Fascinated by the entertainment business at such a young age, Tyra Banks has proven to everyone that she is a force to be reckoned with—just check her résumé. As a businesswoman, host, model, producer, actress, singer and author, Banks has achieved worldwide recognition and acclaim—and she’s not done yet.
“My passion for entertainment started behind the camera,” Banks said. “When I was nine years old I used to talk to my mom about commercials and I used to complain about certain ones. I used to go, ‘Mom. They went on-and-on about this and they didn’t come back to the product and now I don’t even remember what the product was about’ or ‘Mom. I was reading this ad and there’s too many words and I don’t even know what they’re talking about.’ My mom was the first person to say that maybe I should become a copywriter and I would tell her that I didn’t want to copy other people’s writing; I wanted to write my own writing. So she explained to me what copywriting meant to my nine year old brain. She was the first person to educate me on what these things were and this passion that I didn’t know about. So then it turned over the years of me educating myself to produce television and to write. I never really wanted to be a director for some reason, but I really wanted to write and produce.”
Starting in the 11th grade, Banks started modeling after-school and on the weekends, but it was only just something she was doing because she was discovered, her number one passion was still film and television. After graduating high school, Banks applied to college and got into every one she applied to including UCLA, USC, and Loyola Marymount University among others. However, she took a different path in life.
“I was going to go to college and two weeks before my first day of school, I got a big discovery to model in Paris,” Banks explained. “So I deferred school for a year and gave myself one year––not to become a supermodel, but to become a directly booked model, which means not having to do auditions. After about two weeks, I had unprecedented success in Europe and I ended up not going back to traditional school. I did go to Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program many years later to hone my business acumen, but I don’t have any formal education in film or television.”
Banks can now be seen heading to the ballroom as the new host of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars. The celebrities dancing their hearts out this season to win the coveted Mirror Ball trophy include head coach Monica Aldama from Netflix’s CHEER, controversial animal activist Carole Baskin from Netflix’s Tiger King, Kaitlyn Bristowe from ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Super Bowl champion Vernon Davis, TV and film actress Anne Heche, Disney Channel actress Skai Jackson, actress Justina Machado from One Day at a Time, Backstreet Boys singer AJ McLean, Emmy Award-winning host of The Real and sideline correspondent on Holey Moley Jeannie Mai, TV and film actor Jesse Metcalfe, Grammy-winning rapper Nelly, TV host Nev Schulman from MTV’s Catfish, NBA superstar Charles Oakley, actress Chrishell Stause from Netflix’s Selling Sunset and Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir.
So how did Banks become involved with the hit show? It all started with a simple phone call.
“I got a call early this year from the ABC team asking if I was interested,” Banks said. “So I kind of thought about it for a few months and I spoke candidly about my concerns and thoughts. My mom sealed the deal for me because my mom was the first person to tell me about Dancing With The Stars. It was the very first episode on season one and she called me and told me to turn on the TV and that ‘the stars are dancing girl.’ I didn’t know what she was talking about, so I turned it on and I couldn’t look away. I thought it was insane and amazing. Since she was the first person to tell me about it she—till this day—is my sage advice and I asked her if I should do it. And she said, ‘Hell yeah, you should do it. As long as you can bring your sparkle, your magic and your audience.’ So finally after a long time I made a deal happen.”
Not only is Banks hosting the show, she also has the unique title of executive producer as well.
“With the executive producing role, it’s honestly a lot different than my executive producer role say on my talk show or on America’s Next Top Model,” Banks said. “With Top Model, I created that show from the ground up. My partner Ken Mok and I worked on making it from nothing to almost 25 cycles and potentially still continuing. So that’s different; that’s hands-on, day-to-day building from nothing. Dancing With The Stars executive producing is where I’m coming into something that’s already a juggernaut. It’s already super successful where there’s already a format and so many different things, so it’s not heavy lifting for me, it’s what I like to call pixie dusting and working with the team to make these micro changes as opposed to a sledgehammer. I’m a businessperson before I’m a model or a host or an executive producer. This is business first for me and I want to make sure that we at least maintain the audience, so the team has done so much research and showing me the research about what people love and what people don’t care about and all of that with Dancing With The Stars. That research is really the heart of the audience, so we ain’t touching that. There’s also other things that we can have a little fun with and some suggestions that I made that are going to be surprises along the way.”
So what can fans expect to see this season when they tune in?
“There’s one thing that I want to do and that’s incorporate—and not in every episode by any means—but kind of this unexpected incorporation of some surprises of some popular dance while still maintaining the integrity of ballroom,” she said. “I think the integrity of ballroom is super important. I think in order to bring in a different audience and continue to have new people come to the show, sometimes the show has to leave people where they are instead of trying to pull them to where the show is. I think some inclusion of popular dance in a very fun, gamified way is one of the ways I have an idea to do that.”
And if you thought Banks is going to take it easy for the rest of the year, you’re sadly mistaken. Banks is also launching her own ice cream brand starting next month.
“It’s called SMIZE,” she explained. “Just a few weeks from now, we’re doing a soft launch and then in October there’s a hard launch where people across the country will be able to get it. It’s a wonderful brand that has a storyline and all this fun stuff too. It’s all natural, super premium ice cream and the special thing inside every serving is what we call a SMIZE surprise. It’s a choco-licious, huge truffle treat inside every serving that you have to find. It’s an ice cream brand that is for the entire family. We’ve been working on it really hard and my team and I are obsessed about it. There’s a Santa Monica place in late September we’re launching a SMIZE shop. However in October, everyone across the country can get it delivered. Sorry Hawaii and Alaska, we’re coming [soon].”
Dancing With The Stars airs on ABC at 8 p.m. Check your local listings for dates.