The preteen and adolescent years are the most complex developmental years in every contemporary girl’s life— intimidating, vulnerable, and amazing all at once. As a young girl growing up in Inglewood, California, Tyra Banks experienced a sudden transformation in her physical appearance and its impact on the relationships with her most intimate circle of classmates, family, and friends. At the age of 11 years old, Tyra grew three inches taller and lost 30 pounds in a period of three months, which made her stand apart from her peers. During this awkward phase, bullies branded her with nicknames, like “Giraffe” and “Lightbulb Head.” The constant taunting caused a young Tyra to feel insecure and alone, conditioning her to think that being different was not beautiful. While this negativity had the potential to lead to low self-esteem, the encouraging mentors and role models that surrounded Tyra guided her to overcome adversity by believing in herself, which led to her subsequent success. In her adulthood, Tyra felt grateful to have been subjected to the struggle ﬁrsthand, because it taught her the value of kindness, the necessity for positive reinforcement, and the ability to celebrate her ﬂaws.
Through hard work, determination, and perseverance, Tyra overcame the social barriers that once haunted her preteen and adolescent years, becoming an international fashion icon, media mogul, and entrepreneur. Leading by example, Tyra recognized an opportunity to maximize her global reach by calling attention to the issues that hinder young women today and encouraging them to embrace their imperfections. Because of Tyra’s personal passion to cultivate conﬁdence and self-esteem in these young women, TZONE was born.
The Tyra Banks TZONE Foundation invests in girls and young women to help them realize their ambitions, discover new possibilities within themselves, and approach life’s challenges with ﬁerce determination.
In 1999, Tyra launched TZONE camps outside of Los Angeles that consisted of a self-esteem building program that addressed battling gender stereotypes, elevating body and beauty love, and creating a sisterhood of trust that Tyra led in a non-traditional, immersive, and entertaining format.
By 2005, TZONE incorporated into a 501(c)(3) organization, The Tyra Banks TZONE Foundation, with a mission to honor its camp origins by expanding the sisterhood amongst girls nationally. The Foundation provided resources to a network of nationwide non-proﬁt organizations recognized for their impact on young women, including Downtown Women’s Center of Los Angeles, Girls in the Game, Ifetayo Cultural Arts Facility, The Lower Eastside Girls Club, Motivating Our Students Through Experience, Sadie Nash Leadership Project, The Girls Project, and the Young Chicago Authors.
In 2012, The Tyra Banks TZONE took residence at The Lower Eastside Girls Club Center for Community (LESGC) http://www.girlsclub.org in order to focus its goals of creating a sisterhood among inner city girls living within the Lower East Side of Manhattan and providing a safe haven for them to speak freely about the issues that they face daily. The Tyra Banks TZONE at the LESGC strives to:
While every female preteen and adolescent may encounter similar changes and social demands that affected a young Tyra, many inner city girls come face-to-face with an added hardship: living in poverty. According to statistics from the City of Manhattan Community Board 3 in 2014, which include the demographic of the Lower East Side, this district has the third highest population density in the city, with over 163,000 people. In addition, the Citizens Committee for Children in New York reported in 2012 that approximately 34.5 percent of children under the age of 18 years old in this community, which equates to nearly 7,000 people, live in homes with incomes below federal poverty standards. These inner city girls are more likely to suffer from disengagement from school, pervasive community violence, risky behavior, and sexual experimentation.
Today, The Tyra Banks TZONE at the LESGC serves as the one of the gateways for new members of the LESGC. The new Lower Eastside Girls Club's Center for Community facility ofﬁcially opened its doors in October 2013. This ‘green,’ high-tech, state-of-the-art 30,000 square-foot facilty offers an art and recording studios, bio-science lab, college and career preparation center, entrepreneurial training commercial kitchen, green-roof garden, health and wellness space, movement studio, planetarium, screening room, and many other servic that seek to combat the stressors that inhibit healthy growth by shifting the focus of young girls through a constructive learning environment.
The TZONE curriculum is a leadership development program for 11-14 year old girls that affords a rich mix of beauty and body image sessions, career training workshops, community-wide events, financial literacy, education, and mentor resources.
In January 2014, Tyra kicked off a seven-session series with a class of 15 TZONE girls that concentrated on beauty, body image, and self-esteem, marking the tone for the core competencies within the TZONE curriculum. With the support of TZONE’s fundraising initiatives, this series sets the stage for the future roll-out of the TZONE curriculum, which will consist of a three-month program that focuses on ﬁve core pillars: beauty & body, health & wellness, elocution & presentation, ﬁnancial literacy, and entrepreneurship. Through this program, up to 100 TZONE girls per year will gain the personal, social, and intellectual tools they need to create their own paths as conﬁdent, educated, and ﬁerce young change-makers in the world at large.