While still attending Immaculate Hearts High School, Banks outgrew her awkward stage by filling out her body through her feminine curves. Even though Banks was still in high school, she decided to use her unique features, such as her eyes, long legs, and ethnicity to try modeling. Banks mother put together her portfolio by putting her photography skills to work. Banks modeling career did not start off as she was hoping. Several modeling agencies gave Banks rejections, stating she looked “too ethnic” and another stating “already had a black woman and didn’t want another.” The rejection did not get in the way Banks passion of fulfilling her dreams of becoming a supermodel.
At the age of 17 in 1990, Banks was discovered by one of the biggest modeling agencies in the world, Elite Model Management. Within the first year of signing to Elite Model Management, Banks shot her first spread for Seventeen Magazine. Signing to the agency would change Banks life big time by offering her new possibilities that would change her life forever. In 1991, after Banks decided keep up with modeling instead of attending Loyola Marymount her agency gave her the opportunity to travel to Paris.
Tyra Banks became a big hit overseas in Paris by becoming one of the top supermodels in the world. Agencies and designers fell in love with Banks look, within in the year she was walking in 25 different runways. Banks was making history by becoming one the few African American supermodels to book so many jobs. In the mid 1990s, Banks continued to grow into her body, that made heads turn later in her career. Instead of making drastic efforts like starving herself to book jobs in Paris, Banks decided to return home to the United States. Due to Banks having more curves, she switched from fashion runway model to swimsuit and lingerie modeling. Banks admits that she has made her living by having more curves than the average model.
In 1996, Banks became the first African American model on the cover of GQ. Just a year later Banks was yet again the first African American model to appear on another cover, Sports Illustrated, Sports Edition in 1997. Banks later was the first African American model in Victoria’s Secret catalog.
In 1997, Banks signed to Cover Girl and Victoria Secret, providing her endless campaigns and runway shows. Later that year, Banks received the Michael Award for Supermodel of the year and two Teen Choice Awards for super modeling.