Tyra Banks Talks “Top Model” Changes, Past Winner Struggles

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Those planning to tune into the revamped America’s Next Top Model tonight will finally see the long-reported changes to the reality series. Speaking with the Hollywood Reporter, Tyra Banks opens up about what brought up the new version of the show and reflects on why some past Top Model winners have faired better than others.

The Hollywood Reporter: What was the impetus for all the changes this cycle?

Tyra Banks: I got a call from my boss … who said we needed to make some serious changes. It was a phone call that left me nervous and shaking. I hung up the phone — I got pulled out of a class at Harvard [where she recently graduated from the university's executive education program] to take the call — and went back into the class, but I couldn’t focus on the professor. I was panicking. [But] yesterday we had a debut party and did a screening of the first episode, and every single reporter in New York City was there … and they were super excited, wanting to talk about all the changes. Even though I went to business school, it was my boss that gave me a big lesson about rejuvenation and making something that’s been around a long time fresh and exciting again.

THR: How has the revamp changed the vibe of the show?

Banks: It got me off of my routine. I have been doing Top Model for almost 10 years now, and I have a couple of scripted things: One is introducing the judges and the prizes, and another is I say, “There are two girls standing before me … ” [Banks quickly recites the rest of the familiar line about how one contestant will be forced to "pack their bags and go home"]. I’ve been saying that for 10 years and didn’t even have to think about it. But now, I have a whole new thing, a new prize package, the social media fan vote. These are no longer the lines I had known. So the two girls standing in front of me crying their eyes out had no idea what I was going to say. I didn’t know what I was going to say. One time I had to pause and say, “Ladies, I am so sorry and I want to let you know I am here with you emotionally. I don’t know my lines.” And I ran off the set. It was such a mess! It felt like season one — so fresh and uncomfortable, but in a good way.

THR: How do you feel about the move to Friday nights?

Banks: Who’s excited about that, right? But at the same time, we’re confident and we feel good.

THR: Not all of the winners have had successful careers after their season ends. Do you work with any of them afterward as they embark on their modeling careers?

Banks: I don’t double dip, for ethical reasons. At one point, I was thinking about managing one of the girls, but I think that’s unethical. Do you choose the one you think you will make the most money off of or the girl who you feel like deserves it the most? When a girl wins, it’s up to her to work with the modeling agency she’s partnering with. A lot of girls, some of them just want the crown. It’s disheartening, like, “I just won and I’m about to go back to my hometown and get a boyfriend and get me a baby.” But this is not a pageant. Others are hungry to work and do get jobs, mostly internationally. This is a global business. OnAmerican Idol, the guy or girl wins and their song is played on the radio around the world, whereas on Top Model, the girl may win and then book Spanish Elle or Japanese Vogue or South African Harper’s Bazaar. These are huge magazines, but they are regional, so it’s difficult to feel her success.

Read the Q&A in full at The Hollywood Reporter.

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