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Modelland: Tyra Banks Plans a New Theme Park
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Former America’s Next Top Model host and producer and past Victoria's Secret Angel Tara Banks has announced plans to open a theme park. She made her announcement on Instagram, revealing the location she’s chosen for the venture in Santa Monica, Calif.

A 21,000-square-foot immersive experience, Modelland will be created in the upscale Santa Monica Place Mall. The opening is scheduled for late in 2019. 

The Instagram announcement Banks posted features her face surrounded by flowers, two flamingos and three small colorful birds. It read, "My dream for you will soon be a reality. #Modelland. A place where everyone can be a model. A place where all beauty is celebrated. I can't wait for you to Step Into Your Light. Head over to Model-Land.com to sign up for more information.”

The park is conceived as a fairy-tale version of the modeling world, set to include state-of-the-art interactive entertainment, creative collaborations, dining and special events spread over multiple levels.

"Modelland has been 10 intense years in the making," Banks has said of the development of the park. "It has been my ultimate dream and I have worked tirelessly with laser-focus tunnel vision to bring it to function."

Banks plans for the space to offer visitors a chance to redefine what a model really is and create a fun, make-believe or aspirational experience.

The Southern California-raised Banks was inspired by her own childhood experiences at Disneyland and Universal Studios.

"Modelland will awaken your childlike glee by entertaining and educating in unexpected ways that will make learning about oneself fierce and fun," Banks announced. "Modelland is all about celebrating your flawsome self. We are fun. We are fierce. We are fantasy. And, we are for real."

The somewhat surprising venture will be a flagship attraction planned to expand globally. Banks says the purpose of the attraction is “...for people to be the dream versions of themselves. Each will undertake a transformational journey to celebrate their unique beauty.”

Banks adds that she sees the venue as “not just a place; it’s a movement.”

She calls it an “attraction and a destination,” but also terms it “the genesis for people with all types of different beauty to feel seen and validated. Modelland will empower them to embrace, celebrate and adorn their own unique beauty in ways they never thought.”

The concept at first seems highly unusual, but in fact it follows the current trend for indoor entertainment centers based on concepts or brands. The indoor entertainment center industry is poised for growth, with brands such as LEGO, NASCAR, and Cirque du Soleil already in the mix. One of the most successful is Crayola, which first opened their Crayola Experience in East, PA., initially as a factory tour-type attraction. Redesigned in 2012, it now includes a location in Orlando’s Florida Mall and three other locations. Feld Entertainment’s Trolls attraction is currently in New York City, but is planned as a traveling attraction; the company will also be developing other branded attractions including Ringling Brothers and Monster Jam. An entertainment center with an NBA theme is currently in development in Disney Springs. 

Modeling and personal beauty is, however, a unique theme, and Modelland’s attractions are planned to be global; Orlando is likely to be one of the locations. While details of the land have not been unveiled, augmented reality elements such as smart mirrors will be key.

Modelland is named for Banks’ own young adult novel, published in 2010. She says it’s her “calling” to bring “modeling to the masses.” The project has been ten years in the making, and funding has come from Santa Monica Place shopping center owner and operator Macerich as well as other investors. 

She says she wants to open up the world of modeling to everyone, men, women, and all generations. “I created ‘Top Model’ to expand the definition of beauty based on my own pain of being told ‘no’ that I couldn’t do something because I’m curvy or I’m black. My empathy for women in general increased through the experience.”

While Modelland will be a permanent attraction, not a pop-up, it is preceded in the beauty-themed entertainment sphere by the Beautycon POP experience that opened in LA over the holiday season near the Beverly Center. Modellland however will serve as an anchor for Santa Monica Place mall. While Banks views the experience as primarily fantasy-based, she has hired Hollywood costume designers and stylists to create clothing for attendees to wear, and may involve other top models in events. As for herself, Banks said she plans to visit, but will not appear permanently at the attraction. For one thing, she’ll be busy expanding the experience globally. 

Asked if there will be daily runway shows, while she doesn’t flat-out say no, she terms such an attraction as “low-hanging fruit” and is looking toward a more inclusive experience that allows Modelland attendees to find a redefined version of what a model is. 

Along with the ticketed aspects of the Modelland experience, Banks plans for visitors without tickets to be able to come and shop, purchasing both Modelland-brand merchandise, and other labels as well. 

Dining options will fit the theme of the attraction, but are promised to be nothing like another model-sponsored restaurant, the Fashion Café at Rockefeller center, whose décor and 90s-era theme is decidedly kitschy. For the Fashion Café, models Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Elle Macpherson are the faces of the business; but the food is definitely not model-like. The menu included Claudia’s New York Strip Steak and Naomi’s Fish and Chips. Banks describes that spot as having “missed the mark.” Whatever Banks comes up with as menu items at her venue will be substantially different. 
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