By Brenda Rodriguez
Heading into her 15th season of "American's Next Top Model," Tyra Banks managed to find a way to bring things up a notch. This season will showcase top name designer judges like Zac Posen and Diane von Furstenberg (to name a few), and the winner will grace the cover of Italian Vogue. This crew has come a long way ... not bad. Banks spoke to Wonderwall about high fashion, her message for young aspiring models and saying goodbye to the runway.
How did you manage to top yourself this season?
Tyra Banks: We always top ourselves. I'm really a big fan of what we call micro-changes. It's little tiny things that you do with something that's a format so that it doesn't feel staid. As a producer, I'm always pushing, pushing, pushing like, 'What's the next major change?'
Where do you see the winner of this season going?
TB: I see her being really high fashion. Probably so high fashion that the American market might not understand it. But I just want it to be real. That's why I said it [had] to be Italian Vogue, the epitome of high fashion. I want to take it back to my roots where I was doing magazines and my friends were like, 'What is that? What is that magazine?' That's what I want her to have. And then she can possibly cross back to Americana and do GAP and Banana Republic and things like that. I think it's very important for her to have the core of high fashion.
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Can you talk about the controversy surrounding the promo of the very skinny contestant on the new season?
TB: I feel like I have a message to send. The whole thing that happened with the promo and the editing and the craziness of that, I [had] to say something. And the reason why I [gave] an apology is because that's not what I stand for. I don't stand for one perception of beauty and that certain super skinniness is supposed to be super beautiful.
How much longer do you want "ANTM" to continue?
TB: I think we can do it for as long as people are passionate and watching it. It's all about the people and it's all about giving rebirth ... it's been around for a while and this is a new rebirth.
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When girls start out, they're so young. Should there be a minimum age for modeling?
TB: Good question. I re-signed with IMG, not as a model but to do business things with my company, Bankable, and [to connect] with different sponsors. I had a lunch with Ivan Bart of IMG recently, and we had a conversation about girls ... Ivan is not a fan of super young girls anymore. He said he is so over parents sending their kids to Paris when they're 13, 14-years-old. He's over it. He doesn't want a girl doing a show season unless they're 16-years-old. I started at 15. I didn't start that young, but I started in the 11th grade.
What else are you working on?
TB: I'm writing a book right now. It's called "Model Land." I wonder why? And it's a fiction book, actually. It's a three part series, [set] in a fictitious school called Model Land. And you have to be a perfect specimen in this model land world to get into this school.But four girls find themselves in this school that aren't supposed to be there. They don't have the physicality -- the stereotypical physicality -- to be in this school. Throughout this series, they prove that they're supposed to be there and they have the type of beauty that is beautiful as well. So it pushes my message about beauty inside and out and expanding the definition of beauty. It will be out in the summer.
Lady Gaga just posed with raw meat. How do you feel about starting a trend on Season 10?
TB: Oh, she did it? We sure did do it. Oh my gosh. We had our girls wear meat. Well, I love that Lady Gaga was perhaps inspired, but I doubt ... I'm sure she didn't see it and did it on her own.
With all the excitement about the tents at Lincoln Center for fashion week, are you wistful about walking?
TB: Child, please. I haven't walked a tent in I don't know how long. I have no desire to return to modeling at all. But I am wistful that the tents are not at Bryant Park. Because that's where they were when I was there. You go down 6th Avenue and you see them. So that's going to be different.
Do you have a favorite New York Fashion Week memory?
TB: Todd Oldham going down the runway, looking like a damn fool because he let us [go with him]. And getting standing ovations from the audience.