On February 17, former model-cum-entrepreneur Tyra Banks became a graduate of Harvard Business School. What did Banks learn during her time there and, more importantly, what wisdom is she now equipped to impart on the current and future business leaders of the world? Glad you asked.

1. You’re running an army here– don’t be afraid to get ruthless with your sergeants and your corporals, your captains and your privates, your colones and your majors. Flip over a table in the mess hall. Put people on potato-peeling duty.

After my first term at Harvard, I came back and killed a whole bunch of businesses we were going to go into. We have to say no more often than we say yes, no matter how much money people put on that goddamned table. Harvard is all about innovation and being first to market. It’s something I’m constantly bringing back to my team, whether it’s my soldiers or my generals. I give them challenges and homework and brainstorming sessions to bring the culture that I’m learning at school into my own business. I’m supposed to see a business plan on Thursday and I learned that the differentiation wasn’t in there yet, and I said, “You guys know that needs to be in there before I see it.”

2. Take it all in. Look yourself in the mirror. Reflect. Drink it up. Gargle. Wait for the tingling sensation. Spit it out. Wipe your mouth. Smile.

In second term we talked about a tactic that’s highly risky—you take such a leap forward in one direction that you burn the bridge to go backward. I thought, “Oh my gosh, is that what I did when I retired from modeling and walked off the Victoria’s Secret runway and told the entire world ‘I am retired!’ before I even had my talk show renewed?” I knew with my gut that I was making myself accountable to the entire world so I couldn’t go backward. But I didn’t understand that these were tactics and strengths I had.

3. Let down your guard. Strip naked. Invite people to watch you silently weep. Smoke peyote. Form a human totem pole. Stand motionless until the next harvest moon.

Our leadership professor, Robert Steven Kaplan, was the vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs before he left to become a professor at Harvard. The difference in income he now gets is staggering. He is constantly trying to teach us to not chase the dollar but to make a difference. I thought we’d be taught “profit, profit, profit, win, win, win, go, go, go.” Instead, we were hearing about the importance of exposing vulnerability to your team. It’s soft stuff, talk-show stuff.

4. Zorro masks. Nun’s habits. Meat frocks. Teacups. Think about it.

I also look at what Lady Gaga is doing and think it’s near-genius. Had I not gone to Harvard, I’m not sure I would have seen it as a marketing play. I would have just said, “Oh, she’s popular.” Now I see how smart she is. It’s a true, clear, executed plan.

Tyra Banks Talks About Attending Harvard Business School [BusinessWeek]

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Comments (64)

  1. Posted by guest | February 22, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    Bess: I thought I covered the business school beat?

    -Dealbreaker Business School Bureau Chief

  2. Posted by Guest | February 22, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    She could get ruthless with my privates anytime.

  3. Posted by guest | February 22, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    "Spit it out"…I bet pmco would not listen to this advice.
    -guy whoo notices it moves after pmcos coomments

  4. Posted by FKApmco | February 22, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    And if I had been a GS partner from 1990 to 2005, I'd quite happily say money isn't important.

  5. Posted by Maury Povich | February 22, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    Tune in tomorrow when five hundred harvard students take the test to see who's tyra's baby daddy!

  6. Posted by FKApmco | February 22, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    100% correct, guest. Spitting is for pussies and guys from LA who get acquitted of sex charges.

  7. Posted by The commentariat | February 22, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    Who gives a fuck.

  8. Posted by shnaps | February 22, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    Smack it up, flip it, rub it down, oh nooooo!

  9. Posted by guestapo | February 22, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    Kill yourself.

  10. Posted by guest | February 22, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    Great contribution.

  11. Posted by guest | February 22, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    The actual commentariat?

  12. Posted by HungryIntern | February 22, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    I am wondering what type of things Ja Rule will learn/talk about once he has a chance to go to Allston.

  13. Posted by guest | February 22, 2012 at 4:43 PM

    Return to Yahoo! Finance immediately. Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars.

  14. Posted by The Truth | February 22, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    T&A > CFA > MBA

  15. Posted by Ja Rule Fam Office | February 22, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    I'd take such a leap forward in one direction that you burn the bridge to go backward by putting every cent I had long on DAL, get some exposure to those airline stocks Koz was putting me on to.

  16. Posted by Zuck | February 22, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    She was wearing my Harvard hoodie. Can you believe it? My Harvard hoodie. Like oh, sure she went to Harvard

  17. Posted by Guest | February 22, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    I expect to see HBS applications fall significantly. I would never run the risk of possibly not getting into a school that Tyra graduated from. The only step forward after that bridge is a gun in the mouth.

  18. Posted by guest | February 22, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    real boobies are the NKI

  19. Posted by Jay | February 22, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    This is probably the best insight to be gleaned from this article, rather than Tyra's ramblings.

  20. Posted by Student Guest | February 22, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    It's called BALLston. At least it is until I leave town.

  21. Posted by Danker_Banker | February 22, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    Lights on, skydeck full, my name card resting on her back, Niall Ferguson analyzing my technique with a laser pointer

  22. Posted by Bandersnatch | February 22, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    Agree. Who wants to pay attention to girls like her?
    – Lies I tell my wife

  23. Posted by Guest | February 22, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    Where did she do her summer internship?

  24. Posted by Kate U | February 22, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    Tyra who?

  25. Posted by Lil' Penny | February 22, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Phil Knight funded, Spike Lee directing, national airplay, stepladder required

  26. Posted by wahoo | February 22, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    Robert Steven Kaplan: Really, teaching here is only a side-bar for my true passion.
    Bess: Oh yeah, whats that?
    Robert: I work with Retards
    Bess: Isn't that a little politically incorrect?
    Robert: Yeah, maybe, but hell, no one's gonna tell me who I can and can't work with.
    Bess: No, I mean…
    Robert: We got this one girl here at Harvard, Tyra….. has a forehead like a drive-in movie theater, but she's a good shit, so we didn't bust her chops too much. So one day, Tyra gets out of her cage…
    Bess: They keep her in a cage?
    Robert: Well it's just an enclosure, really
    Bess: No, but they keep her confined??
    Robert: Yea
    Bess: That's bullshit!
    Robert: Well that's what I said!! So I, I went out and got her, a, uh, a leash.
    Bess: A leash??
    Robert: Yeah, one of those ones you can hook on the clothesline, and she can run back and forth and, uh, there's plenty of room for her to ah, dig, and um, play. That kid has really, uh, she's really blossomed.

  27. Posted by John B | February 22, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Be careful what you wish for, my friend.

    -John Bobbit

  28. Posted by The Guest Around | February 22, 2012 at 6:24 PM

    Good thing the hyphens were there or I'd have thought she was a 'cum entrepreneur'
    UBS English Quant

  29. Posted by L. Tilton | February 22, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    Bitch better not be trying to compete with me.

  30. Posted by Wotton | February 22, 2012 at 6:42 PM

    People who start believing their own bullshit are all over the place in MBAs. They're the worst…

  31. Posted by Guesterson | February 22, 2012 at 7:14 PM

    Did she take the oath?

  32. Posted by Kathryn C | February 22, 2012 at 8:08 PM

    Who is lady gaga?

  33. Posted by DingALing | February 22, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    I think he was being sarcastic

  34. Posted by guest | February 22, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    If Robert Steven Kaplan actually goes by all three names, and vocally frowns on the pursuit of wealth (after making a fortune at that great improver of the human condition goldman sachs) then he is officially the biggest dbag at HBS. Which is saying something.

  35. Posted by yeah I said it | February 22, 2012 at 10:28 PM

    This is what affirmative action gets you

  36. Posted by John W. Webster | February 22, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    Just as I thought! Tyra is smart!

  37. Posted by Clymidia | February 22, 2012 at 10:35 PM

    HBS is the new rehab.I mix Whitney and Tyra up equally brilliant and compelling interviews! Nice sweatshirt very impressive.

  38. Posted by Carville | February 22, 2012 at 10:38 PM

    She should run for president now! Then put her image up on Mt Rushmore then put up a 2 billion dollar library filled with magazines.

  39. Posted by Cut Me | February 23, 2012 at 7:00 AM


  40. Posted by Cut Me | February 23, 2012 at 7:02 AM

    Shit! I forgot to attach my headshot with my application.

  41. Posted by serious question | February 23, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    Did you really think that was worth posting?

  42. Posted by guest | February 23, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    Front-runner for worst comment of the day. Bravo.

  43. Posted by Guest | February 23, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    Don't be so harsh, man, library filled with magazines was ok.

  44. Posted by VonSloneker | February 23, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    Well…that's good enough for me. Anyone have a CFA study materials recommendation? I've got some catching up to do if I'm to make that level 1 exam.

    – Guy taking the sheepskin off the office wall

  45. Posted by Healy | February 23, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    Hit a House!

  46. Posted by davidrusso | February 23, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Exec ed. Meh. 35K and a pulse gets you in.

    Might as well be a Trump U degree.

    No respect until you master basic algebra/reading-comp and ace the GMAT.

    My essay rocked the hizzouse y'all.

  47. Posted by Tom | February 23, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    She was not enrolled in the Harvard MBA program. It was the Owner/Presidential Management Program that took place 3 weeks a year for 3 years. No college degree necessary (she did not go), no GMAT, etc. Main requirement is that you're a CEO of a $5 million revenues per year.

  48. Posted by O Winfrey | February 23, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    I'm priceless yo – can I still go?

  49. Posted by guestapo | February 23, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    Thanks for clearing that up, even though it was clearly stated in the linked article, and DB was obviously overstating her going to HBS because sometimes they write humorous things. Don't worry, your degree still has some value.

  50. Posted by JT Marlin | February 23, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    After you look her up you can give everyone fasion advice on your blog, then you'll really be good at everything

  51. Posted by KungFu Grip | February 23, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    Well played Mr. Akroyd

  52. Posted by Helpy Helperton | February 23, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    I thought the exact same thing…but it turns out there is another business professor named Robert S. Kaplan @ Harvard…these people really do run everything!

  53. Posted by Mark | February 23, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    Sounds like affirmative action to me. Giving away sweatshirts after 9 weeks of school?


  54. Posted by Tim Taylor | February 24, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    Nailed it.

  55. Posted by R.S. Kaplan | February 24, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    Kush rolled, glass full, I prefer the better things

  56. Posted by Johnny Swiftfoot | February 24, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    All signs point to Wells Fargo.

  57. Posted by Daddy | February 24, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    Open sesame.

  58. Posted by I Need A Cig | February 24, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    Get the fuck out.

  59. Posted by ThatGuyP | February 25, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    This article is disappointingly misleading. Tyra Banks would never be smart enough to get into any top tier graduate school. She finished an Executive Education program at HBS. That is far different than "getting accepted to Harvard". No testing, just need to be an established executive who is willing to drop an absurd amount of money on a worthless "certificate" that does little beyond boosting your own ego.

  60. Posted by Gandhi G | February 26, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    This is just a co-branding exercise here.

    Harvard gets high profile, riskless (already successful businesspeople) students.

    Tyra (and her >$5B ilk) get to milk the H-Bomb brand equity for a measly $35K. Easily cost-justified as a marketing expense given Bess's coverage, and tyra's twitter followers.

  61. Posted by Gizzuest | February 29, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    Well, apparently she is 'smarter' than you since I'm almost certain she's a hellluvalot more successful than you. Regurgitating someone else thoughts/theories, doesn't make you smart tough guy.

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  63. Posted by Nootropics | April 17, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    Greeting from across the world. detailed post I must return for more.

  64. Posted by Jessie Patton | October 9, 2012 at 4:25 AM

    Tyra Banks will always be one of the reasons why I was motivated to go on one of those model agencies sydney. Ever since America's Next Top Model started, I was determine to follow her advices, and yes, eventually be like her too.