Models Inc.

After the lights went down on their runway careers, these former fashionistas stepped into the role of business owner

to five colleges to pursue a major in film and television production. She has known what she wanted to do since she was a 9-year-old girl in Inglewood, California. “I used to watch commercials on television and be like ‘Mama, the punch line wasn’t right.’ I would rewrite the commercials, and she would encourage me,” Banks says. “So it started with me wanting to be in advertising. And then it just developed into film and television.”

The first offering from her 10-employee, Los Angeles-based production company (www.bankableproductions.com) was the hit reality show America’s Next Top Model. Debuting in 2003, ANTM premieres its seventh cycle this month, ushering in the new CW Network. Last year, she added a talk show, The Tyra Banks Show, which has been picked up for a second season. Banks sees the show as a woman’s guide to life and says one of her gifts is knowing what the women of her generation want. Apparently, she’s right. The show draws more than 2 million women aged 18 to 34 each week, accounting for 36% of its audience and making it the No. 1 new show in first-run syndication with the sought-after demographic.

Few details escape her notice as an executive producer. She is involved in everything from casting to the marketing campaigns and keeps a “hit list” in her purse of things she is unhappy with. “I am so hands-on,” she says. “But I’m learning to delegate because sometimes it’s very overwhelming.”

Though Banks won’t release any financial details about the company or the shows, both of which she co-owns and executive produces, they must be making a mint in syndication alone: VH1 bought the exclusive syndication rights to the first six cycles of ANTM in a deal worth about $5.8 million, according to Daily Variety, while Tyra is rebroadcast on the Oxygen cable channel and on XM Satellite Radio.

Banks currently has 14 projects in development, including a Top Model spin-off and a big-screen, G-rated feature with Nickelodeon Films, staying true to Bankable’s three-pronged focus: family, women, and fantasy/fashion. In addition, she’s working on a fashion-related Internet community and entertaining a number of business pitches, including a lingerie line.

Just as important as the success of her company is the perception that she’s taking this seriously. “As a model, I had a reputation of a woman who was on time and was very businesslike and didn’t party. So now I have to build my reputation to [have others] say, ‘She works 24/7, she has tunnel vision, she doesn’t put her name on vanity projects.’ I think that is starting to be seen, but it takes time,” she says. The last thing she wants to be thought of as is the next hot thing.

“People in my industry look up to the hot actress, the hot singer. That’s cool, but I’m looking for longevity. We’re not sprinting — this is a marathon,” Banks says. “Hotness

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