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Tyra Banks is working overtime.
She's got a new daytime talk show, The Tyra Banks Show (check local listings), even as her successful prime-time reality series, UPN's America's Next Top Model, returns tonight with a two-hour, fifth season premiere (8 ET/PT). "I'm working on both at the same time," says Banks, who is an executive producer of both shows.
Banks' supermodel status is perfect for her role as mentor and judge on a modeling reality show. But she says the glamorous background won't prevent her from relating to daytime viewers as well.
As a model, "I've always been what people might call approachable. On the street, people are like, 'You know, you're cool and you weigh 20 pounds (more) than those other girls in the Victoria's Secret catalogue and that makes me feel good. And you're funny and crazy,'" Banks says. "I want to hear that. That makes me feel good."
The 31-year-old beauty will be joined on Model this season by two new judges, fashion legend Twiggy and runway expert J. Alexander, along with a returning panelist, photographer Nigel Barker. Former judge Janice Dickinson will return for one episode. The 13 modeling wannabes will get a taste of glamour this season, living in a Bel Air mansion and riding in a stretch limo.
Tom Weeks of media buyer Starcom Entertainment says having the two shows can help Banks grow as a brand name.
Viewers get glimpses of Banks' personality on Model, although she admits that in the tense elimination scenes she's playing "a little bit of a character." She also was able to show a different side of herself during an earlier stint as a correspondent on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah has been supportive of the new venture. "She told me, 'People are going to feel like they know you because you're on TV every single day. This is a whole different life, so get ready for it.'"
The daytime show, which started slowly in the ratings last week, covers a wide range of topics, including beauty, body image, dating and sex. She'll talk about her own past, including difficulties, to a point.
As for her own life, Banks says she would like to have a husband, although "marriage is not the easiest thing for me to grasp" after experiencing the divorce of her parents. She wants kids, too, perhaps via adoption.
But don't expect celebrity gossip from a woman who has been linked romantically to director John Singleton and NBA star Chris Webber. Asked her current relationship status, she laughs and says: "I won't say if I'm single or dating or married or divorced. There's boundaries."
The daytime show, aimed at women ages 25 to 35, has a lighter side: "Some days, I want to be serious. Some days, I want to act the fool and have a great time."
The show also traffics in hopes and dreams. In one upcoming show, Banks takes three women to Paris for a vacation. Another woman, treated to a dental makeover, will get to walk triumphantly on the set's signature piece: a runway.
"The runway is an intimidating thing. It's about high-fashion models prancing," she says. "I want to make it more accessible, something that can empower women, not make them insecure. When (guests) get on it, they don't want to get off."
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