We were lucky to have Tyra Banks at a TeenLIVE from the NYPL event on September 25, 2011.
I guess I actually have to admit that I had not heard of Banks before this event, or it had not quite clicked, that she was a supermodel and host of a TV show, America's Next Top Model. And, no, I have not been living under a rock. I did some preliminary research prior to attending this event, and I looked at her web page. The reaction she got from the teens at the "library with the lions" left no doubt about the fact that they knew exactly who she was.
Banks has many books and movies, including Modelland, that are available at The New York Public Library where she actually spent hours writing the book.
On Sunday, September 25, 2011, she gave a talk in the Celeste Bartos Forum of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of The New York Public Library. She told us that she wrote much of the novel in the Rose Main Reading Room on the 3rd floor of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. She spent five years creating the fantasy that turned into her first book.
Banks introduced herself and got the audience engaged with posing in Modelland style. There were many teens at the event (at least a couple of hundred) and most of the audience members were teens.
Banks started off by engaging the audience with several activities:
1. an invitation to scream with her (everyone was very excited to see Banks)
2. an invitation to do modelling poses with her (eg, headache, heartache, hip ache pose) and modelling to market and sell items (eg, you want to buy my earrings, shoes, shirt, etc.)
Then she started talking about the book, including Tookie, the main character (who is somewhat based on her life and issues). She talked about bullying, body image, and the fashion and modelling world.
Chris Shoemaker, Young Adult Programming Specialist at the New York Public Library, asked Banks some questions, and she gave interesting answers.
Chris Shoemaker: I know that you did a lot of writing in the Rose Main Reading Room of the Stephen A. Schwarzman building of the New York Public Library. What were some of the best inspirations for the book Modelland that you got from the New York Public Library?
Tyra Banks said that the library is so grand. She feels like there were no boundaries for her writing. It made her feel small and humbled to be in such an awe-inspiring public place. She wanted to be in awe because that is Tookie's point of view.
CS: I know that you have been a model, photographer, and writer. What brought you here?
TB said that she is a visualist and that she likes photographs. She used physical descriptions to help readers imagine the visual scenes in Modelland. Before writing the book, she would tell a model in her TV show, America's Next Top Model, to simply fix his or her leg. Now, she really wants the models to tell a story more with a photograph, as she was demonstrating with the posing earlier in the program (you want to buy my earrings, etc.).
CS: Tookie tended to focus on one item to keep from home. I know that you have studied at the Harvard Business School. Is there any one item that you like to keep with you?
TB said that she liked to go to Target and buy $10 pictures for the walls, pillows, and rugs, and she appreciates new things. However, she does like to keep her computer.
CS: I know that you are trying to redefine the concept of American beauty. Do you think that this is best done with print or visual or a combination of the two?
TB said that she likes to take girls up into the mountains and hang out with them for seven days. They discuss body image and stereotyping. She says that the book can help readers expand the words into a visual image (until Modelland is made into a movie, of course).
CS: I heard that your mom had you research and study the modelling business. What are the best things that you have read and what would you wish you would have read [that may not have existed to be read]?
TB said that her mom wanted her to research and prepare for the model industry, as she had prepared and studied to succeed at many things in her life prior to modelling. Banks went to the fashion library in Los Angeles, California. She spent 10 days there doing research on designers, photographers, and editors. She watched videos of fashion shows, and emulated the style of designers when auditioning for them (eg, playful versus elegant). She became one of the most highly booked models due to research and preparation for her career.
CS: I know that you have many made-up words in Modelland.
TB said that the editors and copy editors look through a text prior to publications looking for made-up words, and they found many, the most popular being "smize."
Then the floor was opened to audience members to ask Banks questions.
We are were very glad that Banks could come speak to the teens about the experience of writing her book and how it has shaped her life, and the free signed copies of Modelland that she handed out were definitely an added plus to the occasion.
Stuff for the Teen Age blog channel
NYPL books about Tyra Banks
Articles and databases about fashion
Body Image journals