So many girls think that modeling is a party. It's not," says supermodel Tyra Banks, who stayed one step ahead of the cutthroat modeling industry by positioning herself to be finished with modeling before it was finished with her. In the BLACK ENTERPRISE (BE) September issue exclusive, "Models Inc.," writer Alisa Gumbs profiles former African American models who transitioned from runway divas to savvy businesswomen-from the legendary Barbara Smith of B. Smith Enterprises to the flamboyant Kimora Lee Simmons, president and creative director of Baby Phat.
The most well-known examples of models turned mogul are September issue cover subjects Iman and Tyra Banks. Iman sits atop a cosmetics empire that sells millions of dollars of products annually through mass-market retailers such as Walgreens, Wal-Mart, and Target. Banks is the creator, host and executive producer of the hit reality show America's Next Top Model and The Tyra Banks Show, a talk show that has scored high ratings with young female audiences, earning it a second season. "Few models ever make it big, and the majority of new businesses fail. But these women have managed to conquer two very difficult arenas-despite their double minority status and the perception that they are nothing more than pretty faces," says Gumbs. "BE celebrates their achievements and, at the same time, highlights some of the often overlooked pioneers of the trend."