Tyra Banks on Modeling Alongside Naomi Campbell in Early Days of Her Career: ‘She Seemed Like She Just Didn’t Want Me to Be There’

Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell didn’t hit it off when they met modeling as young girls.

Today, Banks has a net worth of $90 million thanks to her successful modeling career, her popular (we’re talking 24 seasons) reality TV show, America’s Next Top Model, her Emmy award-winning talk show, The Tyra Banks Show, and a slew of other varied projects. As of late, she’s been creating a theme park centered around modeling, appropriately named, Modelland. 

But when Banks began modeling at the age of 15, Campbell didn’t embrace her, the now 45-year-old told The Wall Street Journal in a recent interview. The fact they weren’t BFFs right away spurred the idea of a supposed feud or rivalry between the two supermodels, which Banks has disputed for years. She’s also quick to point out she doesn’t consider what happened between them to be “a rivalry” because of their places in the modeling industry at the time. 

Tyra Banks
Tyra Banks. | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images For dcp

“It wasn’t a rivalry,” Banks told The Wall Street Journal per People. “And I’m very sensitive to that word because a rivalry is with two equals to me, where one was very dominant. She was a supermodel and I was just some new girl that got on a plane from Paris and was studying fashion in magazines at a fashion library,” she added. 

She continued, saying she felt friction between Campbell, who went on to become one of the world’s biggest supermodels. 

“I had a very painful early days in Paris. As much as I was booking every single fashion show, people didn’t know I was going home at night crying my eyes out because a woman I was looking up to seemed like she just didn’t want me to be there,” Banks said. “And was doing everything in her power to make me go away.”

During Paris Fashion Week in 1991, her first time there, Banks booked 25 shows. She was 18 years old. But as she told the publication, she didn’t feel accepted by Campbell and didn’t understand why she may have been behaving that way. 

“I didn’t understand that as a young girl, like why is she doing this? This is so evil. This is so awful,” Banks said. 

She added that as she grew up she came to understand Campbell’s behavior. 

“The adult me understands that she was reacting to an industry that was all about a token. When I came on the scene, ‘Naomi look out, there’s another Black girl that’s going to take your spot,’” Banks continued. 

Tyra Banks invited Naomi Campbell to appear on her talk show

In 2005, now 49-year-old Campbell appeared on Banks’s talk show where they cleared the air and got rid of any remaining tension from their early modeling days. Two years later in March 2007, Banks and Campbell attended the 38th annual NAACP Image Awards and were photographed striking their best model poses. 

Tyra Banks returned to modeling this year

Earlier this year Banks returned to modeling after a 14-year hiatus when she appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She made history as the oldest model to ever appear on the cover of the magazine, according to Allure