Tyra Banks recently sat down with BuzzFeed News to chat about the upcoming season of America's Next Top Model, which premieres on Jan. 9 on VH1.
Here's what Banks had to say about her decision to become host again after briefly leaving the show in Cycle 22, how she's making the new season more inclusive, and much more:
1. Banks's return to the show was heavily influenced by two factors: longtime ANTM producer Ken Mok and some very, very eager fans.
Banks told BuzzFeed News that she recalled having "spirited" conversations with Mok, who was adamant about her coming back as the face of the long-running modeling series.
Once Cycle 23 premiered, hosted by Rita Ora, Banks said social reactions for her to return reached a fever pitch.
"First it was, like, loving," Banks said of fans who would gently hint that they wanted her to return. "And then it was like the kinda love that’s almost like slapping you in the face at the same time, like, 'Bitch, how dare you? I’m never watching anything that you do, ever.' ... almost like, slightly trolly, troll-love."
"But it did get my attention," she said.
2. Though the show will soon begin its 24th cycle, Banks revealed that she was very much ready to relinquish her position as host all the way back in 2007's Cycle 8 — and she even went as far as finding a replacement host, whose identity she declined to disclose.
"I was done, I thought the show was done," Banks said, adding she felt the show had run out of ideas for photo shoots.
The replacement host, who may forever remained unnamed, was NOT Linda Evangelista, Banks said, despite rumors to the contrary.
"But I had conversations with Linda to be on Top Model [as a judge], not to replace me though," Banks said.
3. Banks said she didn't watch Ora's season as host in its entirety, but she was hands-on with editing some of it and liked her performance, especially during the final judging deliberation in the season finale.
"I thought Rita was really good, particularly in the end," Banks said. "When I was watching the table I was like, 'Whoa, she knows what she’s doing.'"
Banks compared Ora's evolution over the course of the star's one-season run to her own growth with the franchise. "With anything — from the first episode of me doing Top Model, to Cycle 24 — you’re gonna see a difference," Banks said. "Just like her from the first episode to that finale. She really was leading that table and really taking charge. I noticed the ascent in the performance."
4. One major difference that'll set the latest Top Model season apart from its predecessors is that it'll no longer have an age cap of 27, meaning that any model over 18 can audition.
Banks said the hypocrisy of people accepting men aging but not women was one of the reasons for abolishing the age rule in the show.
"People, they look at men and they’re like, 'Oh this man is sexy and he has grey sideburns and he has crow's feet and laugh lines when he smiles,' but those types of things on a woman are considered negative," Banks said.
"To me, it’s about what you look like. I don’t care like what the number is.
"It’s like, what is your look for what that client wants and if you’re 47 or 17, it shouldn’t matter," Banks said. "Even if you look older, there’s still beauty in that. And I want to use the platform and the thing that I’ve created, Top Model, to show that."
5. When asked how receptive Banks thought the fashion industry would be to older models, she highlighted the recent trend of legendary supermodels being brought back to the runway.
6. The internet has been using reaction GIFs of Banks for years, but the latest meme, "Hoe, but make it fashion," stems from an episode that aired during Cycle 8 of the franchise.
7. Banks said she doesn't foresee a RuPaul's Drag Race–Top Model mash-up, but a few of Ru's former queens are teaming up with Banks's high-fashion-model hopefuls at some point in the upcoming season "to create some magic."
According to Banks, the queens were exceptional on set, especially Valentina, a fan favorite from Season 9 of Drag Race.
Banks joked about the difficulty of finding a shot of one of her contestants looking "half as decent" as Valentina.
"It's not fair because the queens, they just really know what the hell they're doing," she said. "My girls are like colts and the queens are like these beautiful mares."
8. When the show began, Banks hoped to change people's perception of beauty, and she told BuzzFeed News that she believes that's been accomplished in the series' more than decade-long run.
"I do feel like girls everywhere either feel better about themselves or are recognizing certain things that aren’t like the stereotype as beautiful," she said. "I think Top Model has a lot to do that, and I think it’s worldwide."
Her realization came when, in later cycles of the show, she adopted a public voting system that allowed viewers to critique contestants' photos from a perspective besides the obvious aesthetics.
"It wasn't like, 'Oh, she's the prettiest.' They would go, 'Oh, she's really pretty but that picture's boring,' or like, 'What about her beauty is interesting? Why did you even cast her, Tyra? She just looks like the stereotype pretty girl.'
"I got to see that it was working," she said.
9. When asked why viewers should tune in for the latest season of the show, Banks replied: "Because it’s #NextLevelFierce and the age thing is gone so you’re going to see a whole new Top Model — and mama’s back."
Michael Blackmon is an entertainment reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Michael Blackmon at email@example.com.
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