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Stanford MBA Students Get Personal Branding Lessons from Tyra Banks

Words by Leon Kaye

Former supermodel and reality TV show producer Tyra Banks is an accomplished businesswoman in her own right, though she is usually known more for her catchphrases and as a foil for drag queens.

Several years ago, she was mocked for her Harvard Business School “graduation,” which was actually a certificate program that cost $33,000 a unit. Nevertheless, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) has added the host of "America’s Next Top Model" and "The Tyra Banks Show" to its adjunct faculty.

The 42-year-old diva will co-teach a personal branding course this fall that will be limited to 30 students at most, the blog Poets & Quants reported.

The top graduate business schools in the U.S. measure their success by how many of their graduates transition into management consulting or investment banking after the completion of their MBAs. But business schools are also notorious for developing buzzwords in an attempt to demonstrate that a two-year MBA program is as worthy as a master’s degree in an academic discipline or a professional degree in fields such as law or medicine.

A decade ago, “leverage” -- as in using something to a maximum advantage -- was a popular term before the financial crisis of 2008 associated that word with debt. "Differentiation," "value-added," "synergies," “going forward” and “think outside the box” are also clichés business students loved to blurt out over the years.

Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that “personal branding” is the new mantra for those exiting business school, and Banks is the perfect lecturer to share her secrets and extol such values.

To be fair, in this age of social media, personal branding has arguably become important. Forbes, for example, urged its readers to groom their online presence and to be “purposeful in what you share.” Speaking of differentiation, Fast Company described personal branding as a tactic to stand out in a crowd in an hyper-competitive job market. Entrepreneur magazine equated personal branding with thought leadership and authenticity.

So, having Banks expound upon her views on personal branding may not be such a bad idea after all. In an industry often rightfully dismissed as vapid, narcissistic and exacting a human toll on those who create and consume its content, Banks stands out among other entertainers. For years she has been open about her struggles with weight and body issues, has spoken out about violence against women, and manages a foundation that works to create opportunities for inner-city girls.

But Banks has also channeled the money she made from her legendary “smize” into investments such as a beauty products company, which critics slammed for being little more than an exploitative multi-level marketing scheme. And Banks has long had a reputation for treating her show’s guests and employees poorly. So, this Stanford gig could be an exercise in resuscitating her own shady brand. Stanford’s GSB may have just pulled a public relations stunt that, in the end, could sully its own reputation in the long run. But that remains to be seen.

Image credit: Rita Molnár/Wiki Commons

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's worked an lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye