They were rooting for her. We were all rooting for her and now, she’s back. After passing the torch to Rita Ora for the 2017 reboot of “America’s Next Top Model,” Tyra Banks has been meme’d and GIF’d into resuming her role as the show’s host. Lights, camera, smize.
We’re calling it a return, but really, Banks never left. As the show’s co-creator and executive producer, she spent last season behind the scenes, including the edit room. Starting Tuesday, she’ll be in front of the camera once more to deliver the one-liners, modeling advice and viral moments viewers love her for.
Ahead of the season 24 premiere, WWD spoke to Banks about the show’s influence on the modeling industry, the biggest lessons she’s learned from it and what she thinks of fashion and pop culture’s never-ending Nineties nostalgia.
WWD: Why did you want to return to “ANTM” as host?
Tyra Banks: I had a lot of prodding from Ken Mock, my fellow founding executive producer on the show. In the beginning I was adamant about not coming back. Then once the show started airing [I saw] the very impassioned outreach to me. When I went to business school — I went to an executive education business school program — my marketing professor said your company, your business, your product is not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is, meaning your customer, your user, your viewer. I realized maybe I do need to come back and that these beautiful backhanded compliments from the mediasphere needed to be listened to and respected.
WWD: How did this season feel different?
T.B.: It’s definitely different because I had new judges. The great thing about them is they all have such strengths. Not only is Law [Roach] this amazing image architect and does amazing things when it comes to personal style, particularly for Céline Dion and Zendaya and Demi Lovato, but he’s a sound bite machine. What a lot of people don’t know is that during “Top Model,” I’m taking notes. So while my judges are speaking, I’m actually writing down what I want to make sure is in the final edit. My hand starts to cramp from Law’s one-liners. People say that I’m the one-liner and I’m the mean bull and the GIF kind of person, but people are gonna see, it’s a whole other level with him.
WWD: What are the models’ challenges like?
T.B.: I can’t really give a lot out of that, but I can say that something we’re really focused on now that we haven’t done so much in the past is that every episode has a very clear theme. Throwback Thursday’s still popular on social media, so we’re doing an entire throwback episode. One of our episodes is all about the throwback of top models, seasons, episodes of past.
WWD: That sounds really fun.
T.B.: It’s very cool. Nigel Barker and Eva Marcille, she won Cycle 3, come back and do some really cool stuff.
WWD: The show turns 15 this year. What’s the biggest lesson it’s taught you?
T.B.: Oh, I thought we were older than that. Are we 15 next year? That feels nice, I thought we were 17. One of the things it’s taught me is delegation and hiring really strong people and trusting them. In the very beginning, it was Ken Mock and I as executive producers and Ken was holding a camera and I’m running out to Linens ‘n Things and Bed Bath & Beyond and buying stuff on my own dime to fill out the decoration of the house. I do think that to get something off the ground, you need that dedication and tunnel vision, and I talk about that all the time. But there comes a point where the baby has been birthed and now it is time to send it to preschool. I think I held on too tightly for too long.
WWD: How has the show influenced the modeling industry?
T.B.: I think it’s influenced the modeling industry big time in terms of expanding the definition of beauty when it comes to size, height. We’ve done crazy fashion shows with “Top Model” and people in the high fashion industry, which is my roots and where I come from, they would be, like, “What are these crazy shows that you’re doing and why are models running down this cave in Spain and yelling like it’s a horror movie?” And then you see that three years later — I’m not gonna say names, you understand what I mean? We’re doing all these interesting, super creative fashion shows and now, very rarely is a model just walking up and down a fashion show if it’s a high fashion house that has a creative director lead. I’d like to think that “Top Model” had something to do with that. We’ll never get the credit, so I will take it.
WWD: What do you think of fans constantly sharing throwback “ANTM” clips and memes of you on social media?
T.B.: I find it to be extremely authentic because all that stuff was created before there was social media. I love that it’s so organic. I also realized that I don’t have to think about it personally. That’s just who I am — in real life sometimes, but on TV most of the time. It’s not something that I have to sit down and strategize, which a lot of companies have to do. It’s going to come out naturally.
WWD: What are your thoughts on fashion and pop culture’s current Nineties nostalgia?
T.B.: I think it’s hilarious. I honestly don’t look at the Nineties as cool fashion. I look at Nineties and I’m just like, those jeans, that choker on my neck and those skinny eyeballs. I don’t think it’s great and it’s the era where I came up. But I don’t see the beauty in the style.
WWD: What else is in store for 2018? “Life-Size 2” is happening?
T.B.: Yeah, “Life-Size 2” is going to be a Christmas movie and I’ve been working on the script with the writer. We had a wonderful session yesterday going over the creative for that and story beats. “America’s Got Talent” will be airing, and I have some other stuff that I can’t talk about.
WWD: Will you be contributing to the “Life-Size 2” soundtrack?
T.B.: Well, I contributed to the first one, maybe I’ll be contributing to the second one.
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