Supermodel Tyra Banks created the successful program. She tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler the show does not portray what it is like for women trying to become a top model. She explains, "What this is doing is making a top model in eight weeks. In the real world, it's about pounding the pavement for years."
Banks notes, in her case, she saw a lot of closed doors before the right one opened for her. She says, "I had so many people tell me, 'Your nose is too big,' 'Your forehead's too big,' 'You're black,' 'Not black enough.' Finally, one person said, 'Yes.'"
This means aspiring models have to have a strong sense of self. Banks says, "Last week, I talked to the girls about insecurities. You may have the highest self-esteem and when you enter the modeling industry, it brings out insecurities that you never had. 'I didn't know my fingers are crooked' and 'you can't have me do this in a picture.' 'All these things people are telling me are wrong with me.' You have to have a strong base and strong sense of self or else you will crumble."
The standards in the modeling industry are totally different, Banks notes full-figured models are the normal size of American women.
She says, "When I sold the show to CBS and UPN, I said I wanted to have a full-figured model. That perked up their ears; they were like, wow. So everybody can relate to the show. They can see a mirror of themselves." Banks adds the industry is changing and notes, she is 20 pounds heavier than the average model.
"America's Next Top Model" follows young women who are vying for a potential Revlon modeling contract, a management contract by Wilhelmina Models and a guaranteed appearance in a Marie Claire magazine. All they have to do is show determination and outlast their competitors. Some good genes couldn't hurt, either.
On the show, the models share a New York penthouse. Each week the contestants are tested on the catwalk, at physical fitness sessions, at fashion photo shoots and on their publicity skills. On a few occasions tempers flare, egos are tested and tears are shed.
As executive producer, Banks leads the panel of judges, which includes former supermodel Janice Dickinson, Marie Claire fashion editor Beau Quillian and Baby Phat creative director Kimora Lee Simmons, to whittle down the field of model hopefuls. By Tuesday, six women would have been voted off the show — leaving four contestants steps closer to their goal.
Banks was the first African-American woman to grace the covers of GQ, Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue and the Victoria's Secret catalog.
Banks is a native of Los Angeles and began her television career as an actress with roles in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "Felicity" and Disney's "Life Size."
Her film credit includes "Higher Learning" and "Coyote Ugly." The model is also an author. Banks wrote "Tyra's Beauty Inside & Out" in 1998.
Catch episodes of the eight-part "America's Next Top Mode" series on UPN. UPN and CBSNews.com are subsidiaries of Viacom.