, the two talked about Banks’ early days as a model in the ‘90s. When the chance to become a Victoria Secret angel presented itself, Banks said she was sent home the first day.
“The hairdresser didn’t know what to do with my African American hair, so it looked crazy,” she told W. “I wrapped it and put a scarf on until the next day, when I was on my way to Victoria’s Secret and stepped out of a cab and whooshed it off my head, walked in, got my makeup done, didn’t let the hair people touch me, went to the bathroom, redid my face, put on extra lip gloss, and walked on that set.”
Banks said after that day she spoke up for herself and Victoria’s Secret listened. She got a 10-year contract as the first black woman to be a VS Angel, a coveted opportunity to models worldwide. “I stopped silently suffering,” she said. “ I do have to take my hat off to Victoria’s Secret, because that was the last time I ever had to do that—I talked to them and said, ‘Look, my hair is different, I need somebody who can do my hair.’ After that, they hired people who could do my hair for 10 years.”
Banks also touches on diversity on the runways shifting from when she was a 17-year-old newcomer to now. Although people like Duckie Thot and Jourdan Dunn are breaking glass ceilings in their own rights, Banks said “to see no black girls in tons of fashion shows (now) is crazy.”
Check out the full interview here.