There is nary a career move Tyra Banks hasn’t tried. She’s modeled, obviously. She’s released music and starred in movies. She’s acted on television and hosted multiple reality competitions. She has created her own ice cream, written a YA book, and is launching an influencer-esque theme park called ModelLand in September. However, it is her daytime talk show, which ran from 2005 until 2010, that remains her most deranged masterpiece.
The Tyra Banks Show took a “no rules, just right” approach to television. It was part sensationalist daytime talk show, part one-woman variety program. It often served as a platform to cross-promote America’s Next Top Model, Tyra’s modeling competition that has since faced backlash for its treatment of contestants and, uh, questionable challenges. (These ranged from putting models in varying degrees of black, brown, and yellow face to making contestants pose seductively while drenched in maple syrup.) On her talk show, Tyra couldn’t decide whether she wanted to be Oprah or Maury or Wendy Williams or Ricki Lake. So, it seems, she chose a Frankensteinian combination of all of the above.
It’s hard to imagine an idea show producers wouldn’t have okayed. Tyra wants to do a live sonogram to prove she doesn’t have breast implants? Sure! She thinks it’d be fun to pretend she has rabies for some reason? Why not! Tyra often went “undercover” for pretaped segments, seeing what life was like as a prison inmate, a homeless person, or a stripper. For the latter, she wore a nose prosthetic, appeared to darken her skin, and said her name was Chanel all to discover that men go to strip clubs to, get this, feel powerful. A Jezebel video from 2020 aptly described these bits as “ego masquerading as service,” each segment feeling less like an empathetic exposé and more like an excuse to play taboo dress-up.
Body image was a recurring theme on Tyra. In one episode, she had a group of women, each dressed in a tan spandex bodysuit, judge each other’s appearance as a lesson in … I don’t know, public humiliation? In another, Tyra wore a fat suit to “live that life for a day and see what happens.” Two years later, she was lauded after delivering her now-iconic “kiss my fat ass” monologue. There were also Dr. Oz–like segments where Tyra brought on guests with medical anomalies. “There are five women on my stage,” she began one such segment. “But between them, they have ten vaginas.” During its five-season run, the show won two Daytime Emmys.
Often, Tyra verged on parody, showing glimpses of self-awareness before swan-diving back into self-delusion. There’s an episode where Tyra promises to gift her audience with her “biggest beauty secret,” hyping up the mystery product à la “Oprah’s Favorite Things.” After a count of three, her audience excitedly opens their gift boxes to reveal small bedazzled containers of Vaseline. “You get vaseline, and you get vaseline,” Tyra shouts, eventually falling to the ground screaming and swinging around one of the little rhinestone-encrusted tubs. “These Vaselines are worth … $100!” Tyra taunts. “Your wildest dreams have come true!!”
Among the best (?) segments on Tyra were her interviews with famous guests. She asked Robert Pattinson, amid his Twilight fame, to bite her on the neck; he obliged, sort of. She told then-Senator Barack Obama, “I’m really good at making up songs on the spot,” before serenading him with a ditty that included the lyrics “He’s got a fine, sexy mole on the side of his nose.” She let Patti LaBelle get berated by a chef who told her not to eat the paper lining of a cupcake. (“What makes you think I think I could eat the paper, boo?” Patti asks the chef.) In another episode, Tyra brought out a girl to sing “Pon de Replay” from memory in front of Rihanna. But these moments pale in comparison to Tyra’s series of celebrity interviews hinged entirely on wordplay.
Securing a much-coveted interview with Beyoncé, Tyra subjected the singer to a line of questioning that included “Brie-oncé: What’s your favorite type of cheese?” and “If I were Tolstoy: Can you do a Russian accent?” This was after the part of the interview where a visibly salty Tyra told Beyoncé, “Well, you’re cute, but I don’t think we look alike.” In another one of these wordplay interviews, Tyra looked Janet Jackson in the face and said, “Toucan-it, Janet: What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?” “Airy J. Blige,” Tyra began during another such interview with Mary J. Blige, “have you ever made love on an airplane?”
Though Tyra has issued multiple statements regarding the resurfaced clips from ANTM, she has yet to answer for this heinous line of questioning thrust upon entertainment icons and Grammy winners. So, Ms. Banks, you can repent by answering just a few simple questions:
- Cry-ra Banks: Can you sob on command?
- Bi-ra Banks: Name three bisexuals.
- Tyra Hanks: Can you do an impression of Chet Hanks?
- Fly-ra Banks: Would you eat a bug for 20 bucks?
- Lie-ra Banks: In 2019, you said you would now be going by the mononym BanX, an allusion to your work “x-ing out cookie-cutter beauty.” You added, “BanX is me, but she’s also every woman.” It’s now 2022. Has anyone ever actually called you BanX?
- America’s Next Top Bottle: Were you breastfed?
And finally, why-ra Banks? Just … why?