Skip to navigationSkip to content
Tyra-Banks-Stanford
AP/Jordan Strauss
Branding expert
MODEL TEACHER

Tyra Banks is only the latest celebrity professor

By Oliver Staley

Tyra Banks, the swimsuit model turned entrepreneur, will co-teach a class at Stanford’s business school next year.

The course — Project You: Building and Extending Your Personal Brand — is intended to teach students how to promote themselves. According to the course description, Banks, 42, and Allison Kruger, a former television executive who is a lecturer at the business school, will guide students on the following:

What is a personal brand and how can it be unleashed as a valuable, competitive advantage? Why do you need a personal brand? How do you differentiate yourself and create a brand identity and strategy? How do you use social and traditional media to enhance your brand effectively as well as measure the metrics of social media responses? And how do you know when to pivot and evolve your brand for sustainability?

Guest lecturers without academic backgrounds are nothing new at universities, and particularly at business schools, where executives often share their experiences and help coach students through real-world business scenarios. While Banks may bring more glamour to the classroom than most, she’s far from the first celebrity to teach. Spike Lee, who began lecturing at Harvard in 1992, is a professor at NYU’s graduate film school.  Actress Angelina Jolie, who serves as special envoy to the United Nations, will co-teach a masters course on women, gender and security at the London School of Economics with former foreign secretary William Hague.

Jolie’s appointment led to some harrumphing in the UK from the academic establishment, where Jolie’s credentials were questioned and LSE was scolded for using a celebrity as a marketing ploy. But it’s unlikely that Bank’s Stanford gig will come under as much fire. For one, Banks is an undisputed expert at self-promotion (the publicity garnered by her teaching position — including this article — is evidence of that).

Secondly, Stanford is the university of Tiger Woods, Chelsea Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, and celebrities are commonplace. Banks may not even be the most famous new arrival on campus this year: Swimmer Katie Ledecky, winner of four gold medals in Rio, starts classes as a freshman later this month.