Tyra Banks: America's Next Top Mogul

Tyra Banks

Banks considers herself more akin to Martha Stewart and Donald Trump. To that end, her latest development is Bankable Enterprises, created to move the mini-mogul into arenas like real estate (might we suggest Tyra Towers?) and retail. While she's mum on specifics, Banks also mentions ideas for amusement parks and Broadway shows. (''I'm always looking at how I can be atypical,'' she says.) In the meantime, her Bankable Productions' film-and-TV-development slate is stocked thanks to a hefty deal with Warner Bros. Entertainment last year. (In July 2007, Forbes estimated that her annual income was $18 million.) ''Very few people have the vision, the passion, and the ambition that she does,'' says Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. Television. ''In a marketplace this cluttered, anytime you have a presold brand or persona, it gives you a leg up. And she is a presold commodity.''

The film projects developed by Banks under the new deal will include the banner ''Tyra Banks Presents...,'' much like other branding giants, including Winfrey and Tyler Perry. First up, she'll develop the Gossip Girl-esque tween books The Clique into a series of straight-to-DVD movies. And this summer, Banks will reteam with ANTM exec producer Mok for a reality competition set to air on The CW that pits young women against each other for a shot at a fashion magazine position. She's also teaming up with Ashton Kutcher for another reality project, which she vaguely describes as being ''my brand and his brand combined.'' (America's Next Top Geek?) In fact, each of these projects exists within Banks' current definition of Tyra Inc. ''It's the attainable fantasy,'' she explains. ''Girl empowerment — but not preachy. I like it to be surrounded by a little bit of candy so you don't know that you're getting a message.''

As far as she's come, Banks is still slightly tentative about her rising status. ''There's a fear I have with success in the business world,'' she admits. ''People have this image of women, especially in business — that they have to be ballbusters, and that's so not what I am.'' That said, the woman whose company logo features a shiny bank vault is not going to stop growing her media empire. ''I'm not afraid of wanting money at all,'' she says. ''Money will give me more power to do things that are truer to my spirit than what I'm already doing.'' Still, she adds, ''I don't think I'll always be on television. I don't know whether it's 10 or 20 years, but I know it won't be when I'm 60.'' C'mon, Tyra, even sexagenarians need a fierce girlfriend.

Want more? See exclusive behind-the-scenes video of the EW photo shoot with Tyra Banks

Originally posted Feb 15, 2008 Published in issue #979 Feb 22, 2008 Order article reprints