Perfect Is Boring: 10 Things My Crazy, Fierce Mama Taught Me About Beauty, Booty, and Being a Boss
About the Author
TYRA BANKS is the supermodel, super entrepreneur, and super CEO of our time. As an original Victoria’s Secret Angel, the first African American model to be featured on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, and the creator/executive producer of one of the longest-running competition shows, America’s Next Top Model, Tyra has made it her life’s mission to expand the definition of beauty and empower women worldwide. In 2012, she graduated from the Owner/President Management program at Harvard Business School, and now teaches personal branding at Stanford University’s Business School. She has been listed twice among Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
CAROLYN LONDON, is a retired professional photographer, mother to Tyra and her brother, Devin, and the CEO emeritus of the Tyra Banks Company and cofounder of the TZONE Foundation. She is the grandmother of five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Tyra: Hi, my name is Tyra Banks, and you might remember me from that time I yelled at a girl on TV.
Yeah, you remember that time.
If I was a singer, "Be Quiet, Tiffany" would be my top-of-the-charts number-one-hit-single bat mitzvah dance floor filler that you and your gay best friend cue up every time you go sing karaoke, and you got the GIF saved on your phone, just so it's ready to go the next time someone starts telling you something you don't want to hear.
And you know what? I'm not mad at that, because that moment that's all over the Internet is really just me embodying someone I love so damn much: my mother.
'Cause I ain't crazy, but my mama sure is.
Carolyn: Ty, now when you say "crazy," you mean it in that good way, right? Shoot, girl. I ain't even gonna ask, 'cause I know you do!
Tyra: Well, let me see-do I? When I say that my mama is crazy, what I mean is . . .
Crazy in a letting-your-grandbabies-pull-your-wig-off-and-let-them-wear-it-to-brunch way.
Crazy in an eating-spilled-chili-off-the-dusty-kitchen-floor-cuz-that's-her-famous-recipe-and-it-ain't-gonna-go-to-waste way.
Crazy in an always-got-your-back-even-when-everyone-else-says-you're-down-and-out kinda way.
Crazy in a using-her-juicy-belly-bloops-as-a-musical-instrument way.
Crazy in that tough-love-that-gets-the-point-across-for-real way.
Crazy in a talking-'bout-secretions-on-Amtrak kinda way.
Crazy in a beautiful, talented, loving, and supportive kinda way.
So . . . yes.
You're right, Mama. When I say "crazy," I mean amazing, awesome, incredible, mind-blowing, stupendous.
For me, crazy is good. Crazy is the opposite of boring.
Carolyn: I like that. I ain't been boring a day in my life, so if you wanna call me crazy, I'll take it!
Tyra: I think we can all agree-me and you, the reader, and Mama-that "Be quiet, Tiffany!" was my craziest moment (it's always number one on any Internet list of "29 Reasons Why TyTy Is One Color Short of a Rainbow" or something like that). It was also the time that all the Mama in me came spewing out, like one of those baking-soda-and-vinegar volcanoes you made for your elementary school science fair (and with my red hair, I kinda looked like a volcano).
So let us just break down all the wig-shaking, finger-pointing, mouth-flapping insanity that spawned a million memes.
Tiffany was a girl on cycle 3 of America's Next Top Model. She was so beautiful and talented, with a rags-to-riches story. She didn't make it to the final cast of that cycle, but she had something special about her so we invited her back for a cycle 4 audition and, bam, she made it. On cycle 4, her photos were getting better and better. She was someone who had already been through so much, and I could see where she was going. We invested in her, and she invested in herself. I thought she was going to be the winner. Scratch that-I knew she was gonna be the winner.
Carolyn: Tyra had been raving about Tiffany every time I talked to her. She said that when she saw Tiffany model, she felt like she was looking at the winner of the show. She had never said that-ever.
I was never someone who put tons of emphasis on physical beauty. For me, inner beauty is much more important, and I passed that on to Tyra. So, when she looked at the girls on Top Model, she was looking at the whole girl-not just their posing or their runway walks. How they laughed, how they smiled, how they treated other people, how they lit up a room, or their quest, their fire, their journey.
Tyra connected to Tiffany's spirit and her potential. Tiffany was pure heart and soul, and Tyra was set on making sure that beauty rose to where she deserved to be.
Tyra: That cycle, we had created a judging room challenge that had the models doing mock live TV commentating and reading really difficult words off a teleprompter-things in French, difficult designer names, tough technical terms for patterns and stitches. The point wasn't to see who knew how to pronounce the words perfectly, but who could butcher the heck out of them without losing her cool. We knew that no one-no one-was going to get those cray-cray words right. Everyone tried their hardest and everyone messed up, but when Tiffany messed up, we felt like she acted like she personally had been set up to fail. That all the other girls were perfect and she, well, wasn't. Like it was her fate to lose, entirely out of her control.
Something inside me just couldn't take that. I was looking at this beautiful black butterfly who had finally exited her cocoon, and she was pretty much saying that she wasn't good enough to really spread her wings. There have been countless times in my career when I heard that I couldn't do something because I was black, and that only made me want to go out there and prove everyone wrong. Now, to have a girl who had already overcome so much standing in front of me talking about how she couldn't do things because circumstance and fate were in her way, well . . . You saw what happened. (And you might want to turn down the volume, 'cause it's about to get loud.)
BE QUIET, TIFFANY-BE QUIET! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? STOP IT!
I HAVE NEVER IN MY LIFE YELLED AT A GIRL LIKE THIS. WHEN MY MOTHER YELLS LIKE THIS, IT'S BECAUSE SHE LOVES ME.
I WAS ROOTING FOR YOU; WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU. HOW DARE YOU? LEARN SOMETHING FROM THIS.
WHEN YOU GO TO BED AT NIGHT, YOU LAY THERE AND YOU TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF, 'CAUSE NOBODY'S GONNA TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOU.
YOU ROLLIN' YOUR EYES AND YOU ACTING LIKE THIS BECAUSE YOU'VE HEARD IT ALL BEFORE. YOU'VE HEARD IT ALL BEFORE-YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE THE HELL I COME FROM; YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'VE BEEN THROUGH.
BUT I'M NOT A VICTIM; I GROW FROM IT, AND I LEARN.
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF.
(I typed that in caps 'cause yeah, I was yellin' like a banshee when I said it.)
I'd been in this banshee situation before, but on the other side. I got one of those real, raw, no-holding-back "Be quiet, Tiffany" diatribes from my mama at least twice a year. Or maybe three times a year. Wait, who am I kidding? It's probably more like four. To this day, whenever she gets tired of hearing me doubt myself, or when she thinks I'm about to give up because something turns out to be a little harder than I expected, she grabs me by the shoulders, shakes me, and screams, "BE QUIET, TYRA!"
Mama was never about just breaking me down. It was always-and still is-about building me up. In that two-minute televised Tyrade, I dropped several truth bombs on Tiffany that were filled with the very lessons that Mama had tried so hard to teach me. Mama always told me that I was beautiful no matter what and that I was worthy no matter what, and that's the message I want to pass on to women and men everywhere. It ain't about me. It's about us. I don't want you getting in your own way as you strive to reach your big, fat, sexy, juicy goals.
Carolyn: I wasn't there on set that day, but Tyra came to my house as soon as production wrapped. I could tell something was up, because she was quieter than usual when she walked in the door.
"Mama, something happened on set today, and . . . I don't know if I should air it."
Something about the way she said this made me realize that she wasn't talking about the standard-issue drama that went down on Top Model-someone being super rude at a go-see, a girl writing words on her booty cheeks, or a model cheating on her boyfriend in Milan and crying under a table while getting cursed out by her irate boyfriend back home.
"Ty, what happened?" I asked. "What did you do?"
"I'm just gonna let you watch the tape," she said.
Then she played me the uncut version, and the hair stood up on the back of my neck.
Tyra: When I walked off set that day, my heart was pounding and I had to catch my breath. I knew I had done the right thing (or had I?), but still, there was a part of me that was surprised as hell.
What the eff was that?
I could feel the eyes as I walked back to my trailer. Not on me, but on the ground, as no one on my crew wanted to make eye contact or talk to me. "Tyra has lost her goddamned mind," they were probably all thinking. Probably? Shoot. I'm sure they were sure I needed meds stat.
Had I truly flipped the switch? No one could believe what had just happened. Not even Mama.
Least of all me.
Carolyn: What Tyra showed me was bone-chilling.
Nobody ever believed that Tyra was my daughter. From the time she was born, people asked me if she was adopted-she had this pale skin, these gray eyes, and this sandy reddish hair. Plus, when she grew up, she was almost six feet tall and built like a gazelle with big boobies. I was a human, and my daughter was some alien ian being from that race of people we call "supermodels."
But when I saw that tape of her yelling at Tiffany, it was like I was watching myself.
It was me up there talking to Tiffany.
Everyone's always teased me about how I look when I get upset. My eyes turn into little slits and I talk through my teeth and I point. My. Finger. With. Every. Word. 'Cause I'm tryna drill my message into your brain.
And that's exactly what Tyra was doing.
And everything that was coming out of her mouth was a version of something I'd once said to her.
The apple doesn't fall far from the I-look-crazy-right-now-but-I-swear-I'm-not-I-just-believe-in-you tree.
Tyra: At first, I wasn't sure we should air it. I mean, yes, I have gone far on TV. I've worn a prosthetic suit to expose the harsh judgment of obese people, dressed as a man to show how people responded to rap posses, posed as homeless, and pretended to be a stripper to find out why the heck men are so enthralled with G-strings and pasties in public places, but all of those big moments were produced.
It was unplanned.
It was raw and real.
It was emotional. Maybe even too much, because it made people uncomfortable.
It was one of the few times in my life that I had lost control, when I cracked and everything came spilling out. People pressure celebrities to be perfect, but this was one of my most flawed moments.
Did I want to put it out there for all the world to see?
I've always told my Top Model girls that perfect is boring. I got that from my mama (and Eve even said it to Lindsay Lohan's character, Casey, in the cult movie that I starred in, Life-Size). But of course, when I said it, I wasn't just talking about looks. I was talking about life.
The only way to live a perfect life is to not take risks, to just sit in a little box and never go after what you want or reach for your goals (because, God forbid, ya could try and ya could fail, and that sho' ain't perfect). When you care a lot about someone or something, you're more likely to do imperfect things. Ya know, like freak out and yell.
So, what was I gonna do?
Try to sweep the imperfections under my Kool-Aid-colored red wig, or air it out, even if it got a little messy?
Well, Mama always taught me not to be afraid of messy.
Even if it was a hot mess.
In Perfect Is Boring, Tyra Banks and her mother, Carolyn, get raw, real and cray-in-a-good-way as they share what they’ve learned on Tyra’s journey from insecure preteen to supermodel and entrepreneurial powerhouse. Though she’ll be the first to tell you she is not her daughter’s best friend—‘cause she ain’t that kinda mama!—there’s no doubt that Carolyn’s signature mix of pep talks and tough love got Tyra to where she is today, and here they pay it forward to empower readers with a reminder that perfect really isn’t all that.
Whether they’re writing about watching Tyra’s most imperfect moment go viral (Does “Be Quiet Tiffany!” ring any bells?), no-holds-barred sex talks or how they’ve overcome everything from fashion industry discrimination to media fat-shaming and a misguided attempt at a music career, they never lose their sense of humor or we-got-your-back-spirit. Full of smart, wise, and often hilarious lessons for mothers, daughters, fathers and sons everywhere—including “Take Responsibility for Yourself,” “Lip Gloss + Pizza Sauce = Boss,” and “Fix It or Flaunt It”—Perfect Is Boring is a must-read for anyone who needs a kick in the booty, a pat on the back, or a good reason to laugh-out-loud.