Smiling with My Eyes

While I used to be the type of person who read Perez Hilton religiously, talked about the celebrities on the cover of US Weekly as if they were my BFFS, and dream about stardom, these days have since passed. I’ve shifted my daily distractions to TFLN and FML and MLIA—you know, real life things—and aspire to become world famous for my incredible writing talent rather than my dramatic skills.

However, when presented with the occasion to meet the one and only Tyra Banks, I was not one to pass up this once-in a lifetime opportunity (until I win ANTM cycle 17, that is).

Tyra, for as long as I can remember, has been my favorite celebrity. Perhaps it’s her stunning beauty, her quirky phrases and outbursts, her mission to make all women feel gorgeous and perfect. Regardless, Tyra is quite beloved and dear to me. She’s been on locker posters, T-shirts, been there to chat with me after-school when all I wanted to do was stuff my face with pasta, taught me how to work the runway, smile with my eyes, and rock my natural hair without a weave. Maybe I don’t actually need a weave, but seriously, Tyra is my girl!

I probably shrieked for an hour when I learned I had the opportunity to breathe the same air as her. While Tyra may provide us with episodes like “10 women, 5 vaginas” and “Marijuana Moms,” I still wholeheartedly enjoy her hour-long afternoon talk show. After doing my makeup as well as she taught me, picking out a cute outfit, and downing a coffee, I felt ready for my day in her studio. I couldn’t contain my excitement as I cheered and clapped and screamed for my role model long before she even stepped on stage. I volunteered myself for all the diversions until filming began; I finally was called upon to stand onstage and answer Tyra trivia, and won a free t-shirt. My favorite t-shirt.

Tyra finally pranced down her runway, tall and glamorous and flawless, and I was unsure what to think. I don’t really remember thinking. I remember staring and shrieking more and doubting that Tyra Banks stood twenty feet away from me. The taping went by quickly, although the producers continuously paused to push Tyra’s curls around with a strange stick, I went home with more than enough Valentine’s day gifts from my lady and a never-ending smile on my face.

It seemed that everyone I saw that day needed to know that I saw Tyra, shared her space, seen the legend in person. Shockingly enough, people listened, or maybe they were just hoping for some of the two pounds of Godiva chocolate she gave me...

So here’s the thing: it may seem stupid to have a celebrity icon, to look up to someone you don’t know, aspire to be her, meet her, befriend her, there’s a specialness about this impossibility that makes our lives more interesting. While I never actually believed I would meet Tyra (I swear she waved at me after the taping!), seeing her in person reaffirmed my belief in the distant. Tyra, the first African American model for Sports Illustrated and Victoria’s Secret; the star of Lindsay Lohan’s television movie debut, Lifesize; a face in Michael Jackson’s iconic “Black or White” video has always been this distant superstar, a force so powerful and far away, she barely seemed real. And now, I’ve seen her. I believe in the things she’s done and the things I’m capable to do. Tyra encourages me to release my silly side, imitate the “Single Ladies” dance on national TV (is now a good time to drop that Beyoncé was on the show), feel beautiful and perfect and just be who I am.

And while my celebrity life may be far in my past, my hours spent with Tyra will keep me smiling with my eyes for a long, long time….