Tyra Banks's debut novel Modelland is a befuddling piece of dreckitude

Smize. Bestostero. Intoxibella. These are just three of the endless Tyra Banks-isms that populate Modelland, the Victoria’s Secret-model-turned-reality-show-producer-turned-talk-show-host-turned-author’s 569-page inaugural foray into the young adult literary oeuvre. Yes, all you aspiring writers with rejection letters piled up on your dresser: Tyra, in addition to being one of THE most obnoxious people in the ENTIRE world of television, is now one of THE most obnoxious people in ENTIRE world of print.

Anyone who’s watched the aspiring media mogul in action on her wildly popular reality show America’s Next Top Model, or her low-rent-Oprah talk showTyra, will have a nagging suspicion that Banks, while clearly a shrewd businesswoman, is certifiably batty. Read a few pages of Modelland, and you can confidently replace those suspicions with absolute proof.

Here’s the plot, as far as I can tell: Tookie De La Creme (no, I’m not making this up, but Tyra did), is a gawky teenage girl living in some weird alternate universe where there’s a mountain upon which sits Modelland, an exclusive school for supermodels also skilled in magical powers.

Tookie has mismatched eyes, a giant forehead (hey! just like Tyra!), and no confidence. Her mother is mean and has a wrinkled face, and her once-buff dad wants to disown her.

She has a best friend called Lizzie, who lives in a tree, talks to herself, cuts her arms, disappears for stretches at a time, and has no further character development.

Every year the entire world gets caught up in The Day of Discovery, or T-DOD, where the next generation of Modelland students are selected by scouts. If they are lucky enough to have found a smize--a ridiculous accessory that attaches over an eye--they increase their chances of being chosen by precisely 91 percent. (Those in the know will recognize a reference to the smiling-with-your-eyes move that Tyra coined as 'smizing' on ANTM. And yes, I'm embarrassed that I know this. Moving right along.)

The scouts emerge out of lampposts, fountains, people’s ears, and grab beautiful teenagers to whisk back to Modelland. Seriously: “The lamppost began to lengthen, like a long telescoping pole. Snap! It broke apart and reassembled as a slender, mysterious-looking woman in a black metallic jumpsuit. Her head glowed as if it contained a lightbulb.”

The most beautiful and skilled of those chosen will graduate from Modelland to attain worldwide fame as Intoxibellas.

By some quirk of the universe, Tookie finds a smize and gets picked over her beautiful sister, Myrracle, along with four equally improbable girls. They journey to Modelland in some vaguely described pouch, carried by a scout and former model called Ci~L, who had been one of the most famed Intoxibellas known as a 7Seven (again, not making this up). Once in Modelland, they endure a variety of challenges and feats of strength described in prose that is as befuddling as the three-book-deal the author has reportedly signed.

To wit: “Tookie finally found the site of Mastication class. The building was a giant bowl made up of multicolored bricks, with a ladle-shaped smokestack poking out the top. As she got closer, Tookie could see that the bricks were actually loaves of wheat, white, pumpernickel, and raisin bread. Butter and cream cheese served as grout, beef and chicken kebabs provided additional building support, and the windows seemed effervescent, like they were carbonated.”

And there’s this gem, taken at random: “Tookie and Piper took a ZipZap behind the CaraCaraCara boat and entered the Fashion Emergency Department Store courtyard. The atrium was open to the sky, like a riad in the alchemy-and-spice land of Medina, and there was a pool in its center filled with a mysterious greenish substance. Various IV-like tubes were submerged in the liquid; the tubes trailed upward to the atrium’s second level, their destination unseen.”

Along the way, Tookie develops self-confidence, leadership abilities, and a boyfriend named Bravo, who seals their romantic first kiss thus:

“‘Close your eyes,’ Bravo said, and Tookie did as she was told. She heard the sound of a whipped cream can shaking and instinctively opened her mouth just in time for Bravo to shoot a cold stream of whip onto her tongue. The tingles continued down to her hips. She then heard Bravo squirt some cream into his own mouth. And then . . . slowly, gently, Bravo’s soft lips touched hers. His lips parted and she felt something thick and slimy inside of her mouth. His tongue.”

The verdict? As André Leon Talley, THE most INFLUENTIAL person in the ENTIRE fashion world would say, “Dreckitude, dahling.”



myna lee johnstone

Sep 29, 2011 at 5:26pm

got my daily chuckles here!

Emily Pirellla

Sep 30, 2011 at 1:06am

Here's a video series of a weird guy reading parts of "Modelland":


Great review!

Coast Guarder

Sep 30, 2011 at 2:20am

Well, there's the wife's Xmas taken care of.

Kelli Campbell

Sep 30, 2011 at 11:45am

I give this review one buck-eyed-crazy smize and two booty tooches! Over-population, famine, polar ice-caps: Don't scare me. Big T getting paid to write down her paranoid schizophrenic ramblings: Might as well hook me up to an IV in the FEDS courtyard because, "It's time to pack your bags and go home".

Unbe Lievable

Oct 4, 2011 at 1:03am

I smell a movie in the works!

Swedish Chef

Jul 18, 2012 at 6:01pm

Thanks for the review! I'll be sure not to read the book!