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What is ModelLand? Tyra Banks’ latest venture wasn’t an easy sell


Photos for social media are big business.

Companies such as Refinery29 and pop-up installations Candytopia have contributed to the boom of funhouse venues where people pay to visit immersive rooms and leave with Instagram-worthy snapshots. The latest entrant poised to capitalize on our self-obsession: Tyra Banks. And she’s doing it with diversity in mind.

The top model maven is launching an experiential exhibit dubbed ModelLand in the spring. Unlike many of the temporary pop-up exhibits in big cities across the country, ModelLand is set to be a permanent stay in Santa Monica, California.

There are lighting setups that adjust to complement your skin tone. Banks will use the venue to scout for models of all ages and body types. Imagine Disneyland meets the reality show “America’s Next Top Model.” That’s the idea.

The motivation behind the twist on photo pop-ups is simple: Make everyone feel like the center of attention.

” ‘America’s Next Top Model’ was a show that few wannabe models starred in while millions watched. There was the competition to be the best and be chosen as number one,” Banks said. “ModelLand is a show, where anybody can come and be the star of that show in an immersive attraction.”

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Though the 21,000-square-foot venue isn’t open yet, Banks promises there will be a runway, hair and makeup stations and high-tech cameras that snap photos of visitors. The former daytime talk show host’s voice will offer “smizing” – smiling with your eyes – tips as visitors move through space, she told USA TODAY.

Tyra Banks is preparing ModelLand.

ModelLand: Behind the business

ModelLand will be the latest “experience”-centered venue in a landscape of curated museums that are beginning to define an era. There have been whimsical destinations in New York, Los Angeles and Miami that are designed around food, illusions and artwork. 

One of the most popular examples of the trend is the Color Factory, an interactive exhibit that started in San Francisco in 2017 before hopping to New York and Houston. 



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