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Tyra Banks

Why We See Fewer High Quality Women in The Industry & The Ones Who Remain Won’t Show as Much


Today someone on a message board asked why Sabrina Hunter won’t do any straight-on back shots. My answer: we’re lucky women like Sabrina are even willing to do this at all anymore, let alone give up back shots. What we are witnessing now is literally the manifestation of the saying, “you reap what you sow.” The industry, a shadow of what it was 10 years ago, is downright disreputable. So it’s no wonder it no longer attracts quality women, or that the ones who remain aren't willing to stake as much on it.

People are quick to forget, so I’ll just give a quick reminder. Ten years ago – let’s call it “the Melyssa Ford era” – we had quality celebrities like Gabrielle Union, Regina Hall, Jennifer Freeman and Tyra on the cover of KING magazine, in swimsuits no less! Melyssa Ford hosted an entertainment news show similar to Access Hollywood on BET. It was the golden era of urban modeling, when it still had a specter of respectability and was not so far removed in public perception from its white counterpart of glamour modeling (e.g., Maxim, Sport’s Illustrated, etc.). During that period up-and-coming actresses, college students, and women with proper jobs were all willing to don a bikini (maybe even a thong) because to tell someone you were an urban model was not so bad.

Cut to 10 years later. Virtually no notable actresses do this anymore. Instead, what we have are mainly strippers with lots of tattoos and bad Photoshop repeatedly featured in the same rags. There are no more female grad students (see Candace Smith) willing to try this on a lark, or even college students. At best, the business has been reduced to street-smart hustlers* willing to parlay magazine spreads into hosting opportunities.

So given this change in climate, is it any wonder that the few respectable women still willing to dip their toe in this cesspool won’t give it their all and do thong shots? Context and stakes are what women gauge these things by. Who else is doing this? Is anyone I respect doing it? What can I gain by doing this? Both context and stakes are in the toilet for urban modeling. The context is strippers and the stakes are nothing. You reap what you sow. We the consumers didn’t demand more. We let this thing come off the rails and rode the Buffie trend into the ground. So now a woman with a college degree who looks like Melyssa Ford won’t come anywhere near this, and you can’t blame her.

*See V. Veasley's quote: "So yeah, the spoils then go to the hustlers..."

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My Six Degrees From Tyra

The closest I’ll ever get to Tyra Banks is having my photography featured in the same scene she was in in John Singleton’s “Higher Learning” (see poster behind Tyra and Omar Epps below). Back when that movie came out, I was photographing a calendar called The Darker Image that was getting some hype. Singelton’s production office called and asked if they could use some of the photos as props in the dorm rooms of characters. He was really cool and invited me and my business partner down to the set to see where the stuff was used and watch them film scenes. I was just a kid and was very impressed with the whole process. Ah, the good old days. Winking


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Tyra The Supermodel

Remember that before Tyra became a mogul talk show host, she was once a very beautiful woman, lol. Join me for a walk down memory lane as we revisit Tyra the Supermodel. Scans courtesy of the now-defunct Phatman (a great site). Man, I used to have a serious thang for this girl. Sigh. (Click to enlarge certain images)

Tyra 6
Tyra 2Tyra 13
Tyra 23

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