"Texas blood runs through my veins, holla!" These were the words of Tyra Banks—legendary supermodel, iconic film star, media mogul, and, for one night, gala host extraordinaire—on stage in the Hilton Americas ballroom last Saturday night.
Tyra, of course, is not actually from the Lone Star State—she was born in Inglewood, California, holla—but she makes it known that her "grandmama" was from Marshall, Texas, "may she rest in peace."
Before that, though, we were in a Hilton conference room, Tyra holding court in an emerald green velvet gown and leopard print pumps that boosted her height ("5'10 and three-quarters") to an imposing 6'2. She looked every part the role she's just reprised after 18 years—Eve, the Barbie-like doll who comes to life in the aptly-named 2000 film Life-Size, also starring a young Lindsay Lohan. Life-Size 2, again starring Tyra but this time sans LiLo, premiered during Freeform's "25 Days of Christmas" last week and includes a remix of soundtrack staple "Be a Star" that sees Tyra-as-Eve channel Cardi B more than Barbie.
It's implausible that Tyra Banks just celebrated her 45th birthday—also last week—but, seemingly ageless appearance aside, she did. Three days later, she was in Houston to host the city's gala benefiting the Altus Foundation, the local nonprofit that provides assistance like healthcare and financial aid to people in need. Following a brief technical difficulty, Tyra filled the impromptu moment by dropping some bars to much fanfare (though it wasn't freestyle, as TMZ reported—Tyra disclosed she originally wrote the rap in seventh grade, hence why "some measurements might be off now"):
I'm 34A, but that's okay, 'cause the rest of my body is just touché
I'm 5 foot 9, I look so fine, yes all my fellas are so divine
When I'm finished with this, you might as well just dismiss
All the other female rappers 'cause y'all just piss
My eyes so green, they look so keen, if you have one look you'll know what I mean
My hair's so brown, it's always down, and on my face there is never a frown
When you and I meet, you will not stand, get on your knees and kiss my hand
Go Tyra! Get busy!
"That is called, I don't know what's going on right now, but I came here to host this party and we're gonna keep it going," she said to raucous applause.
It was just another example of her down-to-earth nature, revealed earlier in the evening when I was promised one minute with the star but got four. After good-naturedly posing for a slew of photo ops with Altus supporters and other VIPs, Tyra turned and asked if we could move our business to the nearby couch. Mere seconds away from ripping off my own heels, I eagerly obliged.
The first words I spoke to the woman who'd taught me and millions of other American's Next Top Model viewers how to smize: "My feet are killing me."
"Mine too!" she cried, and we mercifully collapsed on the couch to chat about her 24 hours in Houston, a conversation that inevitably turned to the topic of food.
After flying in that morning, she promptly headed to the newly opened Finn Hall because "I really love food halls," she said. "It was so nice. I got a Vietnamese coffee at a Vietnamese place—I can't remember the name of it; Sit Down or Sit Lo or something? [Editor's note: Indeed, Sit Lo.] It was a Vietnamese coffee that was out of this world. A guy named John came up to me and gave it to me. John needs a raise. Because he did give it to me for free, but look, now they're getting some press for this amazing Vietnamese coffee that blew my mind."
Next up was Dish Society, where "we had the biscuits and gravy with fried chicken," Tyra said. "They had run out of grits—shame on them—so they need to kind of understand how popular they are. The food is insane. It is so good there. Then we had a side of Brussels sprouts. You see, it's all about food for me, wherever I travel."
She was to fly out the next morning, but first? "I have never been to—I've been saying it wrong; 'Papa Doo,' but now I'm hearing it's Pappadeaux? So I'm hoping that we'll finish on time tonight so that I can get some grub. I've been hearing about that like crazy crazy."
Sadly, we could not confirm whether Tyra ever got her Pappadeaux, but we sincerely hope she got her hands on a late-night seafood platter after helping the Altus Foundation raise over $1 million. And if she did make it to Pappadeaux, chances are she left everyone in the joint similarly starstruck.
"Tyra Banks in the city of Houston," Mayor Sylvester Turner remarked delightfully, turning to face her. "You can walk across any street in the city of Houston, red light, green light, yellow light—you won't get a ticket. You can walk into any Pappasito's, Pappadeaux, eat the food. You shall not be billed."