Tyra Banks' Next Big Idea? Taking the Masses to 'Modelland'

Tyra Banks attends the premiere of ‘Life Size 2' at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on November 27, 2018 in Hollywood, California.
Tyra Banks attends the premiere of ‘Life Size 2' at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on November 27, 2018 in Hollywood, California.
Photo: Emma McIntyre (Getty Images)

You wanna be on top... of a roller coaster at Tyra Banks’ new amusement park?

Multi-hyphenate fashion and beauty mogul Banks has a new project in the works—and we’re admittedly still trying to envision it. The supermodel mom, who last August announced a first-look deal with Universal Television, followed by a revival of her role as the fashion doll-come-to-life Eve in Life Size 2, announced this week that her next big venture will be larger than life: an amusement park in Santa Monica called Modelland.


Named for her 2011 semi-autobiographical young adult novel, Modelland will reportedly be a “multi-level 21,000 sq. ft space in Santa Monica Place (an open-air shopping center) that will feature retail shops, dining destinations, interactive entertainment and much, much more,” according to Variety.

“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, who owns and operates the property. “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.”

“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,” the 45-year-old Banks told Variety, disclosing that she’s been developing the project for the past 10 years.

But in case you think you’ll need to be “this beautiful” to ride, Banks promises her theme park will be egalitarian and inclusive. “I’m talking about modeling for the masses,” she said. “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.”

I mean, we’re all for inclusivity, but admittedly, our first thought was the rise and demise of the highly publicized mid-‘90s supermodel venture Fashion Cafe. Memorably, that project sought to harness the stratospheric celebrity of front women Naomi Campbell, Elle Macpherson, Claudia Schiffer, and Christy Turlington into a international chain of couture-themed restaurants (you know, because the first thing you associate with supermodels is eating). After closing three years later, its businessmen creators were charged with fraud.


Not that we’d expect anything of the sort from Banks, who, in reference to that doomed venture, told WWD: “They really missed the mark with that.” In addition to launching the ongoing global Next Top Model media empire, Banks earned a certificate from Harvard Business School’s nine-week Owner/President Management Program, and has reportedly taught courses at Stanford Business School. Presumably, Modelland is her effort to capitalize on the increasing demand for inclusivity in the fashion industry—but don’t expect any “walk-offs” at her amusement park. “That’s low-hanging fruit,” she tells WWD.

“This is bursting the door open and redefining what a model is. It’s all about inclusiveness,” she adds, noting that what we can expect are guest-ready fashions created by Hollywood costume designers and stylists and the requisite “elevated social media component” for today’s uber-Instagrammable culture.


“All types of beauty—men and women, young and older—are invited to transform into the dream version of themselves,” Banks told Variety. “When people leave Modelland, we want them to feel overjoyed and empowered.”

Of course, anyone familiar with Banks’ own trajectory will give her credit for knowing a bit about empowerment and inclusivity. As she reminded WWD, that’s how her biggest hit to date was born.


“I created [America’s Next] Top Model to expand the definition of beauty based on my own pain of being told ‘no’ that I couldn’t do something because I’m curvy or I’m black. My empathy for women in general increased through the experience,” she explained. “And now with Modelland, I’m taking it 10 steps forward, giving people the opportunity to engage with the elusive world by opening it up to everyone. Men, women, families, all generations can come and enter this model world for a day, have a fun shopping experience, and an eventful meal. This will be the first of many.”

The theme park will reportedly be a permanent, multi-level ticketed attraction anchoring the current mall in Santa Monica (think Nickelodeon Universe–formerly Camp Snoopy–at Minnesota’s Mall of America). Banks tells Variety she hopes to expand internationally, as she did with the ANTM franchise.


“Modelland is not just a place to us; It’s a movement,” she said. “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.”

The Glow Up tip: Want to plan a trip to Modelland? The park’s website is in development, but you can sign up for updates.

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?



I may’ve shrieked at this headline — Modelland, the book, is the most batshit thing I’ve ever read in my life, and I cannot imagine how it’ll translate into a theme park... But I sure tried. Potential attractions include:

-That scene where a superpowered supermodel — pardon me, Intoxibella — carries a group of girls in her “sac” above counties named things like “Metopia,” “Big-Bou-Tique Nation,” “Canne Del Abra,” “Capuccina” and “NorDenSwee”

-That building shaped like a plaid cube balanced on one tip where misbehaving models-in-training are turned into disease-riddled cats and imprisoned

-The dining hall, where girls are lowered via harness into vats of their favorite foods to learn about healthy eating habits

-The Diabolical Divide, which separates training school Modelland from the rest of the world and contains monsters such as a giant beast built out of discarded musical instruments and a hunchbacked creature that lives to devour the organs of albinos

-A sentient wall made of junk that ages you 50 years if you climb over it and turns into a mirror/window when struck by lightning

-Thigh High Bootcamp, where the following things happen to teach you valuable modeling lessons: you get 1) Dressed in counterfeit clothes that try to kill you, because counterfeits = bad; 2) forced to share makeup, which then melts your skin off, because sharing makeup = bad; 3) Measured down to the length of your toes and told how perfect/imperfect you are; 4) pierced by a giant sewing needle and imprisoned in a bubble, because ??????

-A quiz to determine your very own Modelland name. Canonical examples: Tookie De La Creme (the protagonist!) and her parents Cremalatta Defacake and Chris-Creme-Crobat; C~L (pronounced Ciel); Bravo the Bestostero, Theophilus Lovelaces and Zarpessa Zarionneaux.

Harry Potter who?