Earlier this year, Tyra Banks made a bit of news: not only had she decided to return as host to her show “America’s Next Top Model” on VH1, but she was tapped to replace Nick Cannon on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
The obvious question was: how will she be able to do both?
“Oh my god, it was a crazy concern,” Banks tells Variety during an interview in her trailer on the set of “Top Model.” Her already full plate also included teaching at Stanford, gearing up to film the sequel to Disney’s “Life Size,” and adapting to life as a first-time mother to her one-year-old son, York.
“My assistant and my agent and everybody got together and looked at it all and said, ‘How can we do this where she doesn’t go crazy?’” Banks recalls. The supermodel-turned-television-powerhouse says she figured out how to organize her schedule into “chunks” to keep her sane.
“There’s an ‘AGT’ chunk, and then I took a break and went to go teach at Stanford, then I came back and did another ‘AGT’ chunk, then I did my ‘Top Model’ chunk, now I’m going to go back to do another ‘AGT’ chunk, and nothing overlaps in terms of production,” Banks explains. “I would feel like I was losing my mind if I was doing everything at the same time.”
Banks was in production on the “America’s Got Talent” audition episodes in March and April with workdays that would last from 10a.m. to 3a.m. Then in the spring, while “AGT” was airing, she began shooting “Top Model” through early July. This week, Banks and the “AGT” cast began the live shows, which tape and air through mid-September.
Throughout her decades-long career, Banks has established herself as a multi-hyphenate, evolving from supermodel to daytime talk show host to creator of “Top Model,” which currently airs in over 170 countries. She admits she’s overworked herself over the years, and now in her 40’s, she’s learned to make enough time for herself.
“I have nurseries in my contracts now,” Banks says, adding that she brings York to set most days. “I want him to understand what his mother does and that she’s not just this lady on TV. I want him to understand that his mother works and she’s a business person and working behind the scenes.”
Banks invited Variety to trail for a day on the set of “Top Model” this summer when she was filming one of the last episodes of the season set to debut at the end of the year. Here’s a day in her life:
5:30 a.m: Wake up
Banks doesn’t need an alarm clock — York serves as her wakeup call. Up first is breakfast with York, and Banks chooses a cup of Greek yogurt with fresh berries and a sprinkle of granola. Then she plays with her son for a bit until it’s time to go to work. Banks points out that she doesn’t need a morning exercise routine because “running around with my little one was my workout for the day.”
9:00 a.m: Morning commute
Banks gets in the car to head to the “America’s Next Top Model” set in Van Nuys, Calif., but she notes that the 9a.m. departure time is a later start than usual. Once Banks arrives on set, even before hair and makeup, she takes care of pending business. She reviews photos of each contestant from that week’s photoshoot and then works on final edits and retouching. Those photos will be shown to the models later in the day during the elimination session.
10:30 a.m: Hair and makeup
Banks’ glam session usually takes about two hours, but she notes that sometimes hair and makeup can take longer if she wants to get extra creative with her look for the day — or if she’s multi-tasking. Lately, Banks has definitely been multi-tasking because she’s also writing a book (she wouldn’t reveal the subject matter). She uses the hair and makeup time to work on the book on her phone, “so much so, that I ended up with an arm brace from typing so much,” she says. And then there’s York, who comes to set with his nanny. While his mother was getting touched up, he came into the trailer and touched everyone’s face with a makeup brush.
1:00 p.m: Lunch time
“It’s breakfast for lunch day!” Banks exclaims. On the menu: scrambled eggs with green onions, a side of sausage gravy to dip her eggs in, and a side of fruit. Banks eats at craft services alongside the entire crew, and catches up with judge Ashley Graham, while holding York in her arms.
1:30 p.m: EP meeting
Banks and the rest of the producers, including her partner Ken Mok, have their daily executive producer meeting in an tiny, yet air conditioned, trailer on the set. Dressed in a cotton robe and white Keds, Banks walks over to the briefing with York, who plays with toys during the meeting. But he soon starts making too much noise, and his nanny takes him away so the execs can concentrate. The topics during the meeting range from the shade of lip color the contestants should wear (Banks dismissed one color, saying it looked like “cranberry dried out over three days”) to the sets and music selection for the final runway show (“that song sounds like ‘Blade Runner!”) to casting for the final challenge.
2:17 p.m: Wardrobe and touchups
Then it’s time to get dressed for the day’s shoot. While Banks changes into a bright red quarter-sleeved dress and strappy metallic heels, her stylist tells Variety how Banks’ multiple roles make dressing her a bit complicated. “She does have a lot of jobs — and I dress her for all of them!” the stylist says. “She keeps calling me and saying, ‘I got this job,’ and I’m like, ‘Dammit!'” Banks’ stylist shows off some of Banks’ wardrobe and amidst the designer labels like Valentino are many affordable pieces from Steve Madden and H&M. “I could bring her Payless shoes and as long as they’re comfortable, she’ll wear them,” the stylist says. “Don’t get me wrong, she likes the other stuff, but she’s very human in that way.”
2:58 p.m: “Tyra Mail” shoot
Banks walks onto the soundstage to shoot her “Tyra Mail” scene, dressed in her red hot dress and voluminously teased tresses, and says goodbye to York, who leaves for home after a long day on set. “Bye boo boo,” she says. “See you tonight.” This season, “Tyra Mail” is a video message, rather than a written note. One of the executive producers reads the short script to Banks, who tweaks the copy a bit, memorizes the lines and delivers without a teleprompter. She nails it on the first take.
3:14 p.m: “Tyra Mail” shoot wraps
Banks, Mok and a senior producer chat on set, giving final notes on the elimination ceremony to the judges panel — Graham, Drew Elliott, Law Roach and guest judge, designer Philipp Plein — while the judges get touchups.
3:23 p.m: Elimination ceremony shoot
Banks introduces the judges’ panel — again with no teleprompter. Then the final four models walk out, and the judging session begins. In between takes, Banks and the judges all engage in friendly banter.
4:47 p.m: Judges deliberate
After showing the models their best photos from the past week’s challenge, the models head backstage while the judges deliberate. On-screen, the deliberation will be edited down to a quick discussion, but the process is actually takes about 45 minutes. Banks grabs a snack of carrots at the judges’ panel.
By 5:30 p.m., a decision has been made. The judges film their bite-sized comments to sum up their debate. Then at 6:22 p.m., the contestants walk back out and the elimination is filmed.
6:36 p.m: Elimination ceremony wraps
As soon as filming wraps, Banks walks off the soundstage and shifts gears to “America’s Got Talent.” She’s doing promotional work for “America’s Got Talent,” and the “AGT” social media team has set up a temporary Facebook Live set in Banks’ dressing room, of all places. The goal is to celebrate the NBC show’s Facebook account passing 1 billion video views in just 30 days of the season being on-air.
The social media savvy Banks asks her team to post the Facebook Live video on all of her own accounts to ensure cross-promotional awareness for all of her followers (over 14 million on Twitter and more than 5 million of Instagram). From the moment the camera turns on, Banks turns on her “Tyra-isms” and smizing, and candidly answers fan questions. Some of her responses even end up going viral in the days following the live chat, including a recreation of her infamous “we were rooting for you!” outburst. The Facebook Live chat garners 117,000 live viewers.
7:00 p.m: Banks leaves the “Top Model” set
Once the chat ends, Banks changes into comfortable clothes and heads home. While in the car, Banks catches up on missed calls and emails. “I’m constantly working until I get home,” she says. “I try to relax and look out of the window, but the phone doesn’t stop.”
7:45 p.m: Banks arrives home
Banks usually puts York to bed around 6:30 p.m., but if she’s running late, he will stay up a bit later so that she can tuck him in. After putting him to bed, she eats dinner (a frozen TV dinner with her “special blend of secret spices”) before powering up her laptop to finish more work and answer more emails.
10:30 p.m: Bedtime
Bedtime for Banks is 10:30 p.m., but she rarely sleeps through the night. “York wakes up around 3:30 a.m. wanting to play, so I wake up, too,” she says.
The next day: Back to work
She wasn’t needed at “Top Model” the next day, but she had a business meeting was at 9:00 a.m., and then worked on her book all day long at Soho House, where she can unplug and focus on re-writes. On Saturday, she was back to “ANTM” on location to shoot the final runway show. She arrived at noon and didn’t wrap until 1:15 a.m. Quips Banks, “To quote the Dowager Countess, ‘What is a weekend?!'”