Tyra Banks was my hero. My one-piece bathing suit, “BE QUIET TIFFANY,” cellulite-celebrating hero. So, like any sophomore in high school who plasters celebrities’ faces on binders and lockers, I made my fan-girl status known.
But what was the ultimate representation of my love for Tyra? Starting a Tyra Banks club at my school and recruiting hundreds of fans, obviously. My group of close friends and I already spent most of our weekend nights watching America’s Next Top Model anyway, so my 15-year-old self thought why not make a few more pans of brownies and open my family room to the public?
In order to get the club recognized by the school I needed a legitimate proposal. Tyra’s campaign to improve women’s self esteem was in full swing in 2009, so the new plan for the club was to improve teenage girl’s self esteem at my high school through photo shoots and watching various uplifting episodes of The Tyra Banks Show. My friends and I made t-shirts and had my mom take (now horribly embarrassing) photos of us. We set up our table in the quad for club week and waited to see how our school would respond. It quickly edged away from a joke after over 200 hundred people signed up. My only plan was to watch Life Size.
We started small and decided to have our photographer friend take photos of us in his backyard. He lived on a fairly rural property for Orange County and we peeked behind trees and stood on top of wooden gates doing our best to make Gisele pouty faces. Afterwards we all changed into sweats and sat around the computer screaming “OH MY GOD YOU’RE SO HOT” about basically every photo of each other.
The kids at my school mainly signed up for the silliness of it, but a few gun-ho members asked when we would be having meetings. After out first photo shoot, Sanam who was one of the main officers of the club and fantastic with anything PR related, posted a photo of the Tyra Club on the show’s site. Next week, the producers called us to ask if we wanted to be on an episode of the show for our work with the club. Sanam and I answered the call in the middle of class and spent about five minutes screaming and, unfortunately, crying. I was so flustered when they asked for our height and appearance that I forgot what ethnicity I was until my teacher whispered “Caucasian.”
The show flew us out to New York and put us in a hotel down the street from the studio to start preparing for the episode. The first half of the episode was going to be focused on the Tyra Club, and three other girls who devoted their lives to running a Tyra twitter, blog, and just emulating her in general. The second half of the show included the America’s Next Top Model Cycle 13 runner-up Laura Kirkpatrick, who was known for her petite size and southern accent.
Prior to filming the episode, they drove us to Washington Square Park to film an introduction video with Laura. Sanam and I wore our Tyra shirts, and we all sang “Be a Star.” We didn’t have much in common with the other girls so we spent most of our time just discussing our obsession with Tyra. It wasn’t our proudest public moment, but hey, we were proud.
After getting my hair and make-up done, romping around New York City with Laura, and eating for free, I began to think this is it. This is what I want to do with my life. I will be a professional Tyra Banks fan.
If I had known how much shit I could have been in on national television I wouldn’t have been so lackadaisical about the whole process. Sanam and I didn’t realize the expectations of guests on an episode called “Super Fans,” in which we were supposed to be Tyra’s biggest fans in the world. On stage prior to filming, the topic turned to Tyra and her eating habits. The three other girls were way out of our league. They started detailing Tyra’s favorite breakfast and the answers they’d know to a hypothetical game show competition.
I had visions of the crowd screaming “WE WERE ROOTING FOR YOU! WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU!” and tried to signal to my mom that I needed to immediately get off this stage because I didn’t know Tyra’s favorite snack was a peanut butter sandwich. Too late. The music started and Tyra strutted out in a red jumpsuit and ridiculously high heels.
Now, unless you’re Katie Holmes and you went from kissing a Tom Cruise poster to kissing him at the altar, then you’ve probably never been intimate with your celebrity crush. I experienced what I call my over-the-shirt, pseudo motorboat of Tyra Bank’s titties. And my big fat moderately lesbian crush dreams came true in that moment. On a more respectful note, she has a lot more freckles in person. I tried not to stare at her teeth as she asked me questions about the club, and generally tried to appear like a respectable human. She talked about her excitement that her campaign was reaching teenage girls, and named us her new Beauty Inside and Out Campaign.
There weren’t any diva, dragon lady moments from Tyra, which would have been heartbreaking for me at the time. And, I went through the entire process without looking like a sub par Tyra fan. After the episode aired Joel McHale called us “Tyra’s little Fuglettes” on The Soup, which I really didn’t have a problem with because Joel McHale now knows I exist.
When we touched down in California and returned to school there wasn’t much of a reaction from other students, but the teachers were elated. The principal enjoyed telling the story to visitors and some teachers showed the episode during class. The Tyra Club peaked early, and began to dissipate after the hype of the show died down. It was short lived, but I still like to watch marathons of America’s Next Top Model now and then to reminisce.