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Tyra Banks is opening a ‘Modelland’ theme park in Santa Monica

Tyra Banks is opening a ‘Modelland’ theme park in Santa Monica
Tyra Banks at the 2018 American Music Awards. (Matt Baron / REX / Shutterstock)

“America’s Next Top Model” creator and former Victoria’s Secret catwalker Tyra Banks is launching a new venture she’s calling Modelland, the same name as the young adult novel she published in 2010 based on her life.

Opening at Santa Monica Place shopping mall in 2019, Modelland will be a 21,000-square-foot, ticketed attraction creating a fantasy version of the modeling world to let visitors “be the dream version of themselves” through interactive entertainment, curated retail and user-generated content that can be shared, Banks told WWD.

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“It’s my calling to bring modeling to the masses,” explained the Los Angeles native, who has been working on the project for 10 years, with funding from Santa Monica Place shopping center owner/operator Macerich and other investors. “I created ‘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. 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.”

Extracting specifics about the project from Banks was a bit like a game of 20 questions. “This is not a pop-up,” the model-preneur said when asked if it would resemble the immensely Instagrammable Beautycon POP experience open for the holiday season near L.A.’s Beverly Center. “It’s a permanent attraction anchoring the mall. I’m inspired by Disneyland, a place I went to a lot as a child. There is a storyline I have been working on for a year. Anybody can enter and feel like a model.”

Although she doesn’t rule out top models like Gigi and Bella Hadid being involved in events from time to time, she stressed that the experience is more fantasy-based, but teased that she has tapped Hollywood costume designers and stylists to create clothing for the audience to wear.

The experience will be multilevel ticketed, but anyone can come and shop, and not just Modelland merchandise, but other brands as well. The restaurant will be nothing like the kitschy, themed Nineties-era Fashion Café at Rockefeller Center, which tapped supermodels Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Elle Macpherson to be the faces of a business, and encouraged guests to dine on Claudia’s New York Strip Steak and Naomi’s Fish and Chips — as if supes would have eaten that.

“They really missed the mark with that,” said Banks, who said she looks forward to visiting but will not be a permanent fixture at the attraction, which she plans to expand globally to other cities.

Will there be daily runway shows at Modelland? “That’s low hanging fruit,” she said. “This is bursting the door open and redefining what a model is. It’s all about inclusiveness.”

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