*Supermodel-turned-business mogul Tyra Banks captured the Emmy Award twice for the “The Tyra Banks Show,” holds court weekly as the host on “America’s Next Top Model” that is broadcast in 170 countries, and is hitting the books at Harvard Business School—where she actually bunks in the dorms.
With accomplishments like that, the 36-year-old dynamo should be content—but Banks is one fierce woman. A tireless visionary who is constantly reaching for new horizons, Banks has published her first book—and has embarked on a five-city tour to promote the fantastical and whimsical “Modelland” (Random House/Delacourte Press).
The book chronicles the adventures of 15-year-old Tookie De La Crème, who is plucked from obscurity to attend the super elite and magical “Modelland” boarding school with the hope of becoming a revered Intoxibella, a model who possesses super powers.
Tookie is an awkward, gangly, crazy-skinny teen who possess one brown and one green eye and a large forehead—the spitting image of a young Tyra, who recently appeared at Eso Won books in Leimert Park in Los Angeles to greet fans and sign copies of her book. Fans trailed out the door and halfway down the block to meet Banks who greeted everyone with a cheerful “Hello, everyone(!)” and an enthusiastic wave.
“Modelland” is creating plenty of buzz—word is Banks is already being courted by Hollywood that is interested in bringing “Modelland” to the big screen.
Banks, who has always championed young women, said she hopes the book conveys an important message about beauty and body image.
“I have so many stories to tell about my adolescence and growing up. I used to look in the mirror and I wasn’t happy with what I saw,” she admits. “Then I was discovered to become a model at 15. I really didn’t understand why the heck someone thought I should be a model,” she confessed. She continued:
“I’ve told my story on ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and on my talk show, but I wanted to twist it and write my experiences in a novel which is loosely based on my life,” said Banks. “I wanted to write about the things that are important to me, such as expanding the definition of beauty and making girls accept and feel better about themselves when they look in the mirror.”
And to solidify her point, Banks has included several protagonists in the book that challenge the standard definition of beauty—a zany cast of characters that include an albino, a girl who is incredibly short and a girl who is plus size.
“I wanted to impart the message that unique beauty is a good thing and that girls don’t have to be a cookie cutter image of someone else,” said Banks.
“That is exactly why I put those characters in the book and why I created ‘America’s Next Top Model.’ ‘Top Model’ does have some conventional beauties, but the majority of the girls are what I call ‘debatably’ (sic) beautiful,” Tyra pointed out. “Where you’re sitting on that couch watching the show and you say, ‘Why did Tyra choose her?’ and then you see the girl in a picture and you go, ‘Wow, I see the beauty that I didn’t know she had.’ So that’s why I created ‘Top Model’ and that’s why I wrote ‘Modelland.’
Pausing, she added, “I’m pulling back the curtain on the stereotypes that the fashion industry conveys. For instance, ‘Modelland’ is a place where these supermodels possess these seven super powers. One of the super powers they have is that a girl never turns 30. So, she graduates from ‘Modelland’ at 18 or 19 years old–and every year she has a birthday until she’s 29, then on her 30th birthday she turns 18 again. Some people might look at that as me celebrating society’s obsession with youth, but actually, I’m putting a light on how ridiculous it is that the fashion and beauty industries are so obsessed with youth.”
Banks revealed she spent endless hours scribbling “Modelland” in the public library. She admits it wasn’t easy—Banks said the book, which is over 500 pages long and is the first of a trilogy, took five years of “blood, sweat and tears” to complete.
The book also exposes a number of disturbing topics—such as body-dimorphic disorder, familial dysfunction, and violence and death. And there are deep, dark secrets—such as eating food out of dumpsters and the giving away of babies.
Chocked full of colorful language, “Modelland” is a surefire page turner that is as campy as it is surprising.
With so much going on in her life, how does Banks relax?
“I like to eat,” Banks confesses. “I love food, so I love going to restaurants, and I like getting massages, particularly feet massages,” Banks responded. “There are these new Chinese foot reflexology places all over New York and Los Angele where an hour foot massage is just 20 dollars. All these people lie in the same room and the massage therapists go to work on your feet. It’s just great,” Banks said, smiling.