Warning! This post contains light spoilers regarding the plot of Life-Size 2. Read ahead at your own risk!
It’s official: Supermodel Tyra Banks — the most revered royal of the runway — is now a bona fide trap queen, as evidenced by the ferocious rap skills she displayed Sunday night during the final act of the long-awaited television movie sequel Life-Size 2.
Following the anticipated premiere of the film, which sees a Barbie-like doll named Eve (Banks) return to the human world to help a 25-year-old CEO (Francia Raisa) through a quarter-life crisis, the producer-actress at the center of it all is opening up about how the film (and her epic rap remix of the first film’s theme song “Be a Star”) came together. Below, Banks breaks down re-entering the music world on the “Be a Star” remix after previously leaving her own musical aspirations behind, how she worked an iconic America’s Next Top Model reference into the Life-Size 2 script, why original star Lindsay Lohan worked her way into the project despite not shooting any scenes, and what the future holds for both her modeling-based reality competition series and the Life-Size franchise.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Who’s idea was it to have you rapping on the “Be a Star” remix?
TYRA BANKS: It was mine! I wrote the melody and the lyrics. I wanted to go as far away from the original “Be a Star” as possible, and I knew that rapping would do that. And now I know I’ve got “bars,” is what I’m hearing people say!
Who produced the track?
The producer was Maejor. I gave him some examples of the trap sound I wanted, and he created it. He sent it to me and I listened to it over and over again, but I started lyrics and melody before I had the song. I wrote the song in Maui, and I rapped it into my voice recorder on my phone and sent it to Maejor.
I love how the film rewrites the narrative on beauty standards for dolls, and the lyrics do, too. How did you craft them?
I looked at the original lyrics for “Be a Star” and said, “How can I use some of these as an inspiration to make it new?” The original goes, “Dress me up / from my head to my toes,” so I was like, “Dress me up / H2T,” — and I came up with H2T a long time ago in modeling. So it was listening to the original song and singing what fans will connect to [over] a trap song. I pulled the social messaging and everything I stand for into the song as well.
But you didn’t write the original “Be a Star,” did you?
Not at all! But the chorus in this one is the chorus from the original. Everything else — the verse, the breakdown — I wrote. [I sang] every word in the original, that was me, too! Instead of getting a sample and pulling that into the new song, though, Disney couldn’t locate the [recorded] lyrics separate from the music, so I had to re-sing it for the remix.
You previously told me you had to “dust off” your “retired vocal cords” for this version, so was it a bit intimidating to not only come back to music, but come back rapping?
Rapping is so easy for me. I even auditioned different accents. I started with my hometown of Inglewood, California, and I was trying that in the studio with Maejor. Then I tried a New York accent, which I’m not good at. It’s like, leaving the r’s off of stuff, and that wasn’t working. It didn’t feel natural to me. Next I tried Oakland, California. Oakland is like, you talk through your nose! So I did that and everybody was like, “That’s bangin’! It has to be the Oakland accent!” Now everybody is saying it sounds like Iggy Azalea. So, hi Iggy! Maybe we’ll do a duet.
Were you emulating any rappers?
Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, hello! I’m a huge fan of both, and their styles are so different. I didn’t want to be derivative of them, but I’d listen to Cardi B [before recording]. It’s almost like she’s rapping with something in her mouth, there’s this beautiful sound and it’s so her, and I wanted to figure out something I could do that was slightly affected, whereas it’s natural for her. I just didn’t know it sounded like Iggy.
Did you take any rapping lessons? Are those even a thing?
I just naturally did it. I’ve always been able to freestyle. That’s just my thing! The thing that did make me nervous was the high, high, high-pitched note of “Be a staaar” and having to hit that. I apologized to everybody in the [recording] room [because] I had to sing it over and over again in quick succession to get it. I can’t have them just rewind the tape and do it, like [Banks starts singing “be a staaar” over and over until she hits the note]. I had to keep doing it, and then they found one that was on key and grabbed it.
Have you heard any feedback from people in the rap community on your skills?
I did the Sway’s Universe radio show earlier today and he didn’t know it was me. So he’s playing the song and he’s like, “This is a bop! Who is that? She’s dope!” I was like, “It’s me!” So they had me do a rap that I wrote when I was 13, and now they said I’m an official “hyena,” which means a person who has bars or a person who can rap really well on the fly. They said they ask real rappers to rap on the fly in the room and they won’t do it sometimes, so I’m an official hyena!
Will we see a “Shake Ya Body” remix with rap verses next?
No. Hell no. That’s not happening!
With rap bars? Come on, Tyra! You’re a hyena now!
[Tyra raps] Shake it, shake it, shake ya body! [Laughs] No, it’s not happening!
I also loved when the Eve in Sunnyvale quotes your America’s Next Top Model meltdown: “I was rooting for you!” That was genius. Was that your idea or improvised?
No, it wasn’t improvised. I explained it to one of the writers. I explained what the moment was and sent some clips and said, “I think fans are going to react to this.” It was a meta thing. We wanted to show that [the Eves] are all rooting for her. Like, don’t let us down, girl! The quote was tweaked slightly to make sense in Life-Size 2. It actually got the biggest response at the premiere. You couldn’t hear the next 10 lines because everybody was laughing!
Speaking of America’s Next Top Model, is that coming back for cycle 25?
I don’t know. We’ll see! We’re trying to figure that out right now. I would probably like to close it out. I’d like to do it on a nice even number and do something really creative and interesting and then peace out.
Twenty-five is a good number to go out on. Maybe do one more All-Stars!
Do you think All-Stars? A new cast or All-Stars?
With everyone into nostalgia and reboots these days, I personally think you should close it out with All-Stars and just make every cast member Jade from cycle 6.
How amazing is Jade? “I’m a biracial butterfly! “I’m not here to make friends!” I love Jade. And she’d get a resurgence of fame. A lot of them would coming back, they’d get a new lease on today’s social media. A lot of the [earlier] girls didn’t have that access.
In an ideal world, who would be your All-Stars?
I would love Toccara, Eva, Jade, Shandi, Adrianne…
Maybe an all-winners cycle?
No, not all winners. I don’t think so. Kim from cycle 5! Elyse from cycle 1! Robyn Manning! “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”
She was doing all that church hat modeling before the show. I loved that!
Thank you for this. If I do it, we’ll do All-Stars!
Also, the way you tied Lindsay into this movie was really sweet. She was originally supposed to have a physical role, so how and when did it shift?
It shifted really fast, because right when we realized that she had this new MTV show, we were shooting already and she couldn’t get away from Greece. I think it was my other executive producer Stephanie Allain’s idea. It was also Stephanie’s idea for Eve to have a love interest.
Her “extra-special friend!”
Yes! That was an ad-lib! But I think the Lindsay thing was Stephanie just trying to figure out creative ways [to work her in]. I love that it was very touching and sweet and gave her the respect and homage she deserves.
It adds so much, almost more than just a cameo. It’s saying that this new Eve is coming all because of grown-up Casey. We don’t know who she is or what she’s doing, but it almost set that impetus of the new movie. Casey started that.
And at the end, Grace gives the spell book away, and that sets up nicely for a sequel. Do you have any ideas kicking around for Life-Size 3?
I do have ideas for it….
No! It’s not even that exciting. If I were to tell you, you wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh my God.’ It’s more of a location of where I think it should be…
- Tyra Banks opens up about her failed music career
- See Tyra Banks in music video for rap-heavy ‘Be a Star’ remix from Life-Size 2
- Life-Size 2 trailer sees Tyra Banks’ Eve flirting with ‘extra special friend’
- Secretary Eve’s typed gibberish returns in new Life-Size 2 scene
- Tyra Banks reveals ‘something beautiful’ happens with Lindsay Lohan in Life-Size 2
- Tyra Banks urged Francia Raisa to show off Selena Gomez kidney surgery scars in Life-Size 2: ‘It’s your story’
- Tyra Banks’ Eve is (still) great in 13 exclusive Life-Size 2 first look photos