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Tyra Banks
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Tyra Banks: America's Next Top Mogul

Entertainment Weekly - USA - The statuesque beauty holding court in front of her studio audience on a recent January morning in New York City is ready for anything. And that's good, because Tyra Banks' fans do not hold back. Demands one woman, ''Is it true you moved your show to New York for a man?'' Banks, styled in a formfitting white dress, breezily rejects the claim that the relocation of her eponymous talk show — and her hit reality show, America's Next Top Model — has anything to do with her love life. The young crowd is primed with energy; hands shoot up and down like the critters in a Whac-a-Mole booth. To them, Banks isn't some inaccessible celebrity — she's their girlfriend, their incredibly cool older sister, their BFF. A pale brunette stands and asks, ''Can I get a hug?'' Banks assents, but not without commanding, ''You have to hug me fiercely, though.'' As the 5'10'' stunner envelopes the petite twentysomething in her ample bosom, the fan breaks down in tears.

This sweetly sappy scene represents more than weepy female bonding. Known solely as a pretty face for much of her career, Banks has reinvented herself as a power player in the entertainment industry — and more importantly, as a brand. It began with the modestly successful debut in May 2003 of her creation America's Next Top Model, which has grown into a worldwide hit and is embarking upon its 10th cycle (premiering Feb. 20 on The CW). The most recent edition was the network's top-rated series, averaging 5.2 million viewers weekly. And The Tyra Banks Show — a broad mix of women's issues and frothy fare — is now a talk-show force to be reckoned with: 4.3 million adult female viewers tuned in weekly this past November sweeps, and, with a median age of 40, Tyra has the youngest talk-show audience in daytime. (Oprah's median age is 55.) Now the 34-year-old has a broader goal in mind: world domination. (Yes, seriously.) With a recent multimillion-dollar TV-and-film-production deal through Warner Bros. Entertainment, along with retail and real estate projects in development, Banks is poised to become the most influential woman in television since the almighty O herself. Says Banks: ''Oprah Winfrey is a mogul. Martha Stewart is a mogul. I'm probably a mogul in the making. I'm almost there.''

This story could have turned out much differently. ''I used to want to write commercials as a kid,'' Banks recalls of her childhood in Inglewood, Calif. ''I used to tell my mom, 'Mom, they didn't end the commercial right. They should have ended it on the burger, 'cause they're trying to sell the burger, and they ended on the lady's face and I don't even remember if it's McDonald's or Wendy's anymore.''' But becoming America's Next Top Copywriter was not meant to be: After a high school friend encouraged her, Banks entered the modeling industry at the age of 15. Despite her success (she moved to Paris when she was 17 to walk in the couture shows and was the first black model on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 22), she remained steadfastly focused on her career. ''Even as a model I used to think 'brand,''' she says. ''My mom always told me, 'Plan for the end at the beginning. You're gonna have to retire really early like an athlete, and then what are you gonna do after?''' adds Banks, who cites her mother as an influence at least seven times during the interview. ''So I always looked at it knowing that there was something after.''

That something turned out to be television. After a brief attempt at acting (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Higher Learning), Banks decided to create the kind of show that she would watch. Shortly after her stint as a ''youth correspondent'' on The Oprah Winfrey Show (1999-2001), Banks hashed out the idea for America's Next Top Model while making tea in her kitchen. Though the industry wasn't primed to take Banks seriously — ''As a model, my roadblock was being black and curvy. As a producer, my roadblock was being a model'' — she and exec producer Ken Mok (Making the Band) found their show a home on a newbie broadcast network. A mix of The Real World and American Idol, which launched the year before, ANTM gave viewers a reason to find UPN — and later, The CW — on the dial. Now with versions in 15 countries and a string of copycats in the U.S. (Bravo's Make Me a Supermodel being the most recent), Banks' teatime idea is a reality TV phenomenon. ''I thought it was going to last for two seasons,'' says Banks. ''Around season 5, I said, 'Ken, how far can we go — 8?' He goes, 'I'm thinking 10.' Now we're at 10 and not stopping.''
Source : Originally Published Entertainment Weekly - USA, Feb 15, 2008
Celebrities : Tyra Banks
Categories : America's Next Top Model, Model News, TV Hosts, Reality TV Stars, TV Personalities, Talk Show Hosts, Celebrity News
Posted 2/15/2008 12:02:07 AM | Permalink
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