Tyra Banks has had a sprinkle of controversy intermittently strewn throughout the balance of her professional career. Her latest role as host of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars is no different as fans of the Emmy award-winning competitive ballroom dancing reality show have been skeptical of her replacing the two previous hosts, one who had been there since the show’s inception. Since entering its 29th season in September, Banks has risen above the social media outrage by bringing her own special flair and personality to the gig.
This isn’t just another payday for Banks. Yes, she’s the first Black woman to host the show, but she’s also an executive producer, running things behind the scenes.
“I just wanted to make sure that I could bring some newness and some freshness to add a lot of younger viewers to the audience that was already there. So that whole family is watching and [it’s] not something like ‘Oh, mom and grandma watches’ but that everybody could watch together, ” she told BET.com.
Working alongside Executive Producer Andrew Llinares, Banks says it truly has been an amazing learning experience, one that she says has been different from her previous producing experiences on America’s Next Top Model and her talk show Tyra. Nonetheless, Banks says she’s excited to collaborate and take DWTS to the next level.
“I'm just so excited to see that. With the ratings, we're showing that this is working. It's not just me coming in; it really is the team all working together to figure it out,” Banks said. “I came in with like 10 ideas that I had written down, but after I had learned everything and listened, I actually removed about five of those ideas from my list. That's the best kind of leadership; You listen first and then make decisions.”
As Banks creates history in the ballroom as a boss, another star on the show is adding to its upgraded status. Professional ballroom dancer, Britt Stewart, is the first Black woman ever to be a full-time pro on Dancing With The Stars in 29 seasons. With Banks coming in and making changes to the show, one would wonder if she had anything to do with Stewart’s groundbreaking appearance.
“I wish I could take the credit. I would love to take the credit because it was on my list of things to talk about with the team,” Banks said, explaining that she was informed about Stewart’s role on the show during one of her early meetings with Dancing With The Stars.
The former supermodel said that speaking about diversity and inclusion was a topic that she wanted to bring to the forefront as an executive producer, noting that Stewart’s participation is just the first of other efforts surrounding the topic that are in the works.
“It was kind of nice to not have to have that conversation that I have to have constantly just in life with just different powers that be,” Banks continued. “[The team] even talked about some further diversity that they’re looking at that I’m also very passionate about.”
Heading into the fifth episode of Season 29, airing on Monday (Oct.5) with celebrities including Nelly, Skai Jackson, Jeannie Mai, and Vernon Davis, Banks latest career move proves once again that she’s not afraid to embark on something that may get tongues wagging. Part of that fearlessness comes from knowing that others are looking at her to be their shining example.
“I’m showing little Black girls everywhere that they can be an executive producer. They can be the boss, they can host something that is a legacy, an American legacy and still come in and leave their mark,” said Banks.
Check out Tyra Banks Monday’s on Dancing WithThe Stars on ABC at 8 PM EST/ 7 CST.
(Laretta Houston via Getty Images)