When the announcement was made that one of the world's most recognizable women would be ending her eponymous talk show, the world let out a collective cry and then when Tyra Banks made the same announcement shortly thereafter, we all kind of shrugged our shoulders and sucked our teeth.
When her talk show debuted in 2005, comparisons between Tyra and Oprah abounded: they're both women; they're both black; they both have talk shows! They have a lot in common! Though Tyra did share the daytime platform with Oprah, she didn't have her mentor's journalistic or interviewing abilities. In the beginning, Tyra's show successfully centered on female centric issues, fashion, celebrity interviews, and typical talk show fodder, but it is when the show's focused shifted to heavier matters, it began to s(t)ink.
On the show, Tyra often framed solutions and advice through her own experience, which is fine if we're talking about wardrobe, detrimental if dealing with someone with an eating disorder or body dysmorphia. She rarely incorporated the assistance of trained professionals, many times biting off more than she could chew. One episode that stands out was a round table on race (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGNyjsAumuU).
Tyra and her producers gathered the usual suspects (racist Southern white guy, headscarf wearing Middle Eastern woman, angry black guy) and paraded before them clichéd video clips which did nothing to teach or expose. It instead became an opportunity for Tyra to show everyone how wrong they were. Never once did she question them about what got them to this state of mind or if they even wanted to change. The show was so formulaic in its problem solving that the end of the episode seemed scripted, if not bribed. I admire Tyra's willingness to take on challenging social problems, but cringed as she wore not only her heart on her sleeve, but her insecurities and judgments as well.
Witness the infamous 'kiss my fat a**' episode (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNx129njZGI) or the 'breast test' when Tyra had a doctor give her a televised breast exam to prove she didn't have implants (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acysA5PRTF0&feature=related). Why would a woman who claims to have confidence and healthy self-esteem be so concerned, to the point of tears, about what other people think of her? The message she sends, inadvertently, is that what other people have to say does matter…especially if you can prove them wrong. Excessive concern with other's opinions shouldn't be surprising considering that Banks comes from the fashion world where others views have a direct impact on an individual's success. The problem is, she didn't come to terms with that issue before advising others. It's the blind leading the blind.
The art of a good interview, which some great journalists have mastered (Barbara Walters being the grand dame of them all), is the ability to get someone to share about her life and, if possible, to extract the lessons learned. When someone gives a piece of her life for public consumption, it is a courageous act. Whether you like the person's behavior or character, the guts should always be remembered and respected, something that Ms. Banks often forgot. I'll give Tyra a partial pass for not being a trained journalist…but then again, she loses it for playacting like one.
Favorite Awesomely Cringeworthy Tyra Moments
Tells Janet Jackson that she liked the sway of her back
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_EwUBzUNEM&feature=related, skip to 4:10)
Says 'hi' to Obama's deceased mother
Not surprisingly, you won't find this clip anywhere, but in the interview, Tyra asks the then presidential candidate, if he believes his mother is watching over him. He responds that he does. Ms. Banks looks up, waves and says, 'hi, Mom.'
Tyra attacks modeling scams by going after the victims
(unfortunately, I couldn't find a video a clip just this article: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=2623402) - In this episode, various women were tricked into thinking they were at photo shoot with a reputable photographer who wanted to take nude/semi-nude pictures. Most, unwittingly, complied only to have Tyra and crew storm in the room, lights on and cameras rolling. That'll teach those con artists to set up shop on Tyra's turf!
Cries about how hard it was to pretend to be fat
This undercover exposé was one of Tyra's many attempts to walk a day in someone's else shoes. What made it preposterous was Tyra summarizing her experience, in tears, while being comforted by two women who don't get to take their weight off at the end of the day.