Q&A: Tyra Banks Is Opening Modelland With the Goal of ‘Bringing Modeling to the Masses’

The experiential attraction stems from childhood trips to Disneyland

Banks describes Modelland, which has been 10 years in the making, as a "fantasy version of the modeling world."
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Tyra Banks, the super model, actor, entrepreneur and creator of America’s Next Top Model, is starting yet another venture: an experiential attraction called Modelland in California’s Santa Monica Place.

The attraction aims to create an inclusive “fantasy version of the modeling world” and will feature interactive entertainment, creative collaborations, curated retail, dining and special events. Modelland will be a permanent fixture located in a 21,000-square-foot space blocks away from Santa Monica State Beach. It is set to open in late 2019 and is 10 years in the making for Banks, who aims to eventually expand it globally.

Banks has redefined beauty and paved the way for a diverse array of models to break into the elusive fashion industry, mostly through her reality show, which recently concluded its 24th season. Modelland will build on these efforts by aiming to create a global community for user-generated content that amplifies people of all ages and genders. Attendees will be able to interact with the Modelland brand plus other select partners in the beauty, fashion, entertainment, food and beverage, and technology sectors.

Adweek caught up with Banks to discuss her vision for Modelland and how it all came together.

Adweek: Can you give us a sense of the type of experiences Modelland will offer?
Tyra Banks: I can’t give too many specifics, but it is really about a transformation and giving people an opportunity that they can never have anywhere else. This has always been important to me. There are certain things that I and so many people in entertainment, particularly in fashion, have experienced, certain insecurities that have come along with taking photos, particularly now in social media. A lot of people are feeling like, ‘Whoa, I can never look like that or have access to that.’ I want to [give them that access]. This phase in my business career is really about bringing modeling to the masses and redefining what a model is.

You’ve helped so many models throughout the years launch their careers, especially with ANTM. How does Modelland further that mission?
I see it as an evolution. I started as a high-fashion model. I was very naturally thin and then my body began to change. From there, I had a choice to either quit fashion, lose a lot of weight or to come up with something different. My mom helped me to strategize over pizza, ironically, to change my career to be more commercial. So then I did Victoria’s Secret, Sports Illustrated and Cover Girl, different brands that were reaching a broader audience. That was the first step of being a bit more open.

From there, I created [ANTM] that gave 10 to 15 people per cycle the chance to experience the modeling world and potentially have a modeling career while millions of people watched. My mission was not to create a show of ‘Oh, look how hard modeling is.’ I really used the modeling platform as a vessel to expand the definition of beauty. When I pitched the idea for [ANTM], I pitched it with the idea that the majority of my models would have atypical beauty, something that is debatable. And throughout the course of the season, people would see the inner and outer beauty that these people have. But still, [ANTM] only gave a certain amount of people per year that opportunity.

With Modelland, this has been my dream for 10 years, my first business plan was seven years ago. I wanted to open this up to everyone. It’s not just for young women—it’s families, guys, LGBTQ, Generation X, Generation Y, millennials. I want women to come and have bachelorette parties. Guys to come and say, ‘Dude, we have to do this thing.’ I want couples to come. I want moms and their toddlers to come. This is the place that’s really for everyone.

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