Tyra Banks is many things.
The international super model, media mogul and Forbes Magazine's highest-paid woman in primetime in 2009 is pretty business savvy and has attitude to spare. And doubters need look no further than America's Next Top Model for proof.
Now in its 19th season, ANTM is rolling out a new panel of judges and a new college theme, which is not surprising given that Banks has spent the past year bragging about her shiny, new Harvard Business School degree.
But as Jezebel points out, she doesn't actually have one.
On stage at my Harvard Business School graduation! Lil blurry but SUCH an exciting moment 4 me & wanted 2 share w/u! twitter.com/tyrabanks/stat…
— Tyra Banks (@tyrabanks) February 23, 2012
Yes, Banks did attend classes on the Harvard Business campus, but they were part of an Owner/President Management extension program and not part of the school's top-ranked Masters in Business Administration (M.B.A.).
Taught in three, three-week units over a period of three years, the non-degree-granting program sets its exclusive "clients" back $33,000 per unit. Upon completion of the program, the clients are presented with a "Certificate of Completion" according to O.P.M.'s Porfolio Director, Jacqueline Baugher. Clients can call themselves "alumni of O.P.M."
In a widely circulated Twitter pic, Banks is seen posing with a certificate on the Boston-area campus along with the caption, "Smiling ear2ear on the Harvard Business School campus w/my diploma!"
Now, no one is disputing Banks' intelligence or clear acumen for business. The Los Angeles native was admitted to both UCLA and USC, although she turned down both in order to try her luck on the unforgiving catwalks of Paris. But there's something about the way Banks refers to her time at Harvard that's more than a little disingenuous.
Take this interview 2010 interview with CBS correspondent Tracy Smith. "How do people react when they hear you're going to Harvard?" Smith asks.
"I get mixed reactions. There are little facial expressions. ... The chin goes back, like, 'Really?' " Banks said. Elaborating on the pull of the Ivy League institution's brand, Banks continues, "Most definitely there's something to do with it being Harvard. Harvard Business School - the number one business school in the entire world. In order for my company to grow and be the best, and to reach these women, and to serve them, I needed the best. So I went to the best," she said.
Similarly, in a VH1 article from October 2011, Banks is credited both with enrolling herself in Harvard Business School (again with the misnomer) and finishing the program in three semesters. Asked what her most difficult class was, Banks answers with telling sentence construction.
"My most difficult class at Harvard Business School would have to be finance,” she replied, not clarifying. “For the first 30 minutes of the class, I’m raising my hand, I’m all into it, ‘cause it’s kind of like theory and just like, the social part of the case. The last hour it’s all like Einstein and algebraic equations and craziness.”
It's not that Banks is going around telling people she has an M.B.A. But for someone who's only spent a total of nine weeks on campus, Banks is a master at the artful name-drop.
On the other hand, it's hard to blame Banks for taking advantage of a media that is practically force-feeding her opportunities.
In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek for example, Banks was asked if "the act of going to Harvard has changed how people view you?" as well as if she brought a bit of her "Harvard thinking" to her charity endeavors.
Toward the end of the conversation, Banks is also asked if any of her peers might benefit from her experiences.
"A lot of people in the industry—very famous people—have come up to me and said, 'I want to go, too,'" Banks said. "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."
With episodes of "Top Model" college edition cycle now beginning, it's a sure bet that Banks' Great Harvard Business School Adventure will be mentioned in the host's weekly monologues.
A word of advice for America's television viewers: Just smize and nod, people. Smize and nod.