I Think About This a Lot is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
Tyra Banks is a woman of many jobs: An iconic supermodel known for her charismatic walk and for coining the portmanteau smize. A talk show host. A reality star with 22 seasons under her belt, to be exact. A cult movie actress thanks to Higher Learning, Life Size, and Coyote Ugly. A young-adult mystery novelist. A Harvard Business School certificate recipient. The CEO of a beauty brand and alleged pyramid scheme. But my personal favorite? A formulaic pop star.
Looking back, Banks has always had secret pop star aspirations. She sang the hook for Kobe Bryant’s “rap” song “K.O.B.E” and the “Be a Star” theme song for her character Eve Doll from Life Size — which, confession, I can recite word for word. But it was in 2004 that the world was formally introduced to Tyra Banks as a recording artist with her loosely instructional single “Shake Ya Body.”
It’s been nearly 13 years since the song was released, so let’s address the obvious first question: was it good?
Well, the hook was catchy as hell: “Shake ya body, body / Move ya body, body … Once I get started it’s over / I can’t control what I show ya.” It could have easily been in heavy rotation with the other mediocre-yet-addictive bops released that year, from “Dip It Low” (Christina Milian) to “Move Ya Body” (Nina Sky). The vocals though? Thank god for autotune, which gave even Tyra Banks the audacity to belt out a slowed-down break. In an interview with Jet, Banks described her vocals as “cool, laidback, and mellow” — in other words, she too knew that she didn’t have the range.
Regardless, Tyra gave us a bop. As an avid America’s Next Top Model watcher and a huge Tyra Banks fan, I was instantly into “Shake Ya Body.” I was also an eighth-grader who had just made my own transformation into the spotlight — my mom let me get rid of my bifocal glasses and get contacts — and the song, accompanied by the dance moves, made me and my new invisible specs feel alive. I remember immediately downloading it off LimeWire so that I could put it on my latest burnt CD mix to listen to in the car. My mom was not thrilled (sorry for being annoying!).
In retrospect, I’m even more impressed with Tyra’s strategic execution and rollout — I can’t decide if she’s the queen of multitasking or the original Joanne. I think about this moment every time I take a deep dive (often — boredom is me, I am boredom) into the dark world of celebrities and personal branding.
See, the “Shake Ya Body” music video — dripping in every telegenic cliché, from unnecessary indoor rain to a “why are you wearing headphones in a music video?” scene — premiered during cycle two of ANTM. The six remaining girls (Shandi, April, Camille, Sara, Yoanna, and Mercedes) received TyraMail outlining that the week’s challenge was “movement” — which ostensibly meant learning an eight-count from an acclaimed choreographer and showing off those moves in Tyra’s music video for free. It sure sounds like Tyra got financially savvy and used that UPN network budget to pay for her video — sort of how people craftily expense Ubers to their jobs because technically you’re always working, am I right? (She recently reused the same concept in an ANTM Season 22 challenge to shoot a commercial for her brand, Tyra Beauty.)
She also found every way to make the episode about her. Footage of her in the studio with producer Rodney Jerkins. Anecdotal confessionals with Tyra telling the world she’d been working hard for six years recording music. Even when eliminating the unlucky contestant of the week, she turned it into an opportunity to promote herself, shedding tears while confessing to the girls: “who am I to stand here and tell you that you have to leave when I’m starting something where the whole world is going to be criticizing me?”
In 2014, Tyra bashed her own music career on Watch What Happens Live, saying “Let me just do a public service announcement right now. My name is Tyra Banks and I’m here to tell you that you may have a dream, you may have something that burns inside of your heart and desire – but if you do not have the talent for it, boo, let it go.” I just wish she would own her bop and the scammy measures she took to release it.
Before a plethora of Instagram celebrities did, Tyra understood the idea of using her platform to engage with her community and build her brand at the expense of someone else’s dollar. The remaining contestants felt special to be included in something that was so important to supermodel Tyra Banks. The millions of viewers felt privy getting a behind-the-scenes look. And even if the audience didn’t see her pop-star potential, they were definitely coming back to ANTM the following week because you had to know which girl would win. It was genius whether it was a flop or not because there was no overt failure in something that was, at the end of the day, just a model challenge. It was a lesson in how to fail in public, but gently.
Another request for Tyra: stop playing games and release “Shake Ya Body” onto streaming services so I can bust out the eight-count that 13-year-old me choreographed for it.