Since cycle 15 of America's Next Top Model premieres tonight, we were invited to an "intimate champagne breakfast" this morning with Tyra Banks and André Leon Talley. The event was kind of like speed-dating. But with smizing!
The focus of the press conference masquerading as a social outing was how very high fashion the new season will be. The winner lands the cover of Vogue Italia and a contract with IMG; guests include Diane von Furstenberg, Patrick Demarchelier, Karolina Kurkova and Italian Vogue's editor in chief, Franca Sozzani. (Why yes, she did just publish an oil-spill inspired spread! But she was also responsible for the all-black issue.)
We, the press, sat at five round tables laden with fruit and flowers. A PR lady announced the hosts, and then there was a moment, a pause, when we all looked expectantly at the back of the restaurant but no one appeared. Then we heard André Leon Talley's powerful voice: "We're here!" Tyra and Mr. Talley materialized. He was wearing a shiny black leather trenchcoat with shorts; she was wearing a clingy knit dress. Applause.
Mr. Talley began by thanking us for attending, noting, "you all write what gets out there to all the fans." Tyra explained, "Andre joining the show was the beginning of taking Top Model to a more elevated place." And added: "It took me eight years to get him." To which ALT replied: "Slowly we move, slowly we groove."
We learned that Tyra was wearing Alexander McQueen, and that André Leon Talley's coat was Prada, his shirt was Polo, and his shorts were Juicy Couture. On his feet: Tod's driving shoes.
There were two empty seats at each of the five tables full of reporters and editors, and Tyra and Mr. Talley spent 10 minutes at each table. "It's like speed dating," I said to the writer to my left. As we waited for the stars to make it to table 3, the young woman to my right introduced herself as Kasia. "Didn't Jezebel write about V magazine's plus size issue?" she asked. "I was in that!" She was so sweet and pretty, I felt compelled to take her picture:
When Tyra and ALT finally made it over to table 3, we were armed with questions. Someone asked Mr. Talley about a Fashion Night Out event he'd attended the evening before. "Everything is fun if you're having fun," he proclaimed. I commented that a few years ago, the buzz was about the lack of black models in the fashion industry, and asked if things were getting better. "I think it's getting a lot better," Tyra said. "Much better," André Leon Talley agreed. "There's still room for improvement. But I think they've made great strides. But there's always room for improvement. Always. I think if you pick up the magazines this month — the fall books — you will see some women of color in major campaigns, in major houses." (I declined to mention I'd actually counted the number of black models in editorial spreads for the fall issues and let him continue.) "It's not just Banana Republic or Gap — you can see a woman of color in a Gucci ad, and that's a big plus." Tyra added: "The thing is, though — to make true progress — we can't go in and out of fashion. Women of color, as well as different body types, go in and out of fashion. Can't it just be — it should be where it just is."
The two also talked about eating disorders and models who are starving themselves (you'll see something about that on the next two episodes). Tyra confessed that she always wanted plus-size models represented, and even pitched an all-plus-size cycle, but was vague about how the network responded. She admitted that her show was "a little more commercial" in the past, but now that it's "more high fashion," she's hoping the winner of this cycle will show up not just on the cover of Italian Vogue, but in French Vogue and Japanese Elle and so on.
After making the rounds, Tyra and ALT stood and answered some "wacky" questions — about "drekitude," for instance:
And in the end, each writer was invited to "smize" in a photograph with Tyra and André. I don't have it yet! I keep checking my email, anxiously waiting for the jpeg to arrive. Hopefully it will be Christmas card material.
I was given a gift bag! Contents:
One issue of Italian Vogue
One copy Of Vogue Talents
One bottle of SmartWater
One bottle of Vitamin Water
One CoverGirl lipgloss
One piece of candy packaged to look like soap
One box containing two bite-sized bon-bon like cakes
Conditioner, leave-in detangler, shampoo, and smoothing repair treatment by Unite
The bag itself is a cotton zippered thing that is so high fashion one can barely stand it.
UPDATE: The photo arrived.