Tyra Banks: The Harvard Business School Grad!

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Congratulations are definitely in order for Ms. Tyra Banks

Keep reading for details and photos…


On how she’s applied what she’s learned in the program to her business

After my first term at Harvard, I came back and killed a whole bunch of businesses we were going to go into. We have to say no more often than we say yes, no matter how much money people put on that goddamned table. Harvard is all about innovation and being first to market. It’s something I’m constantly bringing back to my team, whether it’s my soldiers or my generals. I give them challenges and homework and brainstorming sessions to bring the culture that I’m learning at school into my own business. I’m supposed to see a business plan on Thursday and I learned that the differentiation wasn’t in there yet, and I said, “You guys know that needs to be in there before I see it.”

On which subjects came naturally

In second term we talked about a tactic that’s highly risky—you take such a leap forward in one direction that you burn the bridge to go backward. I thought, “Oh my gosh, is that what I did when I retired from modeling and walked off the Victoria’s Secret runway and told the entire world ‘I am retired!’ before I even had my talk show renewed?” I knew with my gut that I was making myself accountable to the entire world so I couldn’t go backward. But I didn’t understand that these were tactics and strengths I had. My marketing professor Rohit Deshpande is now doing a case study on my business, so I’m now going to be part of the Harvard Business School curriculum.

Doesn’t that make you a little worried?

Of course you’ve got to be worried because these guys are going to come and tear apart your company. As the protagonist of the case, I am welcome to be in the classroom when they present it. So it is like free advice—free, harsh, honest, unfiltered advice. I just have to put on my armor to go there.

On if there were any surprises

Our leadership professor, Robert Steven Kaplan, was the vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs before he left to become a professor at Harvard. The difference in income he now gets is staggering. He is constantly trying to teach us to not chase the dollar but to make a difference. I thought we’d be taught “profit, profit, profit, win, win, win, go, go, go.” Instead, we were hearing about the importance of exposing vulnerability to your team. It’s soft stuff, talk-show stuff.

On if she thinks that going to Harvard has changed how people view her

On Twitter and Facebook, a lot of people comment about wanting to go back to school or reach their goals. I see it almost as much as women talking about feeling better about their bodies and their curves. It used to be that 80 percent of what I’d hear was about beauty and body image. Now it’s about education and empowerment. It’s an interesting thing when it comes to branding, which we’re trying to figure out as a company.

On how she believes her peers would benefit

A lot of people in the industry—very famous people—have come up to me and said, “I want to go, too.” I also look at what Lady Gaga is doing and think it’s near-genius. Had I not gone to Harvard, I’m not sure I would have seen it as a marketing play. I would have just said, “Oh, she’s popular.” Now I see how smart she is. It’s a true, clear, executed plan.

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