At midnight Thursday night Tyra Banks launches her Smize Yourself! app for iThings ($1.99). If you've managed to avoid learning what "smize" means over the past three or four years, understand now that it's a combination of the words "smiling" and "eyes" with a more clever, marketable spelling than "smeyes" (I mean, gross).
Smiling with the eyes is an important skill that separates great models from passable ones, Tyra has explained many times over on America's Next Top Model. Now, she's moving smizing into the year 2012, with an app that incorporates facial manipulation technology similar to Fatbooth (which makes people look fat) and Oldbooth (same, but old) to turn any old headshot into the perfect smize shot. Tyra held a Skype chat Thursday morning with reporters to answer questions about her place in the tech world, to demonstrate a few smizes, and to disabuse me of the notion that smizing applies to sexts.
Say, if you were a politician or a high-ranking government official, foolishly sending sexts or Twitter direct messaging and e-mailing naked self-portraits, is there a way to smize so that when the photo leaks, you at least don't look like total crap? "I think smizing isn't the best way to send a sexy photo because it's a head shot, so there's no blackmail," Tyra explained. "It couldn't be something that would embarrass you or ruin your career."
Besides, sexuality with women, she believes, isn't expressed most strongly with the body, but the face or the eyes. "Here's my commercial," Tyra said, turning her head to the side and flashing a big smile. "Use the smize app!" (Hear that, Washington?)
Smize Yourself! is a way for Tyra to help everyone smize without giving everyone private lessons, which would be physically impossible. "I have millions of people on Twitter... constantly sending me pictures, saying, 'Tyra, am I doing it right? Can you teach me how to smize?' … 'Am I fierce enough?' So I decided to create an app based on that."
What she lacks in sexting advice, she makes up for in online dating tips. "I know about market research for dating sites," she said. For instance: "A woman who shows more cleavage gets more clicks." Also, men who look off to the side — a side smize — get more clicks, as do men doing some sort of activity.
"I'm kind of an expert on the online dating thing," Tyra continued. "I don't do it myself but I've guided my friends through the photo-taking process. I'm all about it for them. I teach them how to smize. I take their pictures myself."
Tyra is into online dating "because I think it's about marketing, and I think one of my strengths is marketing, and online dating is just marketing yourself."
One reporter on the call, a straight man, asked Tyra if he could be fierce like her, or if that adjective didn't apply to his kind. "For a straight man to be fierce, you have to act like you don't care but smize at the same time," Tyra explained. "Your eyes have to smile but you have to look like you don't care, smizing away from the camera." (The reporter attempted to create the expression over video chat with Tyra, and worked on his side smize for as long as he could until the PR person sitting in on the call cut him off.)
The advice Tyra gives to friends setting up online dating profiles is akin to the advice she gives for creating that other widely relied upon self-marketing tool: a résumé. But a LinkedIn profile, the Harvard Business School grad noted, must be approached quite differently than a dating profile. "You should not show cleavage. I think makeup should be what you think is minimal but actually a little more" than your normal amount, because it's less apparent on camera. The LinkedIn crop should be from the shoulders up, and, of course, "I think you should do a subtle smize. A subtle, confident smize. With the mouth."
The Smize Yourself! app is all part of Tyra's goal of creating a generation-spanning empire. She's been taking meetings in Silicon Valley with investors and seeking out investment opportunities. "We're looking for female-run businesses or businesses that are really tranformational for the female consumer, so we're not just throwing it around for the sake of the dollar," she explained. "Possibly even half a century from now, I want a little girl to experience something from the Tyra Banks company, and her to have no idea that I was a human being."