Underrated Moments in Black History: When Tyra Banks Taught White People How to Moisturize

Tyra Banks and her bedazzled jar of VaselineKenyaBuzz
Tyra Banks and her bedazzled jar of VaselineKenyaBuzz

Black folks as a people have a collective predisposition against ashiness. In concept, this would be something that is not limited to us, because moisturizing is for the people, just like Wu-Tang and hot wings. However, extensive experiences (and by “extensive,” I mean my anecdotal moisturizing experiences involving white friends, colleagues and co-workers in my near three decades of life) have simply proved this not to be the case.


You ever gone on an out-of-town trip with folks whose melanin is relatively in absentia and peep them hop out of the shower and put clothes on without even the most cursory look at some Lubriderm? I’m not even talking fancy butters or anything. It’s like the first time I found out as a kid that not everyone eats rice with every meal. Or when you hear a man say, “Oh, I don’t do that” in regards to oral gratification (yes, these people still exist, because evil presents itself in many fashions besides Donald Trump fanatics).

If you think about it, the whole anti-aging industry is basically built on white folks’ inattention to a daily lotioning routine in their younger years. Multiple winters of ambivalence about the layer of chalk dust forming on their epidermis in the winter months culminate in being dumbfounded as to why they can’t pass for their daughters in middle age. Oil of Olay’s shareholders are caking off the pallid, dehydrated shoulders of caucasity.

Enter Tyra Lynne Banks.

Tyra Banks is many things—model, mogul, actress, singer, unrepentant egomaniac—but one of my favorite iterations of her career was her stint as a talk-show host. For a glorious five seasons on what is now the CW network, Tyra regaled us with various versions of what she considered “social experiments.” There was the time she went undercover in a fat suit. And the time she went undercover as a homeless person. And the time she went undercover as a man. And the time she went undercover as a stripper named Chanel.

In an ideal world, I would have 5,000 words to discuss at length all the most pivotal moments of the now defunct Tyra Banks Show and what they contributed to the culture and best practices of social science research. (I didn’t even mention the time she brought on Naomi Campbell to discuss a largely one-sided feud that Naomi clearly didn’t care for anymore.) But we are not in such a world, so therefore I will focus on the greatest introduction she ever gave to the dozens of white soccer moms who were willing to go to a studio in Burbank, Calif., at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday: a jar of Vaseline.

You read that right. Tyra Lynne Banks from Inglewood, Calif., got all these middle-aged white folks hyped for her “super duper, no fail, skin-saving, eye and anything cream!!” She made them open up a bedazzled $3.99 jar of Vaseline … and told them that “their wildest dreams have come true.”


When I originally saw this episode, I thought that Tyra was a lunatic. While this statement may still be up for debate, I’ve also come to realize that Tyra is both a shady genius and a woman of the people. She basically got white women to scream in appreciation at her telling them that they were all ashy as hell and that their problems could be solved with a $3.99 container that she upmarked to $100 for no discernible reason other than she’s Tyra. That, my friends, is peak finessing.

Tyra’s contributions to the talk-show industry have gone understated long enough! It is time to acknowledge her as a trailblazer. In another life, I would have a talk show where I would find multiple ways to trick white people into doing things that are just basic human decency: season food, not bring pets into restaurants, abandon the concept of year-round flip-flops …


I thank you, Tyra, for all you have done and hopefully will continue to do. In this wintry prison known as New York City, there’s many a crusty elbow in need of your gospel.

Shamira Ibrahim is a 20-something New Yorker who likes all things Dipset. You can join her as she waxes poetic about chicken, Cam’ron and gentrification (gotta have some balance) under the influence of varying amounts of brown liquor at Very Smart Brothas.