The Stress of Writing A Bestselling YA Fantasy Novel Gave Tyra Banks Alopecia

24 comments
Tyra Gollum

Via The Belfast Telegraph:

Hola, scribes!

Prepare for some world class motivation: Tyra Banks (yes, that Tyra Banks) has a book out called Modelland that reached the New York Times bestseller’s list for children’s chapter books.  It has since fallen out of the ranks, but the fact remains that this model-turned-author laid the smack down on the literary world by proving literally anyone can play this game.

Let’s be honest with each other here: if you read five years ago that Tyra Banks was working on a book you’d roll your eyes at the very notion.  If you read that her main protag would be going by the handle of Tookie De La Crème…well, insert your own WTF moment.

Other awesome character names include: Theophilus Lovelaces, Zapressa Zarionneaux, and Myrrical.

Seriously, not making that up.  Feel free to read an excerpt of the 576 page tome (!) over at Barnes & Noble if you’re mind isn’t completely blown, and watch the ridiculous book trailer HERE.

Just in case she’s making this look too easy, Tyra admits to some difficulty regarding the writing process as she was essentially doing it between her America’s Next Top Model hosting gig and attending Harvard Business School. (That can't be right, can it?)  The process wasn’t without negative residuals:

"Honestly, chilling for me was eating a meal. I couldn't just look at the ocean. And in hindsight that wasn't healthy. How can I say this without tearing up? I got a little alopecia from the stress," she said.

Alopecia? I thought that shit was a wig?

In all seriousness, I commend the woman for trying a new field, and I give her props for making NYT’s bestsellers, but let’s be realistic here- if you’re a celeb, you pretty much write your own literary ticket.  My hope is that her influence sways a few young women in the world to the realm of literature.  We’ve got enough vapid models running around.

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eirikodin's picture
eirikodin from Auburn, NY is reading Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler October 18, 2011 - 3:47pm

Maybe I should sell my soul and strut my stuff on the runway and see what happens.

EirikOdin

hungrych's picture
hungrych October 19, 2011 - 10:57am

What the fuck is this? Look, I understand the writing community's frustration with how easily, someone like, say, Snooki can just snap her name on an obviously ghostwritten book and have a bestseller, but the ire here incredibly misguided at best, and insidiously misogynist and racist at worst.

I mean, how could an apparently respectable author, one should understand the incredible power of language, go so far as to say something like

"Tyra admits to some difficulty regarding the writing process as she was essentially doing it between her America’s Next Top Model hosting gig and attending Harvard Business School. (That can't be right, can it?),"

and just casually dismiss the incredible accomplishments of a entrepenurial black woman just because you, with no factual basis whatsoever, have assumed her to be, at least at some point, a stereotypical "vapid model"? How can you not see how pathetic, mysogonist and disgusting it is to look at someone who has overcome societal obstacles of both race and sex, to not only dominate the incredibly difficult world of modeling, but also createe, produce, and helm one of the most successful TV shows ever, and say the idea that she could attend a prestigious school "can't be right"? And that "I thought that shit was a wig" bullshit? Again, what kind of socially concsious author could look at the terrible fact of how almost all of even the most beautiful, famous black women in America (to say nothing of ones who are not famous) have been socially shamed into hiding their own fucking hair, and just sit back and make incredibly distasteful jokes about it?

I've gotta say, I was really excited for the site, but upon reading articles like this, I'm been not only disappointed, but actually offended by litreactor's utterly terrible editiorial control. I mean, not only have I yet to see a single thing posted that was written by a black author, but the only black people you've even posted about have been Tyra Banks, and, uh... Hermain Cain? What the fuck? What kind of "haven" for readers and writers is that? I'm sorry, but if your so-called "community" is that baffled by idea that one of the most sucessful black women of our time could write a children a semi-autobiographical children's book, then, well, that's not a community I want to be a part of.

EDIT: And, oh god, the picture? Do I really have to explain what's wrong with that?

 

enough's picture
enough from Indiana is reading Warmed and Bound October 19, 2011 - 11:16am

Wow. Dont hold back. Tell us how you really feel.

T.H. Coggins's picture
T.H. Coggins from Denver is reading The Bayou Trilogy - Daniel Woodrell October 19, 2011 - 3:29pm

Yessss preciousss I do smell a troll.

hungrych's picture
hungrych October 19, 2011 - 4:34pm

I'm sorry; since when is pointing out racist and misogynist overtones considered trolling?

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life October 19, 2011 - 4:38pm

how could an apparently respectable author, one [who] should understand the incredible power of language, go so far as to say something like?

Personally, I don't find Brandon to be all that respectable. :)

miraculousmeaningless's picture
miraculousmeani... from Washburn, WI is reading your mind October 19, 2011 - 10:23pm

Got to say, even though I am admittedly a misogynistic white man, the points about misogyny and racism are not without their merit. I doubt it was the intent of the author to come off as misogynistic and racist but it does not seem unnatural to me that the article has been construed this way.

To the article's author, I say this, with respect:

I wonder how useful an article like this is to the site. I feel like, as someone who is basically here to learn about craft and publishing and to network with other writers, I'm not really taking much away from it. It is offered under the pretense of 'world-class motivation' but ultimately it seems a lot more like flame to me, and just as I don't give a shit what a celebrity might be wearing to the beach this year, I also don't care --at all-- about the publishing accomplishments of celebrities whose work is of dubious merit or interest to me. Celebrities are going to publish books all the time, my suggestion is that unless the work is of interest to the community for reasons other than flaming it, lets just forget it rather than be one more place that is drawing attention to it. If we're going to draw attention to a work, let it be a work of merit, one we might want to read!

 

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life October 20, 2011 - 8:54am

Definitely not trying to be offensive here, just trying to keep LitReactor fun, as well as informative. As always with attempts at humor, there is the potential for the occasional misfire. Apologies to all. If you take umbrage with something we post, please, feel free to continue to take us to task in the comments. That's what they're there for.

hexadeca's picture
hexadeca from NJ October 20, 2011 - 9:38am

I concur. In light of this and the DFW article, I'm out of here.

Sorry.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life October 20, 2011 - 9:44am

Wow. Understand the objection to this post, but the David Foster Wallace thing was legit.

Kirk's picture
Admin
Kirk from Pingree Grove, IL is reading The Book Of The New Sun October 20, 2011 - 10:16am

Josh is right on the money. We don't want to be stuffy all the time but the issue with humor is that some people just read too much into it, and sometimes someone gets offended. But in my opinion, if you never offend anyone with your humor, you're doing it wrong.
That said, I do think hungrych is making a bit of a stretch. First off, Tyra's race isn't mentioned or even hinted at in the post. So really, you're putting that bit of your argument in there based on nothing. You seem to imply that being critical of someone who is a minority is automatically a race issue - it isn't.

The part about it being misogynist is also guilty of the same assumptions. In no way whatsoever is Tyra criticized for being a woman.

Now you can make the argument that it is critical of models and the perception of who they are and I would agree with you. But really, I don't care if jokes are made about people's professions. I'm a computer nerd, I hear tons of jokes about fat guys with no social skills who can't get laid. You know what? I don't care because I get that they are jokes.

Having recently listened to a good interview with Tyra, she clearly is in the same space. In fact, her history of blowing things out of proportion and "saming" (the practice where she would take stories from her guests and then make them about herself) is so well documented that Family Guy has even spoofed her. She even acknowledges that this was done intentionally.

Maybe Family Guy is being racist and misogynist too and I just don't get it.

However, I personally love that something as foolish as this has brought up interesting conversation. This is why we have comments and it is why we won't remove comments that are critical of our posts.

hungrych's picture
hungrych October 20, 2011 - 11:49am

Sorry, maybe I was a bit too ranty and off-putting with my post. Let me try to make myself more clear:

I have no problem with poking fun at celebrities, their professions, or whatever. I am also not accusing the poster of making intentionally, and do not think he sat down intending to deride Tyra Banks in a racially or sexually tinged way.

BUT, and this is a very important but, the language used in this "foolishness" is precisely the language that has historically been used to perpetuate racist and misogynist societal power relations. You say that Tyra's race hasn't been mentioned in the post, and yes, this is true, at least explicitly, but implicitly, like I said, brushing off the very serious issue of society's negative view towards a black woman's natural hair with such a derisive comment--especially when referring to a black woman in the modeling industry, which is one of the biggest purveyors of our racist and misogynist standards of beauty--does an incredible disservice to every single person who has been and still is affected by it on a deeply personal level. And again, it's the same thing with her gender; the fact that the author has decided to frame such a sucessful entreupeneur's attendance of a business school as "impossible" draws on a longstanding tradition of downplaying or simply refusing to believe in the accomplishments of anyone who does not fit into the tradition, while, male model of business sucess.

Let me just say again that I do not believe that the author actually meant to use such implicitly problematic language, but the fact remains that he did, and for a site that so loudly proclaims itself as a resource for writers, who are quite literally professional users and interpreters of laungage, to fail to notice this, does not speak well for said site at all. I get that you're just trying to be funny, but intent does not excuse results; to simply proclaim it as "foolish" and ignore it is, I think, very irresponsible, especially for a writer.

And Kirk, I'd say that the Family Guy thing is a perfect example of how to not be racist or misogynist when making fun of someone; instead of making derogatory comments with historically opressive undertones, just make fun of her personality! Because, whatever her strong points, Tyra Banks is fucking crazy! So, you know, if you want to make fun of that, go right ahead--because, and I don't know how many more ways I can say this, I don't think making fun of a black woman is the problem; I think making fun of a black woman by implicitly invoking her race and sex is.

Also, as for the idea that "if you never offend anyone with your humor, you're doing it wrong," I would counter that, as I think it was Mel Brooks who said (though I can't find the quote now), humor is about taking a bite out of the guy above you, not below. And in our society, blacks, women, and, especially black women, are way, way on the bottom. I mean, it's great that you're a computer nerd who's ok with nerd jokes, but, high school notwithstanding, nerds are not exactly the victim of a history of systematic enslavement and opression dating back to pretty much the beginning of humanity and continues to this day.

And finally, I would just like to add that there must be something seriously wrong here if you have made me spent this much time and effort defending fucking Tyra Banks. I mean, wow. You really done fucked up for that to happen. I'm glad to see that you guys are not only willing but encouraging debate, but still, the whole thing is pretty disappointing.

 

Kirk's picture
Admin
Kirk from Pingree Grove, IL is reading The Book Of The New Sun October 20, 2011 - 12:50pm

I understand where you're coming from, I just don't particularly agree with it. Your comment "And in our society, blacks, women, and, especially black women, are way, way on the bottom." Is to me, the most racist, misogynist comment that has been made in this entire discussion.

In terms of tradition, I recognize that you are factually correct. But in 2011, I can't agree with this blanket statement. Your implicit statement here is that minorities who have been treated unfairly in the past are currently incapable of defending or speaking for themselves. Therefore, you have to do it for them. That is far more offensive to me than a joke that models are vapid.

Am I saying that there aren't racist, misogynist people out there? Absolutely not. I recognize that there are plenty of people out there who I think have disgusting views. But I do think, in attempting to combat them, some people read a little too much into everything. I think that is the case here.

You've made the assumption that the wig remark was a crack about black women's hair. When in fact, Tyra showing her real hair was actually a gimmick that she once promoted. In her own words, she has worn wigs most of her life. Now, based on what you're telling me, I'm getting that is probably because the modeling industry is racist. But really, how is a typical person supposed to be aware of this? Models frequently wear wigs, regardless of race. I don't think making the assumption that she wears a wig is ground in any racist motivation, consciously or subconsciously. 

Additionally, maybe I'm just blind to the modeling industry, but if it really is as racist as you claim, how did she move to the top of the industry? Modeling isn't the kind of industry you succeed in simply because you're driven and smart. If she wasn't recognized in the industry as a beautiful woman, she would have never had work.

We also have to disagree with Tyra's social postion, I guess. She is a multi-millionaire celebrity with multiple TV shows, a publishing career and multiple avenues to get her message out. She is, to me, very low on the list of people who need a protective bubble. Nothing you can say about her can hurt her career or her successes, she isn't the girl working her ass off at the corner-store. She is exactly the sort of person that you should be able to goof on.

At the end of the day, I disagree with you that everything that is said needs to undergo the scrutinity of potential implicit meaning because that is a fight that will never be won and is, in my opinion, a brutal form of self-censorship. I'm obviously not going to support something that is blatantly racist, but I'm also not going to tell someone "you can't write that because someone, somewhere, might be a little too sensitive to it".

hungrych's picture
hungrych October 20, 2011 - 2:08pm

I don't think pointing out that two of the most marginalized social groups in America are, in fact, marginalized is a racist or misogynist statement, since I'm obviously not condoning that fact. Also, I fail to see how I am implying that they are incapable of speaking for or defending themselves. This is the internet; for all you know, I am a black woman.

And okay, in light of her own treatment of the hair thing as a spectacle, that does make me feel the hair comment is a little more justified.

But still, to as to your last paragraph--just because offense is not immiately obvious to you does not mean it's not there, does not mean it's not something to worry about, and does not mean we can't do something about it; this might open a huge can of worms, but have you ran this article by a black woman? Perhaps they would notice what you don't. And for the last time, I have no problem with goofing on Tyra, it's the way of doing so that bothers me.

Regardless, I'm glad to see you engage in the discussion in a reasonable way, and, while I still don't agree, it does give me a bit more faith in the site.

Kirk's picture
Admin
Kirk from Pingree Grove, IL is reading The Book Of The New Sun October 20, 2011 - 2:16pm

Just to clarify:

When I said "you have to do it for them" I meant the collective "you" not you personally.

I can't say that we ran it by a black woman. I do know it was run by a woman, though. And honestly, had we thought this needed to be run by a black woman to okay it, we would have probably had the answer already. In this case, it wasn't a question. Tyra wasn't being singled out because she is a black woman and that fact had nothing to do with the post. If the post was about "how black women write fiction" it would have probably been appropriate to do so. But again, this wasn't about black women, it was about a celebrity who happens to be a black woman.

In the end, I'm sure your comments will be taken into consideration on future posts. I won't say something like this won't happen in the future but rest assured that we take all comments seriously and we don't write off opinions simply because we don't agree.

We didn't start this site for a one-sided conversation and I would much rather have members who disagree with us greatly than have members who don't get involved at all.

spence's picture
spence from planet is reading Books October 21, 2011 - 5:28am

This shallow article should be in a gossip rag instead. 

EricMBacon's picture
EricMBacon from Vermont is reading The Autobiography of a Corpse October 22, 2011 - 9:34am

Making something about race when it is clearly not is racist isn't it?

When I speak, I don't think in terms of what might have been coded language decades before I was even born. Maybe it is just me, but I think my generation gets sucked into this debate over their "careless," or "reckless" use of language because they sincerely do not think about race....at all.

If there is anything to be upset about in the article, it is the assumption that models are dumb because it doesn't take brains to be beautiful. That being said, this is not an article about women or black women. It is an article about how celebrity encroaches on other endeavors. It is difficult to sit down and write a book with success. It seems much easier to do so if you are famous, even famous for being famous.

Also, if this site is going to be successful, it is going to have to editorialize with wit and/or humor. And on rare occasions, both. This isn't going to be a dry news site with links to articles that might help writers, this is an opinion based community and it would be good for everyone if we gave each other the benefit of the doubt. I mean imagine if you reviewed someone's fiction from the writers workshop like this. It is not constructive, it is mean spirited and it changes the atmosphere of the community from a free thinking area where mistakes are able to be made and people can live with it to a stuffy place where people are holding back their message because they are afraid to offend. As writers we should all understand the fear of this, and how much it interferes with dialog that a writer wants to create with his or her words.

Daniel Donche's picture
Daniel Donche from Seattle is reading Transubstantiate, by Richard Thomas October 22, 2011 - 10:08am

Real quick - what are all these comments about racism? He doesn't mention her fucking face once in the article. Not even a little bit. Hmm.... And now I must go through and read the rest of the comments. The one above by EM looks good.

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch October 22, 2011 - 10:19pm

Now you made me look! (I read about the controversy so how could I not be curious).

My first reaction (not seeing the responses yet) was that the skepticism toward her writing abilities came from the fact that she is in the fashion industry (and relatively more recently the entertainment industry, but still related to the beauty/fashion industry). I can picture the same fun being poked at a person of a different race or sex but who is part of that industry too. We tend to think that people who value surface beauty wouldn't have much to say outside that (wasn't it Linda Evangelista who said that if she hadn't been endowed with beauty, she would have been a teacher?). It's worse for Miss America contestants (in terms of what people assume about their intelligence or other skills).

If Tyra Banks did a good job with the book, kudos to her. But honestly, if I had her money, I'd try my hand at a lot of different careers too. 

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. October 23, 2011 - 2:32am

All celebrities make me mad when they try to become authors too.  Although Snooki and Nicole Ritchie are prime examples of women who are known for being vapid and acting ignorant and proud of it.  So when they "write" a book, I think it's a joke because it's like McDonalds opening up a gourmet restaurant.  It's like going to Taco Bell and expecting prime rib.  Tyra has always been kind of inbetween, her antics on her talk show have always been kind of outrageous and melodramatic and I think that's why people don't take her that seriously.  Plus on a site with all writers or aspiring writers, you are going to have some resentment of celebs who use their status to get ahead in the literary world when it is so hard for us "no names" to get noticed.  James Franco is another example of a guy who is perceived by the casual fan to probably be an airhead dude and that has nothing to do with race.  It's because he has the pretty boy look but he is also a college grad and writes books and acts, etc.  So do I think the original person overreacted to the article?  Yes.  Entertainment Weekly publishes snarky articles all the time.  The kind of journalism that really angers me is the In Touch weekly and all those gossip rags you see in the supermarket checkout stand because they directly lie about people and play into that "desperate housewife" culture.  Tyra is okay for a supermodel.  Do I think she's a great role model for black women?  Not really.  Maybe she is a better writer than a talk show host or a TV personality but I doubt it.  Modeling in general is associated with superficiality and that's a fair assumption.

Count Newton Jaundice Fezziwig's picture
Count Newton Ja... from 18th Century London October 23, 2011 - 10:58am

I may be in the minority (no pun intended), but I feel the wig comment to be disrespectful of affluent, 18th Century white men. In my time, wigs were the height of fashion, and considered a status symbol, not a stigma. And while I appreciate the author's Swiftian attempts at satire, I have to say he failed miserably in that regard.

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading October 23, 2011 - 1:34pm

Writing this from my iPad. Forgive the brevity.

As one of the founders of LitReactor, I can tell you two things that others might not.

Firstly, we have some very vocal people on our editorial staff, people who will speak out when they feel that a piece is offensive. This happened from the very start. I want to know what people find offensive, and I want people to speak about it openly. Sometimes it proves a good anchor keeping us from straying too far from reality. Sometimes we ignore it. I am not very involved with the magazine side of things and I won't speak for the others. Kirk has already addressed some of the issues.

Secondly, however, we are finding our feet here. Some articles seem too snarky for some, others, like mine, are not given much attention because they deal with specific topics of only partial interest to our readers. We are trying to figure out what works. What we need is for people to speak up. Don't hate on the site just yet, because we are seen it evolve before our eyes. Eventually we will strike a chord with people to such an extent that our fan base will be established. I hope so, anyway.

If something makes you angry, tell us. If something strikes you as stupid or undemocratic or racist or sexist or whatever, tell us. And tell us publicly, so people know what the discussion is about. I'm pretty sure all of us want to promote lively, and even violent, debate. Simply telling us that this piece upset you is good. It teaches and it evens out. It smoothes the processes out.

Thanks for speaking up about it, hungrych. I can guarantee we will keep stumbling for a while, and in fact this site may move in a direction you find displeasing. I hope not, because I assure you Brandon was not trying to stir things up on a racial or sexual level. But more importantly, I like people with opinions, and I want that kind of attitude around.

bemuse's picture
bemuse October 24, 2011 - 10:48am

Anyone who expected LitReactor to have only highbrow, respectful discourse obviously wasn't following their Twitter feed. We writers give each other feedback. If Tyra Banks wants to be a writer, feedback is to be expected. Had my best friend told me she was writing a book with character names like the examples from Tyra's books, I would have laughed out loud and begged her through tears not to carry out such a travesty against her own reputation. Sometimes, a flippant critique is the wake-up call someone needs to realize that something they did or said wasn't appropriate. Example, "I got a little alopecia from the stress." Not okay. Alopecia is a serious autoimmune disorder. People with alopecia often deal with comments like, "If you'd just stop worrying so much, your hair would grow back." Should it be okay for Tyra to toss out something like what she said? No. She was being melodramatic. If she's going to be melodramatic and unprofessional in her public discourse, I think it's only fair that her critics not be required to baby her. Welcome to the literary world, sweetheart. Criticisms hurt.

juicycapoochie's picture
juicycapoochie April 22, 2012 - 5:38pm

The people who are turning this into a race issue are overreacting. It's not that Tyra Banks is black, it's that she cannot write, and it's an utter travesty that books such as these are finding publishers when there are so many talented authors in the world - of all races - who can't find a publisher. Read the book and you'll see how the issue here is clearly not the colour of Tyra Banks's skin, the issue is her extraordinary lack of any literary ability whatsoever.