Turns out our hunch was right.
At a New York City breakfast honoring tonight's cycle 15 "ANTM" premiere, Talley, wearing a Prada overcoat, Ralph Lauren polo, and Juicy Couture walking shorts, confessed that when Banks first approached him to join the show, he let out a shriek worthy of a wounded fashion animal.
"I was like, 'Reality TV -- noooooooooooooooo!" admits Talley, who must truly have been horrified because we had to cover our ears.
But Banks, rocking a heather gray Alexander McQueen sheath and YSL pumps, says she understood his rejection: "The reality world was young and we weren't ready yet."
That's not the case anymore.
Whereas previous winners got a spread in Seventeen magazine, this time, the lucky lady will appear in Vogue Italia.
Additionally, the show's industry cred will undergo a global expansion with the likes of Roberto Cavalli, Karolina Kurkova, and Diane von Furstenberg sitting in as judges. And, Banks says, Vogue Italia editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani, "will play a significant role in judging and deciding the winner."
"Tyra has worked very hard on getting the cycle to this level," Talley says. "It's a perfect fit now, and sometimes it's better late than never."
StyleList chatted with the power pair and got a preview of what to expect this season, including who's behind Banks's style makeover. "There were seasons I could have been on 'Dancing With the Stars' with all the sparkles I was wearing!" she says.
StyleList: Tyra, can you explain the impact of the Italian Vogue relationship?
Tyra Banks: I started this show to be for the masses. I wanted a 15-year-old girl, like I was when I started in the industry, to see what it was like. But the girls are ready and the audience is ready for this change. They know all about poses, the walks. They know what it means to "smize." (She scowls but points to her eyes to show she's still smiling inside!) They are ready to go with us into the world of international high fashion. My career was launched in Italian Vogue. It is the logical place for us to go. We've raised the bar big time.
SL: Andre, how did she talk you into doing the show when you once were so horrified?
Andre Leon Talley: We met for breakfast at the Mandarin Hotel. I brought her a cake. Our talk was a cakewalk! (Laughs) Actually, it was a delicious thing for her to bring back and share with the girls in her office. But the truth is I've always loved Tyra. She's a great woman and she's a great businesswoman. I was very excited to be a part of it. It wasn't at all the same feeling I had when she first approached me. It was a very easy conversation.
SL: Any fashion dreckitude this season?
ALT: (Wags his finger) No, no, no. There will be none of that. This is Italian Vogue. We worked hard on our looks. We wanted to present the very best. Dreckitude was not happening this season.
TB: Andre had influence on my wardrobe. He had a little something to do with what I was wearing. He made sure I looked good.
SL: What will we learn about high-fashion models?
TB: That the industry is a little bit about embracing weird things. Like my high forehead! It was the industry that taught me weird things are beautiful. Beautiful is not all about stereotypes. I see what's odd and beautiful. They are not mutually exclusive.
SL: Tyra, was it frustrating that it took Andre's influence to bring all these fashion stars your way after 15 seasons? Did you wish you could have achieved this solo?
TB: Not at all. I'm a businesswoman. I understand how things in the fashion industry work. I was at a place, though, where I felt I could say, Let me go back to these people and try again. Some of these people represent my roots in the fashion industry and they respect me. I'm excited to get back to my creative roots with them.
Before the fete concluded, Banks gave guests hints for posing on the red carpet: "Don't cross your legs or turn around and give them the booty shot," she said. "I don't understand why all the actresses do that!" She also advised us on how to take fabulous, flattering pics. "Stick your neck up like a turtle," she said. "You'll look like a fool, but the picture will be great."
For more "ANTM" news, check out our one-on-one chat with cycle 14 winner Krista White.