It was backstage at the launch party for the CW's hit show America's Next Top Model's 20th cycle held at the notorious Supper Club in Los Angeles that I had a chance to sit down with Tyra Banks, the show's creator and host to chat about the one thing on everyone's mind - this seasons addition of the male models.
Talking Boys with Tyra Banks, "America's Next Top Model"
JTH - Let's talk about this new season. Let's talk boys…
TB - Boys. It's whole new 'Top Model.' We knew it was a whole new Top Model before the world saw it. We were shooting and were wondering 'what the hell is going on'? We didn't know how to track, how to follow. We were like 'Oh my god' there's a love story. I mean there is a guy who is crying, I mean how much of that do we shot? I mean do we embarrass him by putting a camera in his face cause he is feeling kinda macho? There was so much in our casting episode. We took longer to edit then normal because there was so much, so many different choices because of the boys.
JTH - You are literally opening up a whole new segment, it could almost be its own show.
TB - So my dad picked me up from the airport today and he calls me buster. And he said "Buster, you know I always tell you the truth. And I'll admit I didn't know what show I was watching last Friday. That is a compliment. It was fresh, new and exciting." He said "I didn't know what show this was."
JTH - That's awesome that your dad follows and watches.
TB - Yes - follows, watches and critique'ing saying 'that was good and fresh'.
JTH - On that fresh angle, you guys are the top rated show at the CW for the last 9 months.
TB - Number one for women ages 18 to 34! Across all networks!
JTH - Insane. Talk about that as you are in Cycle 20 right now. Talk about how you keep it fresh and keep that top rating…
TB - Well, we haven't been this high in a couple of years. Top Model hasn't, so this a new for us. To get these number and these ratings of what we used to be during our heyday. I think a lot of has to do with us being really hard on ourselves and Ken Mok, who is my partner, we are really hard on each other. Ken pitches something and I am like that sucks and I pitch something and he is like 'Tyra Banks', yes first and last name, 'Tyra Banks' means 'no, no girl.' We keep it very, very honest and I find it interesting even in Cycle 20 as we are watching shows, editing - we are still making notes on how we can make it better for the next cycle. And that is crazy for me. To be this mature and be like 'for next season we have to do this and we have to do that.' We push, push.
One of the new things I do is that I bring all the assistants and interns in the room for new ideas.
JTH - Because they are the younger generation.
TB - Young generation, and I have been doing this forever and a lot of us have been here since the beginning of Top Model. They know - they were the ones who told us we should have the fans be the fourth judge.
JTH - Interesting, so it makes it that much more interactive.
TB - Yep! Interactive and I think that idea gave Top Model new life.
JTH - I love how that idea came from the show's interns because most production companies use them as gofers.
TB - Exactly! I bring them in. I am like I want your ideas, I want you taking notes 'yes' but I want you to speak up.
JTH - One things I am very curious about is how you pick your designers. Each episode is basically a photo shoot and you pair them with designers and you bring them in. How do you select the designers?
TB - A lot of it is region based. We go overseas ever cycle to a new location, it is very important to me to try to showcase the local people as much as possible. I also like a hybrid, so one year we did a Versace fashion show and Donatella approved it and brought Angello, Angello who used to dress me when I modeled Versace. So we go to the high-end and well -known as well as putting light on the designers who aren't super well known in the States.
For example in the Philippines, Next Top Model is highest rated show in the history of television in the Philippines. So I am constantly thinking of the filipino community by using their designers on the show. One of the designers is Michael Cinco. We pay homage to that.
We go to Bali this cycle and for our final fashion show I wanted to make sure we had Balinese designers. To pay respect to them, to appreciate the culture and help them. Because all of Western people have so much opportunities on an international level.
JTH - You are showcasing local talent, and supporting the local economy when you go to these destinations.
TB - Exactly, you understand. It is super important to me.
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