Kara Swisher

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Exclusive: Tyra Banks Picks Demand Media as America’s Next Top Digital Business Model

Well-known modeling icon Tyra Banks has struck a partnership with Demand Media to create a new digital brand focused on fashion and beauty.

The deal between the Santa Monica, Calif.-based online content maker and Banks’s New York beauty and entertainment company, Bankable, will include the development of a Web site, online video offerings and mobile applications.

“Their strategy, team and technology are outstanding, and the company has developed a unique method for quickly creating popular online platforms by providing visitors with exactly the kinds of content they’re looking for,” wrote Banks in an email to BoomTown tonight. “It became clear to us that Demand Media has developed something truly innovative and that they would be the perfect partner as we work to grow Bankable Digital into a significant part of our business.”

The deal with Banks is a high-profile one for Demand, which is seeking to expand its content to more premium offerings.

“This is where media is going,” said Demand CEO Richard Rosenblatt. “We’re going to link our huge amount of content and writers to her ethos around beauty inside and out.”

As part of the deal–which is not unlike the Livestrong health and fitness site created by Demand and cyclist Lance Armstrong–Banks is receiving shares in Demand, which is widely expected to file for an initial public offering in the near future.

“What Oprah did for television, we think Tyra can do for digital content in the fashion, health and beauty space,” said Joanne Bradford, who was recently hired by Demand from her job as the top advertising sales exec at Yahoo (YHOO) to turbocharge its premium advertising efforts.

This is exactly in that wheelhouse, mashing up a well-known celebrity with the vast stores of content Demand produces from its army of search-fueled freelancers.

Banks has certainly become an entertainment powerhouse since she retired from her supermodel days.

But while she is developing books too, Banks has been focused mostly on television, with her own talk show, “The Tyra Banks Show,” which just wrapped up after five years, as well as the megahit, “America’s Next Top Model.”

The most recent show she is producing is called “True Beauty” on ABC, in which good-looking contestants think they are being judged for beauty on the outside, but are actually being scored based on their kindness and other inner attributes.

Currently, Banks’s Web site is mostly promotional, although she also has a potentially large online fan base, with 1.6 million Twitter followers and an inspirational self-help image that is likely to translate well in a more interactive setting.

Whether that will bring big bucks or not is uncertain, of course. So far, Bradford said Demand has not signed up advertisers, but added that this is just the kind of site they will welcome and have been asking for.

“Advertisers are looking for new kinds of content online to be associated with,” she said. “We think Tyra has the kind of message that will attract a really engaged audience online.”

In fact, Banks said she plans to be very engaged in the creation and operation of the online destination.

“Anyone who knows me knows that, once I commit, I’m in 100 percent,” she said. “I plan to be very involved from the early design stage to the choice of videos, articles and special features, to the launch and marketing of the site.”

Here’s the official press release, and below it, the full video of Rosenblatt talking about Demand’s strategies around content, in an interview at the eighth D: All Things Digital conference earlier this month:

DM Bankable Release FINAL2