Former model turned business mogul Tyra Banks, 42, has opened up about her younger self in the early ’90s, and how her presence was immediately compared to and pitted against Naomi Campbell, 46, one of the few African-American supermodels at the time.
According to Banks, Campbell caused some of the “lowest times” of her life during their 14-year rivalry, and she reflected on their catfights during an interview with the Norwegian-Swedish talk show Skavlan.
“I got to Paris and it was very difficult. I did very well, very fast,” the new mom recalled of her early career. “But then the industry was saying, ‘Look out Naomi Campbell, here comes Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell sit your butt down, this younger one is coming to take your place.’”
Banks later accused Campbell of bullying her at shows and having her fired from jobs. When Tyra confronted Naomi about the drama during a sit down in the early 2000’s, Naomi could not recall many of moments that left Banks emotionally scared, and the media would go on to continue to fuel the behind-the-scenes conflict between the two women for years.
Banks says she can empathize with how her former foe might have been feeling during that time.
“It was really unfair to her because the other models that weren’t Black, like Kate Moss came up, we were the same generation, they weren’t saying, ‘Look out Christy Turlington, this cheekbone girl got cheekbones higher than yours! Get back!’ You know, so they weren’t saying that. So, you know, it wasn’t fair to Naomi, but her response, to this day I’m very scared of her.”
After all this time, Banks does not excuse her colleagues behavior.
“It was very difficult…some of the lowest times of my life dealing with that, so I don’t condone her actions or her response, but I understand where it comes from because the world is saying you’re not going to have your spot, we’re going to take your money, we’re going to take your fame, go sit down, there’s somebody else, so that’s pretty serious. She reacted strongly but I kind of understand where that was coming from inside of her.”
The two women came together again in 2005 on Tyra’s former talk show. Without a live audience, they sat on the set and talked.
“One of the biggest wishes that I’ve ever had has come true. I had a conversation with Naomi Campbell,” she said. “I got a lot of answers and it has started my healing from all of the devastating rumors and gossip and rivalry and pain that I’ve experienced. I’ve started to heal and I think Naomi has, too.”
Still, the rumors would not rest, and over a decade later, reports began sprouting of a reignited rivalry between the women over their competing reality shows geared at discovering new aspiring models. Banks created and hosted America’s Next Top Model, while Campbell served as a coach on The Face.
“It does irk me that two women of color have to be pitted against each other,” Campbell said. “You can have more than one woman of color in a fashion show. Unfortunately, back then, you could only have one so the other felt … put out.”
“I’m very proud of Tyra and what she’s done with America’s Next Top Model,” she concluded. “I’m proud to know her.”
PHOTO: Tyra Show Screenshot