Tyra Banks owns the distinction of being the first African-American model to grace the covers of both “GQ” and “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit edition. The Inglewood, Calif. native was born December 4, 1973.

Banks, who says she was an ugly duckling growing up, began modeling at 15. Despite her barriers, her career took off. One agency denied her, saying that her look was “too ethnic,” while another firm said they could only handle one Black model at a time. However, after signing with Elite Model Management, Banks’ career exploded in Europe.

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At a slender 5-foot-10, Banks was one of the few Black supermodels of the 90s. Things shifted for her professionally after she gained weight, something many models at her level dreaded. Banks decided to flaunt her curves, leaving the runways of Europe to become a lingerie and swimsuit model where figure would be appreciated.

The move paid off well, with Banks landing the “GQ” cover and then gracing the cover of the SI swimsuit edition three times, most recently earlier this year. She was also a longtime member of the Victoria’s Secret Angels corps, helping bring the brand global popularity.

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In her post-modeling career, Banks created, hosted and produced one of the early hit reality competition series in “America’s Next Top Model,” which gave a platform to models of all shapes and sizes. She also hosted a talk show, published a novel, acted in television and film and has her own cosmetics line.

Banks turned 46 on Wednesday.

PHOTO: PR Photos

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