While young women around the world grew up idolizing Tyra Banks for her skills in front of a camera, the supermodel was busy dreaming about working sold-out concerts like Jennifer Lopez and Janet Jackson. Though her ambitions were high, Banks hit a few flat notes along the way, ultimately abandoning her six-year stint as an aspiring singer after releasing just one single: the 2004 cult bop “Shake Ya Body.” The model-turned-mogul’s transition from the runway to the recording booth (with help from superstar talent like Pharrell Williams, David Foster, Rodney Jerkins, Wyclef Jean, and more) wasn’t as seamless as her signature walk, but Banks tells EW she’s happy to share the story of her shortcomings as a means to inspire young women to embrace their imperfections.
She sought to make those dreams a reality with contributions from Pharrell, Big Bert, David Foster, Rodney Jerkins, and Wyclef Jean. Banks accumulated dozens of pop-R&B songs, ballads, and inspirational tunes with titles like “Beautiful Girl,” “Drivin’ Me Crazy,” and “Why Does It Hurt So Bad?” All the pieces were in play, but one essential element was missing: ace vocal ability. “If my voice was amazing, I would’ve been a huge pop star,” Banks says. “But my voice was just decent, and that’s not good enough to transition from being a model.” Ultimately, she buckled under the pressure, especially when Pharrell brought her to a recording studio to cut a track called “Playboy.” “Pharrell believed in me, man. … He had to rent that [studio]. He invested money in me, and here I am, I can’t even get the damn notes out. He was like, ‘You got this, just loosen up! It’s okay!’ But it never became okay. The crazy thing is a lot of it was in my head. I’d go home and sing it so well. What’s in my lungs and in my throat that’s squeezing and closing down because I can see Pharrell’s face through the glass in the vocal booth?”