Walking away from America's Next Top Model "wasn't that hard," Tyra Banks says.
In fact, the show's original host first tried to quit the series in 2007, though she ultimately stayed for 22 cycles. At the time, Banks felt "stressed with starting new businesses." So, she told her lawyer she wanted "to bring someone else in" as her replacement, vowing to continue working behind the scenes as an executive producer. "I won't say the name of that person, but I actually brought a different person to the network, met with them, and said, 'This is the person I want to take the reins of this show,'" Banks, 43, tells Entertainment Weekly. "This was cycle 8."
Banks, who launched the series in 2003, was asked to reconsider. "My lawyer held an intervention of sorts, and said, 'What are you doing? You created this show. It's starting to get traction around the entire world. I beg of you not to do this.' But, I was so tired. I was like, 'Fine, fine. I'll just continue,'" she says. "I called [my potential replacement] and said, 'We're not going to have you do this for now.' It's something that's been on the tip of my fingers for so long, so it wasn't necessarily difficult [to let go]. It was actually exciting. I wanted the show to continue."
America's Next Top Model was rebooted in 2016, with Rita Ora stepping in as host. The entire judging panel also got a makeover, with Paper's Drew Elliott, model Ashley Graham and stylist Law Roach joining the mix. "I wanted to keep it new. With me creating and owning a significant portion of the show," Banks says, "it's in my best interests to keep it going and to keep it fresh."
Doing so also allowed Banks to focus on her family and her other businesses.
Banks says she "used to have a problem of being too much of a micro-manager," but she has since learned "to delegate" to people on her production team. "You create and you move on."
And that's why Banks only made two appearances in cycle 23: first in the premiere episode, second in the finale. And in future cycles, Banks may have even fewer cameos. "Speaking to social media, I'm not blind, so I do see a lot of people are stating that [they miss me]," she says. "There was one fan who gave me this whole long diatribe, this long post about how I'd turned my back on them. [There was] a lot of negativity being spewed my way for not doing the show."
The backlash hurt Banks' feelings, as she's still involved with the show behind-the-scenes. "Believe me, I'm a human being, so it does sting a little bit that they feel like I've deserted them or that I've walked away from something I created," she says. "It does sting, but it's a change of heart, I guess." As for whether she'd ever host the show again, she says, "I don't really think so. I'm hoping that we can continue to be successful where we are. It's about watching the ratings, trying to increase them, and getting them to a place where the show can live without me..."
Most of all, Banks is happy to see America's Next Top Model has stayed true to her vision. "In putting these girls on the show and saying, 'You are beautiful,' I wasn't necessarily telling them they were beautiful; I was using them as a vessel to tell millions of girls around the world who looked like them that they were beautiful," she says. "This has always been a passion of mine."