Tyra Banks is back! But she never really left

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Did you ever really think that Tyra Banks was going anywhere?

It’s been a quiet few years for the media mogul and supermodel, ever since she ended her Emmy-winning talk show in 2010. While the ever-popular America’s Next Top Model developed a cult-like following, The Tyra Show put a camera-ready Banks in front of millions of home viewers every weekday, raising the model’s profile like never before.

The Tyra Show ran for five seasons, won two Daytime Emmys and provided us with some memorable — if not outright bizarre — television moments.

In her five years as a talk show host, Tyra managed to go “undercover” as a 350-lb-woman, strip down to be searched as she was “booked” for prison, and present Beyonce with a life-size cut-out of Jay-Z (before either music star publicly discussed their relationship). Who could forget Tyra having an on-air ultra-sound to prove that her breasts were not implants, or stripping herself of extensions and makeup? And of course there was that moment in 2007, when she told the world to “Kiss. My. Fat. A**!” It wasn’t hard to admit that Banks was adept at creating a show that was must-see TV for some, and a guilty pleasure for others.

But it’s been rather quiet in TyraWorld in the two years since the show wrapped — or has it been? Even though she continues to host America’s Next Top Model, Tyra’s remained largely off the radar. Paparrazzi photos would show her frolicking during a beach getaway with her (now-former) boyfriend, and other shots would reveal a 30-pound-weight-loss since that seminal “kiss my fat ass” moment.

Some may have thought that Tyra was taking an extended break from the spotlight, but in actuality, the star has been (relatively) quietly working on what seems to be her ultimate goal — worldwide media domination. But if you’ve been looking for Tyra on TV, then you’ve missed a lot of her moving and shaking.

First, she moved to stake out a place in social media and online publishing, with the launch of her site, Type F. Banks said the lifestyle, fashion and beauty portal is related to her personal mission of “expanding the definition of beauty,” and features columns, videos and advice from Tyra herself.

Then, she planted one stiletto-strapped foot firmly into the world of young adult fiction, with the 2011 release of her book, Modelland. The story follows a young would-be model who lives in a supernatural Harry Potter-esque world, complete with mean-girl villains known as “Intoxibellas.” Not long after its release, Tyra gushed about the possibility of turning Modelland into a movie.

And earlier this year, to prove that she’s really about her business, Banks graduated from Harvard’s Executive Education program, a course that’s designed for leaders of companies with at least five million dollars in annual sales. Banks tweeted a picture of her walking across the stage with her diploma, wearing, in true fashionista fashion, stilettos and a little black dress.

Now, as TV-watchers gear up for the 19th cycle of America’s Next Top Model, Tyra is shaking things up ahead of the show’s fall premiere. She’s wiped the judging panel clean of the personalities who helped create the show’s energetic brand — Jay Manuel, J Alexander and Nigel Barker — and is replacing them with all new faces, including Filipino fashion blogger Bryan Boy and model Robert Evans (who Tyra is rumored to be dating). The show is also moving into audience voting, where viewers will help choose who stays and who must “pack her bags and go home.” And this season is being tagged as ANTM’s “College Edition,” no doubt inspired by Banks’ turn as a Harvard student.

Soon, Banks will be taking on the role of mentor and teacher, with the construction of her “TZONE” leadership and development center in Manhattan. And she tells Bloomberg Businessweek that a Harvard professor is planning to use her business as a case study. Tyra the Supermodel may have retired, and Tyra the Talk Show Host may have had her run, but Tyra the Business Woman is showing no signs of slowing down.

Veronica Miller can be found on Twitter at @veronicamarche.