Tale of Two Tyras: Ex-Model Explains Split TV Persona

"People don't know that I know interior design like the back of my hand, like this is something I'm very passionate about, doing it on a good budget," she said, running through features of the room. "Everything is very economical. Like this carpet, you know it's that carpet, the squares, that like come up."

She lifts one, demonstrating.

Even the glitzy chandelier is relatively thrifty, she said.

"Whenever I try to hire an interior designer, and they try to say 'Oh, this light costs $10,000,' I go, 'Child, I know how to make that look fabulous for $500.'"

Banks, whom the New York Times famously called "America's Next Top Mogul," might just be the most frugal mogul going. In any case she deflects the label.

"I think I'm too young to be a mogul, I think I'm too young for that," she said. "When I think about moguls, I think like Donald Trump. He owns NYC practically -- that's a mogul.

What about reports that Banks makes upwards of $20 million a year?

"I don't know, I always say it could be a hell of a lot less, and it could be a hell of a lot more," she said. "My momma told me don't talk about your money."

Banks said that despite her success she continues to watch her wallet.

"I love being able to go to a store, let's say a store like Topshop or Zara, or maybe even Macy's, depends on what department, and not have to look at the price tag," she said. "Rodeo Drive and all that, I'm looking at the price tag and gulping. ... I don't like expensive things. I buy property, and that has a lot more zeros behind it than a $10,000 bag. ... I like things that appreciate. I don't want to take something and the minute it leaves the shelf it depreciates."

It appears that Banks has her sights set on growing her brand, on creating an empire after the manner of Oprah. Is there an imprint she hopes to leave?

"I'm still figuring that out," she said.

"I mean, I was a little black girl who had started to see images of myself in the media. I was 9 years old when Vanessa Williams won Miss America. And that was like 'Whoa!' That was such a big deal.

"My 'kiss my fat ass' moment, you know, showing the world curves are beautiful and don't say otherwise -- those types of things are important to me, it's just redefining beauty," she said. "If I could be remembered for that...

"I'm 35, but if I could be remembered for that, for now," she said. "I mean five years from now, I'm sure there will be something else, but for now, that is so important, it is so important for girls to turn on the TV and see themselves, open up that magazine and see themselves."

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