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We Talked to Tyra Banks About Her New Makeup Line and Being 'Crazy'

Plus, a review of her products.

The Tyra Banks juggernaut is officially poised to take over the world. Or at least to take over your face. Last week, the smizing supermodel announced the launch of her new cosmetics lineTyra Beauty, which you can buy online or via direct sellers reminiscent of the Avon Lady, henceforth to be called "Beautytainers." But wait, there's more! She's also launching her line on HSN on November 7 via a two-hour long "cosmetics concert." (More on that in a sec.)

The collection is small, and everything is meant to be used without tools. The goal is a full face in six minutes flat -- think contouring stick, eye shadow stick, blush stick, and lip crayons, mostly in neutral colors that are flattering to all skin tones. I got my hands on the product range to try, and I was not expecting to be as impressed as I was.

First of all, I really appreciate the fact that everything is in stick form, since I've pretty much gone that way with my makeup anyway. The formulas are creamy and easily blendable. Two products especially, which I originally dismissed as gimmicky, were stand-outs. The "Oops Liner," which features a liquid liner on one end and basically the equivalent of a Tide Stain Stick on the other, was miraculous. I suck at eye liner, but after drawing a wobbly line on one lid, I flipped to the oops side and cleaned it all up quickly. It almost looked like an Alexa Chung-caliber flick. Amazing. 

Another two-sided product, the "Suede and Juicy" lipstick, was also fantastic. One side is a traditional creamy lipstick, and the other is a soft, dense, powder puff-shaped brush that releases a liquid matte formulation. The puff helped the matte "mousse" formula spread easily without snagging on my lips like some traditional matte lipsticks do. (The "Shine Bright, Shine Star" lipstick was a bit too glittery for my taste, though.) I can't speak to longevity, since I haven't worn it a full day yet, but Banks told me it holds up through a SoulCycle class. 

I had the chance to sit down one-to-one with Banks last week to talk about her new project, and while she was in serious businesswoman mode, that didn't stop her from communicating frequently via loud sounds and extreme facial movements. She's really a delight to talk to in person and the 20 minutes flew by.

So tell me how and why this makeup line came to be.

The why really has to do with my own reflection when I look at myself in the mirror. I know that without makeup I never would have been a supermodel...ever. It’s definitely something that took my features to a different level that became photogenic and something that people were interested in looking at. Without it I never would have sold one magazine cover, never would have walked one runway.

My mom was a medical photographer, and after work she turned our house into a photo studio and a glamorous before-and-after place. I have a passion for that transformation. I feel that natural beauty is unfair. We tend to herald women who have this natural thing and we say, "If you don’t, you’re not as good."  I just don’t think that’s fair. 

So how do you feel about #Iwokeuplikethis?

I think that’s fine if they want to promote that, but I just hope it’s not making other women that don’t wake up like that feel like crap. And I’m sure it probably does make them feel like crap. I wake up a certain way and I share that sometimes. And it’s interesting because I get all kinds of responses. I tend to get a little bit of [makes disgusted face], "Dayum, ooh really? It’s really like that?" They get a little confused that that’s what I really am, and I’m not ashamed of it, but at the same time I’m not going to walk around like that. But I will tell the truth. 

Are there any makeup techniques that you're intimidated by?

Top liner! Ugh. There were years and years up until recently when we developed [Oops Liner] when I wouldn’t put it on myself or do it on other people. One line would be higher than the other, or crazy and too thick on the end and I would say, "We’ll just do a smoky eye. Smoke it all up!" So ease of use was really important to me. Being innovative, too. And time is so important. When I was a supermodel, I would sit in a chair for an hour, sometimes two hours, and a makeup artist would transform my face. And as a businesswoman, I don’t have that time now. I have to go to meetings, there’s a personal life, there’s a professional life.

Has this been in the back of your mind for a long time?

The front of my mind! I actually went to school for this. Throughout my entire career, once I started to become more known, all these licensing companies would say, “Tyra, we want you to do a cosmetics line. Tyra, we want you to do jeans. Tyra we want you to do bras and panties. You don’t have to do anything! Give us your name, your likeness, here’s an advance check.” And I would constantly say no. I wanted to create a business that’s self-funded, I want to create a legacy business. I don’t want to have business that’s based on celebrity and popularity. I want a business that is built on a true value system and a true mission and vision that can outlive me. 

Are you hoping to attract investors in the future?

We shall see. It depends on our growth rate. We’ve had different consultants say, based on projections and sales, it should be able to fund itself if you don’t pay yourself a salary. And then there are other consultants who say, "If you want this to be what we know it could be, you’re going to need some money." 

How did you get hooked in with HSN?

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My whole team flew to Tampa to talk about the products. [HSN CEO] Mindy [Grossman] was like, “These are great!” I was a little nervous because I had to pitch this idea that was kind of crazy. And I have a lot of out-of-the-box ideas that are kind of like, "Whoa, that’s a little too much, let’s dial it in." But I had this idea of this makeup fierce-up, almost a cosmetics concert, with high production value. Imagine we’re in Madison Square Garden. And I just went on and on. And Mindy said in the room, "Yes." She didn’t say, “No, Tyra, you’re too crazy.”

But you’re known for being crazy, Tyra. [pause] In a good way! [Writer's note: I can't believe I actually said this. She's just that disarming.]

[Laughs] Yes, but a lot of times people are like, "We can’t do it, we don’t have the budget. We don’t have the expertise." She just said, "Yes, yes and yes." I was almost tearing up in the room. And so then together we took what was my idea and they made it bigger and more extravagant than I thought it would ever be.

What can we expect from the extravaganza? 

There will be a two-hour live event on November 7 starting at 10 p.m. ET. I can’t give too much away. But I gave them my ideas of what I wanted the set to be and they again exceeded my expectations. I call it the [makes an enthusiastic sound here that is impossible to transcribe]. It’s a state-of-the-art set, huge screens everywhere, and we have a runway there. We have unique and fun tutorials by my alter ego, Miss TyTy. We have interactive games with the audience, we have a DJ, we have a choir that will interact with the audience. Stori will perform the theme song, "Bootyful." I’ll be teaching dance moves that actually relate to how to apply your makeup. I’m actually training for it all now. I get on the treadmill and I talk while I’m running. I learned that from Beyoncé. I think she said it to me on my talk show back in the day, that in order for her to have stamina on stage, she would run and sing. So I’m running and talking just so I’m not wheezing. I need to get that stamina!

I listened to "Bootyful." Do you sing on it?

No, I just talk! I say, “Yeah girl.” Or I say, "How do I spell booty?" That’s it. Everything else is Stori, the singer. 

You’re launching with lots of sales options. Can you talk to me more about the direct selling? How did that come about?

On top of making women look and feel more beautiful than they ever felt possible, I also have a passion to give women financial freedom and for them to make money on their own terms. My mother and dad were married until I was six, then they divorced. My mom always said that she stayed in the relationship too long because she didn’t have money. So that really stuck with me. She scraped and worked two, three jobs at a time. I saw my mom killing herself doing that.

It’s a small range now. Do you have expansion plans?

We’ve got brow in the works. We’ve got concealer in the works. We’ve got body in the works. And really interesting foundation technology. I’m into innovation. I am not a "me too" business. We are all about being first, unique, and best.

What’s the biggest beauty mistake you see women making?

What I don’t like is when women contour with blush. That was cool in the '80's. My mom did it. It’s just fake. Contouring is not about being rosy all the way up into your temples. It really is about playing tricks on the eye. Similar to what a camera and light does. It’s just tricking you. So stop your blush at what I call the "oh really, though?" face.

What does that look like?

It’s that face when your man said he was gonna be somewhere but you found out he was somewhere else instead. Or your roommate has on your favorite dress and she's swearing she just bought it the other day, and you’re like, “That’s my dress! Oh really, though?" Um. And that’s the spot.

(The face looks kind of like this:) 

*This interview has been edited and condensed.