Tyra Banks is officially a New York Times bestselling author–Modelland snagged the number two spot this week on the Times‘ besteller’s list for children’s chapter books–adding to her growing list of successful non-modelling ventures, which include 17 cycles of America’s Next Top Model , a talk show, and completing her final year at Harvard Business School. Thus, the Wall Street Journal has dubbed Banks a “Model Mogul” and chatted with her about the process of writing her young adult fantasy trilogy, her book tour and growing empire.
From bouts of alopecia to emotional bonding over large foreheads, here are the five most fascinating things we learned from the interview:
1. Tyra reads lots of young adult fiction, knew that was the audience she wanted to target:
I’ve always felt very connected to teens. I was riding in the back of a car on the FDR and the idea just popped in my head. I just wrote the idea down on a piece of paper. I’m pretty realistic about myself and I didn’t think 50-year-old people would say, “I must read Tyra’s literature.” I get it. I knew that I could communicate to teens better.
Of course I read “The Hunger Games.” I’m on the third one right now. I love Roald Dahl. On my nightstand right now is “James and the Giant Peach,” which I’m reading for the second time. I just finished “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” I read three “Twilights.” There’s a book I love called “Blue Plate Special.” I just bought “The Book Thief.” YA doesn’t mean that it’s super simple. There are beautiful layered stories and darkness.
2. Tyra got alopecia from the stress of writing Modelland:
Honestly, chilling for me was eating a meal. I couldn’t just look at the ocean. And in hindsight that wasn’t healthy. How can I say this without tearing up? I got a little alopecia from the stress.
3. She turned in the first 1,000 page draft of Modelland to her mom, who liked the gay male-ness of it:
I told her to go to a hotel and focus. It was 1,000 pages. First she said: Tookie has too many bad things happening to her, so I removed a lot of heavy stuff. It was imperative that the reader connect with her and invest. The second thing was she liked that she felt me, that kind of gay male thing that I do. That campiness was important. My editor said a lot of the same things as my mom. The next step was painful, because we had to cut 50%. But looking back I could cut more.
4. Thanks to Tyra’s Harvard Business School professors, there will not be a Tyra Banks food collection:
Professors explained to me that focus is great. Being the biggest and having your foot in a bunch of things is not necessarily the best thing. So I came back and focused the message of my company. Harvard said to wait two weeks before you tell your staff, but I couldn’t wait. I said, “If it’s not about expanding the definition of beauty and making women feel physically and emotionally better about themselves, then we’re not doing it.” We put away ideas to produce food. I’ve been approached to do real estate with homes geared toward first-time women buyers, spas, all kind of stuff, and we put those ideas away, too.
5. A girl cried in Tyra’s arms at a Barnes & Noble:
At the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, a 13-year-old girl was talking about how big her forehead is. I told her she had a big forehead like me, but I love it and it’s beautiful. I said, “Yeah you’re insecure about it, but there’s something about it that you’re wearing with pride because your hair is slicked back in a bun.” And she cried in my arms.