Supermodel-turned-businesswoman Tyra Banks enrolled in Harvard Business School's Owner/President Management Program last year to learn how to build her multi-million-dollar brand — and she fully immersed herself in college life. Not only did the "America's Next Top Model" host make friends, join study groups, and wear Harvard hoodies, she also indulged in college cuisine at the campus cafeteria. "The food is insane," she tells omg!. "It's so good. We always have like an amazing Indian dish. There was a comfort food station, salad bar, two soups to choose from, two smoothies to choose from, olive bar." But in all seriousness, Banks — who just graduated on February 17 — also gained skills and knowledge that are already helping her improve her business, Bankable Productions. "Finance is definitely not a strength, but after graduating I wouldn't say I'm a pro at it, but I can definitely handle the finance part of my business much better than before," she adds.
Continuing her education has even inspired the next season of "Top Model," which is being cast right now (The current season, "British Invasion," premieres Wednesday on the CW). After Banks, 38, announced last year that she was studying at Harvard, "I was really pleasantly surprised by the response I got from people, particularly young women, saying now they want to go to college or further their education and go after their goals," she says. "So the next cycle of 'Top Model' is going to be a college cycle. We're looking for girls all over the country at various different types of colleges or continuing-education, whether it's an Ivy League or a big University of Michigan-type school all the way to trade techs, community school, just whatever type of education you're trying to get to further your career and reach your dream."
For Banks, she's still reaching. She says she had such an amazing time being in college, she's already planning to go back, whether it be at Harvard again or perhaps international studies in Mumbai, China, or London. The supermodel, who picked her career over college at 17, says her recent graduation was "bittersweet." She explains, "When I came home, I just sat on the floor with my back leaning on my bed and just staring out the window like 'I miss my school! I miss my friends! I miss my professors! I miss class — but I don't miss studying for class and I don't miss being called on when I'm not prepared — but I miss everything else.' It's kind of like being in a bubble. There's like a safety bubble of me walking around campus with my Harvard hoodie on and jeans. It was something that just felt like a big warm hug."
Until she decides on her next educational move, Banks' focus right now is on Cycle 18 — yes, this is the 18th season! -- of "Top Model," this one being called "British Invasion" because half of the contestants are former competitors of the UK version of the show, who will go up against newbie Americans. The interesting premise was initially a tough sell on Banks. "[My producers] had to convince me," she says. "They had this PowerPoint presentation about how we as Americans are obsessed with British culture from their accents to the monarchy. I was like, 'Ok, I'm feeling it. I am kind of into Kate right now.' We also liked that the girls already came with a fanbase in Britain, but that we can take it to the next level for them [in America]."
After so many seasons of "Top Model," Banks does admit it gets difficult coming up with ideas to keep the show fresh. One new addition this season that is sure to create some drama — and tears — is new judge Kelly Cutrone, a PR maven most famous for yelling at her employees, including Whitney Port, on MTV's "The City," as well as her own Bravo show, "Kell on Earth." And she hasn't changed one bit. "Of course she made someone cry [on 'Top Model']," jokes Banks, who admits she herself was "nervous" to meet Cutrone. But, she adds, "She's a mix of the hard and the soft. What I love about her is she is so honest. Where I tend to couch it a little bit, she's just like, 'Look, I don't like it' [during judging]. She says what other people maybe wouldn't, but it's still constructive. She's not being nasty to be nasty … She is no joke. Everything about this woman is so successful."
The same can be said for Tyra!
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