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First person | Tyra Banks

Role modeling

What entrepreneur and now novelist Tyra Banks, 37, is teaching her Harvard classmates.

Tyra Banks (Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images) Tyra Banks with her new book "Modelland" at Barnes & Noble in Union Square on Sept. 21 in New York City.
By Maura Kelly
September 25, 2011

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You just published your first novel, Modelland. Did you really write it by yourself – or did you have help? I definitely worked on it myself, [but] I had an army of people who helped me with parts. My editor was very hands on, explaining act structure to me.

Last year, you started taking business classes through Harvard’s executive education program. Why? My shows have gotten where they’ve gotten based on instinct and gut. But to reach young women like I want to – on a global basis – I need to take my business to the next level.

Do you see yourself as the next Oprah? She is amazing and incomparable – a mentor and a living legend to me. Oprah will always be the queen of everything. [But] no. My path is different.

Are you the most famous person in your class? Any bigshot CEOs in there? My class is 70 percent international. There are people who blow me out of the water – [running] billion-dollar businesses and [serving as] leaders in their countries. I teach them strategy and marketing, and they help me with finance. It’s a bond that continues between sessions. Some met me in Italy when we were shooting [America’s Next]Top Model. On my off days, we’d hang out and talk about our professors.

Do you have a favorite? Of course, but I can’t say who, because I have to go back [for a last session]. So they’re all my favorites – hint, hint, wink, wink.

Best local hot spot you discovered? The hotel that was a jail – Liberty Hotel. They’ve kept the architecture, so when you enter, it’s almost like a prison yard. They still have jail cells and bars. A lot of my classmates hang out there.

Where do you stay? On campus? Or somewhere like the Four Seasons? It’s definitely a dorm.

Do you have to bring your own hot plate and mini-fridge? They supply a pretty nice situation. We don’t have to bring a refrigerator – put it that way.