There’s no denying Tyra Banks’ celebrity has faded. With every new year comes another failed project or devastating cancellation, and it’s hard to watch a model who was once one of the most sought-after beauties in the world struggle to keep her star shining
Why would anyone leave an industry at the height of their fame and fortune? Banks may have asked herself that question more than once since retiring from modeling in 2005 at age 31. At the time, she explained she wanted to go out on top and “be like the athletes who seem stuck in time,” but a decade after Banks ended a supermodel reign of nearly 20 years, it seems unlikely that her dreams of Michael Jordan-style lasting glory are destined to come true.
There has been chatter about a Victoria Secret reunion show featuring Banks, along with former Angels Gisele Bündchen and Heidi Klum. “I have been asked to do a reunion many years ago,” Banks told Watch What Happens Live in 2014, “and I said no because I was trying to be taken seriously as a talk show host and as an executive producer and as a businesswoman.” What would she say if asked again? “I don’t know if I would. But whenever I see them, I feel like we have a connection, these Angels, because we’re like the O.G. original Angels. Like, that was invented on us.” Banks added, “And, the president of Victoria’s Secret promised me a lifetime supply of Victoria’s Secret products, even after I decided to leave the company. But once I left, he only let me have it for a year. So I have a bone to pick.”
After five seasons, Tyra was canceled in May 2010. The talk show featured a mix of female empowerment messages, sometimes messy monologues, and antics by the former model, all of which took a turn for the worse in later seasons. Banks and her team sought out drama-filled guests to boost sagging ratings, but the show’s new personality made it look less like The Oprah Winfrey Show and more like The Jerry Springer Show. Needless to say, the change in direction did not help Banks.
In March 2011, Banks put her name on the line by launching TypeF.com. The style site aimed to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for users by offering personalized beauty and fashion tips. Although the glitzy launch brought in lots of initial traffic, page views and site visits suffered a steep decline over time. As spelled out in a 2013 Adweek story, the site essentially died after content seemed to dry up. Banks’ face disappeared from the site, and headlines pointed to two-year-old content. At the time of this writing, Banks’ former site redirected to an EHow.com fashion and beauty page, and associated social media accounts had not been updated in years.
Perhaps the fourth sign that Banks’ supermodel influence had waned was the demise of the formerly beloved hit show America’s Next Top Model. After a dizzying 22 cycles, the catwalk competition was axed in December 2015. At one point the show was a ratings powerhouse, with millions of people tuning in each week and millions more commenting on social media. In its last few years on the CW network, ratings were in decline—and, frankly, so was the talent the show attracted. The ever-changing cast of judges, some rumored to have beefs with Banks, didn’t help either.
After less than one season, Banks’ new foray into daytime television ended in a fiery ratings disaster. In January 2016, ABC pulled the plug on Banks’ talk show FABlife—after Banks, who’d led a four-person hosting panel that included fellow model Chrissy Teigen, quit two months after its nationwide premiere. At the time, Banks called the decision to leave “difficult,” but insiders said she left because she was duped into believing she’d receive creative control of the show. The cast did not appear to stay in sync after Banks’ exit, and the show soon folded. Unforgiving headlines also pitted Banks against Teigen, which added fuel to the theory that sometimes-catty models can’t get along.
Banks believes cutting and running is the key to staying atop her showbiz perch, but others might see her decision-making skills as poor. In a 2015 Wall Street Journal interview, Banks explained she prefers to leave projects high and dry: “Having a sense of that hotness, but it’s cooling a bit, but the outside doesn’t know it yet. So, it’s before they know it and you pivot and you look like a genius—and you also look very brave.” In this case, the difference between a brave genius and a quitter is in the eye of the beholder.
Around the same time FABlife debuted, Banks also launched a cosmetics line she dubbed Tyra Beauty. Her latest business venture promised products for real women that would have consumers “werkin’ that hallway like a runway” while offering careers for true believers (called “Beautytainers”) who wanted to try their hand at Avon-style direct sales. Although she earned points for giving her products names like “Smack My Fat Lash” and “Ask for a Raise,” Reddit users quickly busted Banks for using social media marketers to beef up Tyra Beauty’s reviews, while the press had a field day with her claims that she went to Harvard Business School to prepare for launching the company. Turns out Banks’ “Harvard” experience adds up to a single non-degree certificate course.
Obviously, a number of things haven’t gone Tyra’s way over the last few years, but it hasn’t been all lemons for her—quite the opposite, in fact. Banks and her boyfriend, Norwegian photographer Erik Asla, welcomed a son, York Banks Asla, in January 2016. Banks had openly discussed her fertility struggles, so looking in that little one’s eyes is bound to make any of the aforementioned business setbacks seem insignificant. “Of all the fashionable hats I wear, I love being a #mother the most,” she posted on Instagram in May 2016.
Banks will also star in a sequel to her hit Disney Channel movie Life-Size—and given that Disney owns roughly half of Hollywood these days, that’s a paycheck well worth cashing. “We’re looking at it as a holiday movie so hopefully holiday 2016,” she told People. “I’m really excited about it.”
Meanwhile, Banks is also returning to reality television in a big way, starting as the host of America’s Got Talent. She’ll also return for the upcoming season of VH1’s America’s Next Top Model. To which we say: WE ARE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU!!