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Tyra Banks Reveals Next Business Venture: Modelland

Tyra Banks is a multi-hyphenate in the truest sense.

Banks first tackled the modeling industry and became one of the most successful and groundbreaking supermodels of all time. Then, she launched “America’s Next Top Model,” breaking ground in the television landscape, creating one of the longest-running unscripted formats in TV history. She’s acted on the Disney Channel, sang with Kobe Bryant, hosted her own daytime talk show, launched a production company, written best-selling books and taught classes at Stanford.

And now, she’s creating her own universe: Modelland.

Modelland is an attraction set to open in late 2019 in Santa Monica, Calif. The multi-level 21,000 sq. ft space, which will include retail and dining options, will be open to the public, who can buy tickets. Modelland will stay true to Banks’ mission of bringing modeling to the masses, while expanding the definition of beauty.

“I’ve always been insanely inspired by attractions like Disneyland and Universal Studios and have wanted to bring that spirit of adventure and storytelling to the world of modeling,” Banks tells Variety. “But not the exclusive modeling industry. I’m talking about modeling for the masses.”

This is not an Instagram-friendly pop-up experiment. Modelland is a permanent attraction, and the location at Macerich’s Santa Monica Place will serve as the flagship attraction in a plan to expand globally.

“Santa Monica Place is the perfect setting for the groundbreaking Modelland concept and we are so pleased to welcome this exceptional, multi-layered entertainment, retail and dining attraction to our world-class destination,” said Michael Guerin, SVP of leasing at Macerich. “Our top properties including Santa Monica Place are terrific platforms for retailers and brands of all kinds to connect with their audiences, who visit us for the best in experience-forward retail and everything else.”

While staying mum on exact details, here, Banks talks to Variety about her biggest venture yet…

How long has Modelland been in the works?

Modelland has been in the works for 10 years. 10 very intense years. I’ve kept it close to my heart and dedicated a lot of energy and time to it — qualitative and quantitative research, think tank sessions, iterations of business plans, potential sites visits, staffing up. With some serious laser-focused tunnel-vision and a hardworking, expert team, Modelland is finally coming to life. I’m so excited to let the world know about the Modelland attraction and for them to soon experience and step into their light later this year.

How would you describe Modelland?

Modelland is going to be a place where the modeling world meets fantasy, meets entertainment, meets technology, meets retail, meets dining, meets … your fiercest best self you could ever imagine. From the beginning, when creating this attraction, I wanted Modelland to go beyond just a place to go to, but to be a place to feel emotion. You have to go there, you have to be part of it and you have to interact and focus on yourself. It’s all about you. Of course, there will be an elevated social media component that will allow for our global community to engage and get delightful tastes of Modelland. That is crucial. The extra special treat is at the attraction, in the flesh. All types of beauty — men and women, young and older — are invited to transform into the dream version of themselves. When people leave Modelland, we want them to feel overjoyed and empowered.

What is the purpose of Modelland?

Throughout my career, I’ve broken beauty barriers and have expanded the definition of beauty. I was the first African-American model to be featured on the covers of “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issue, the first female model on the cover of “GQ” and the first black woman on Victoria’s Secret catalogue. With “ANTM,” I challenged industry standards in size, height and age. And, I’m not done — not even close. And now I’m not flying solo; I’ve got a strong Modelland headquarters team. Modelland is not just a place to us; It’s a movement. Yes, it’s an attraction and a destination, but above all, it’s the genesis for people with all types of different beauty to feel seen and validated. Modelland will empower them to embrace, celebrate and adorn their own unique beauty in ways they never thought possible.

What will visitors do at Modelland? Take me through the experience when you visit.

Modelland will be a multi-level ticketed attraction, so there will be different ways in which you can experience it. There will be a robust retail offering and experiential dining — not your typical restaurant outing. It will be way beyond that. But that’s all I can say about that for now. It’s my goal that with every Modelland forthcoming that we grow, perhaps doubling in size each time, so there’s opportunity to offer new, bigger and better delights. When you dream it, that’s the only way things can happen.

Who do you hope will visit?

Modelland will be for everyone. All ages — Gens from X to the Y to the Z, Millennials, all of them! All genders, families, friend groups and beyond. This isn’t just targeted at models, or model-dreamers. This is where you come as a mom or dad to bring your teenage daughter or son, host your birthday or bachelorette party, where couples come on a date. There will be something for everyone.

Is this Santa Monica location the first of many? Is it a launching pad for an entire franchise? 

Macerich’s Santa Monica Place will be our inaugural flagship with strategic plans to open in other major cities across the US. And we have a robust strategy to expand globally as well. Yes, it is indeed a franchise.

Will there be any component involving entertainment content? Perhaps a reality show about Modelland?

Without getting into specifics, there will be content elements that are programmable throughout the attraction. The producer and storyteller in me cannot resist. There is IP that will span into features, TV, steaming and beyond. The opportunities with Modelland are endless

Why is this the next best step in the Tyra brand?

I’ve always looked up to Walt Disney’s empire. He’s created this world for us that we love as a child, cherish as an adult and enjoy as a family. It’s his legacy that is never ending. I have always wanted to create something that exists beyond me, so that when my time on Earth is done, people — young, old, women, men, families, friends — will still have many outlets and physical destinations to visit to be the dream versions of themselves, to have their beauty celebrated and to just let loose and have fun.

Will Modelland be your main focus, or will you still continue to with “America’s Next Top Model” and act, host and produce?

Modelland is a big focus, and I will continue to produce and develop as we prepare to open Modelland and of course, beyond that. I have an overall deal with Universal Television for scripted and unscripted programming. We have an incredible development slate that is compelling, dynamic and unique that spans beyond our existing audience. Bankable Productions is focused on content that has strong international format appeal. Our team is growing and will also be in charge of producing content connected to the Modelland brand.

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