I don't follow Tyra Banks. I do not watch her talk show, nor have I ever seen more than 5 minutes of any cycle of America's Next Top Model.
In fact, my experience with Ms. Banks is informed only by what I read in the gossip columns... or the recaps of her shows on this very site. So it was with some curiosity - and caffeine-deprived trepidation - that I ventured out into the rain yesterday to hear what the media mogul had to say at a NY Times "Times Talks" event.
Why the Times chose to feature Banks at a live event almost a year after the editors of its Sunday magazine ran a 8,000+ word cover story on her was unclear, but there she was, outfitted in a tight, stylish beige dress, flesh-colored shoes and bouncy, shiny, highlighted hair. (Note: I am not one to be able distinguish real hair vs. a weave from a distance of 100 feet.) Perhaps her appearance was related to the recent inauguration of the country's first African American president: the interview kicked off with a glowing rehash of Banks' interview with Barack Obama in October 2007. ("Obama mania was just starting," the talk show host alleged, somewhat incorrectly, adding that she was so nervous about the interview that she asked the then-Senator to "feel my [shaking] hand.") Perhaps it was the publicity surrounding her recent court case. But whatever the reason, there she was, towering over an awed Ms. Hirschberg, charming the audience with self-deprecating commentary about her physique, trotting out the usual platitudes about girl power, self-esteem and inner beauty. (She even managed to get in a plug for her Ashton Kutcher collaboration, the awful, blessedly one-season-only reality show True Beauty.)