Tyra Banks: New fantasy book 'Modelland' provides lessons (Q&A)
Tyra Banks says her new fantasy novel, "Modelland," provides valuable lessons for aspiring models who may face "monsters," including sexual predators, in real life.
Banks, a 37-year-old supermodel and businesswoman, is currently best known as the host of the CW reality series "America's Next Top Model," which began its 17th season last week. "Modelland" is her first book and recently hit stores.
The novel depicts the adventures of Tookie De La Crème and several other girls in a mysterious and dangerous realm and is based loosely on Banks' experiences in the modeling world. She began her modeling career as a teenager.
Check out a Q&A interview with Tyra Banks below or watch the videos above.
Is this book something you've had in you for a long time?
"Modelland was in me for a long time. Five years ago, I was actually riding down the FDR highway in New York City and I just looked out at the water. Water does something with me - shower, tubs, pools, whatever, and ideas come to me. So I looked out at the water and the idea came to my head. Not the name 'Modelland,' but a book that dealt with girls and some type of modeling academy."
Why did you decide to make it a novel?
"I felt like non-fiction actually doesn't necessarily challenge me in terms of the modeling industry. Plus, I felt like I've done 17 cycles of 'America's Next Top Model' .. I wanted to add that layer of magic and fantasy so I didn't have any boundaries."
"I'm like a kid inside, so I love fantastic dream-like experiences. I just took an 8-day vacation. I was in Orlando for eight days. Two days at Disney, two days at Universal, theme restaurants ... That's who I am in my spirit. Modelland reflects that type of person."
Aspiring models often fall into traps at the beginning of their careers.
"Young girls ... so badly want to be models or actresses or famous or you know, adored. Sometimes they go to extreme lengths in order to get that. And what happens is, they start legitimate. They might walk into an agency, like an Elite or an IMG or a Ford or a Next Models. And then those people say, 'No.'"
"And so then they go to the next level and the next level and they go down and down and down and down and down and down until someone says, 'Yes.' And a lot of the times, the person who says 'yes' is a predator. But that girl is so hungry to hear, 'You are beautiful, you are special,' that their common sense is not hearing those danger signs of 'Come into this room, take off your clothes, get in this bed, blah blah blah blah' and it goes on and on and on and it can actually be very fatal at times."
"I'm constantly telling girls, 'First of all, listen to your gut and know that you are worthy and you don't need somebody to necessarily put a stamp on you to say that you are.'"
"Secondly, it's so important to know, on a business side, that you should not have to pay somebody money in order to make it. So if a modeling agency is interested in you, they will put the money up front and then you just have to pay them back later. But they're not going to say 'Give me 2,000 dollars, I'll make you a star.'"
Did you have a guiding light yourself or were you just smart enough to avoid the traps?
"I had a mom that was very sharp and just instilled in me a lot of self-worth and a lot of self-esteem. Those paths were very dark and I was very scared of those paths so I didn't step a toe in. I was like, 'Ooh, that's a dark alley, I'm not going down there.' So I had that from her."
"Not everybody has a mom like mine so I try to speak out loud and be that voice for young girls to know that they need to listen to their gut and know that they are amazing and don't need somebody to tell them that they are."
"There's something in 'Modelland' that if you aren't chosen to go to Modelland, some girls can be afflicted with something called the Pilgrim Plague. They develop these sweats, bulging veins and they start trekking up the Modelland mountain that is full of traps and monsters and all types of things because they want to get to Modelland so badly."
"Where did I get that fantastic kind of storyline from, with monsters and stuff? It's from the real world, with the girls wanting it so badly that they'll put themselves in danger."
Reporting by OnTheRedCarpet.com special correspondent Amy Powell of parent company KABC Television, part of the Walt Disney Company.