The Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit kicks off in two weeks with a twist on mentoring: 35 high school seniors will interview certain inspiring women leaders—including fashion entrepreneur Tory Burch, Lululemon (LULU) CEO Christine Day, Gilt Group Chairman Susan Lyne, singer Rosanne Cash—about success and how to get there.
Also in this mix of MPW mentors: Tyra Banks. The supermodel-cum-media entrepreneur created the TV hit, America's Next Top Model, has released her first novel, Modelland, and is doing a variety of web projects. For a lot of young women, Banks epitomizes power. Last week when I interviewed her for the MPW-Yahoo (YHOO) Power Your Future series, she spoke a simple truth about a lot of powerful women (and many men too): Success, more often than not, is born out of insecurity.
Banks grew from introvert to "mean girl" to "freak girl"—tall and gawky and insecure—by her early teens. "I became a victim of mean girls," she says, adding, "I became the victim of myself."
But then on her first day of high school, a girl tapped Tyra on the shoulder and asked, "Are you a model?" That was all it took to give her a little self-esteem. Starting to model in 11th grade, she was college-bound (with acceptances from UCLA, USC, and Loyola Marymount) but got a chance to go to Paris to model. She deferred college and gave herself a year to become a supermodel.
And she did—because, she says, her mother told her that she had to distinguish herself from the competition. Before leaving for Paris, Tyra spent countless hours in the library, studying the top fashion designers and models over the decades. "I have to get a signature walk," she told herself. Her first year in Paris, Banks broke the record for most fashion shows by a newcomer.
She wrote Modelland in between empire-building and going to Harvard Business School. In the fantastical novel she is speaking to girls and young women as insecure as she used to be. "I want to expand the definition of beauty so more girls can feel beautiful when they look in the mirror," she says.
Now Banks, 37, wants to have her own kids—and marriage to her longtime boyfriend, investment banker John Utendahl, isn't essential to her plan, she says. Children would be a huge commitment for a woman who has few hours to spare as it is. But if Banks had one more hour in the day to do something good, how would she spend it? "I think I would get the phone numbers of certain girls who reached out to me and were having some issues with their self-esteem," she replies. She says she would ask these girls to look in the mirror, find one thing great about themselves—their nose, toes, whatever—and next month, look again. And again.
Real power, says Banks, is "the power to make change, the power to be effective"—and all about passing it on to the girls. "It's the power to make them feel better," she adds.
Fortune's editors have chosen the 2011 Fortune Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs. From a pool of 131 applicants, we've selected (not easily) 10 extraordinary innovators, game-changers and groundbreakers whose startups generated $1 million to $25 million in annual revenue last year--but appear poised to become large and global businesses.
That is, these women could be on the Fortune Most Powerful Women in Business list someday. (This year's U.S. and international rankings will MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 13, 2011 1:28 PM ET
Besides her 1,071 wins, 18 Final Fours, and eight national championships--the stuff that makes Pat Summitt the winningest coach, male or female, in NCAA basketball history--there is the stuff of her leadership. Measured against anyone else in sports or anywhere, Summitt stands as one of the most formidable and focused leaders you will ever meet.
Last night, after the University of Tennessee Lady Vols coach made the stunning announcement that she MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 24, 2011 3:03 PM ET
Most women don't go for it, career-wise, like the guys do. Sukhinder Singh Cassidy breaks that mold. A onetime star at Google (GOOG), where was president of Asia-Pacific and Latin American operations, she has restlessly rotated through the startup world--from Amazon.com (AMZN) to OpenTV to News Corp.'s (NWS) BSkyB to Yodlee, a financial-services company that she co-founded, to Polyvore, a fashion site where she was CEO last year until quitting MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 1, 2011 1:17 PM ET
FORTUNE-- We're extending the deadline to apply to be one of Fortune's 10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs. The new deadline is August 1. We're reaching out worldwide to find the most innovative, game-changing female entrepreneurs whose companies brought in $1 million to $25 million in the last fiscal year. We'll invite the 10 winners to the 2011 Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, October 3-5 in Laguna Niguel, California.
We started MPW MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 20, 2011 11:40 AM ET
The Fortune Most Powerful Women search for extraordinary entrepreneurs is on.
We're looking for 10 female founders of innovative and thriving U.S. or international companies with revenue between $1 million and $25 million. To request an application form or to nominate someone you know, please email Elizabeth Busch at Elizabeth_Busch@fortuneconf.com by Monday, July 25. For more information about the application process, visit our Facebook page here.
In this video, our winning entrepreneurs MOREColleen Leahey, Reporter - Jul 6, 2011 9:27 AM ET
Fortune Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs 2011 is open for nominations and applications.
Each year, Fortune recognizes 10 female entrepreneurs who are outstanding game changers, groundbreakers, and innovators. We invite them as our special guests to the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit (this year, October 3-5 in Laguna Niguel, CA) and we share their success stories with our readers.
We're on the hunt for female founders of thriving U.S. or international companies with MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 30, 2011 11:08 AM ET
The debate rages on about women and money. After I published "Are women afraid of money?"--which stirred up this week's far-flung opinionated commentary--Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN, emailed me her thoughts. Her note was so insightful that I asked her if I could run it as a Guest Post.
Sobbott knows entrepreneurs. At American Express (AXP) since 1990, she has headed OPEN, the company's small-business card unit for seven MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 21, 2011 10:49 AM ET
While visiting a friend's daughter at Georgetown University earlier this month, I got lured into meeting with a group of 15 undergrads. The session was great fun and illuminating. These were bright young women whose ambitions ranged, they told me, from cleaning up the global environmental to achieving world peace to building Fortune 500 companies.
Not one shrinking violets here.
The weekly convener of these students is Susan Wilson, CEO of The MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 18, 2011 11:39 AM ET
On Friday in Silicon Valley, I emcee'd the finale of BlogHer BET, a confab about Business, Entrepreneurism and Technology. One of my panelists was Janet Riccio, an EVP at Omnicom Group (OMC), who came on stage with 10 tips for raising start-up money. Riccio had gotten the list of tips from an entrepreneur she knows: Communispace CEO Diane Hessan, who agreed last month to sell her company to Omnicom for MOREPatricia Sellers - Mar 31, 2011 12:13 PM ET
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