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Tyra Banks knows people are talking about her -- not because of her motion picture debut in John Singleton's "Higher Learning" as much as how she got the part. People are saying she got her role because she was sleeping with the boss.
"When I read for the part, I had been dating John for four months," she says of her relationship with the film's writer-director. "I told him, 'People are going to say I got it because I'm your girl.' No one has said anything to my face, but I'm sure it's going on behind my back."
Her relationship with Singleton is still going strong, but all the talk about it may be the reason Banks says the two don't plan on working together any more. Banks said nothing more than, "We're not going to be working together again."
Despite all that, Banks, 21, is in a playful mood. It's the morning after last week's gala premiere (it opens nationally Friday), and she's walking the halls of a Manhattan hotel in her boyfriend's clothes: a green chenille sweater and blue chinos. The white socks she's wearing without shoes are hers. As she bounces down on the sofa, she says she's prepared to discuss anything.
Banks -- who had a recurring role as Will Smith's girlfriend on NBC's "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" -- was acting long before she met Singleton.
"Hopefully, my performance [in the film] will get the attention and not the relationship," she says, adding that Singleton told her he was interested in her for the part before they were dating. "I got insecure about it at first. But afterward, people were coming up to me and telling me how they loved this scene or that scene. I believed them," she says. "After working in the fashion business so long, you know when people are lying."
Banks plans to continue both modeling and acting -- two businesses she finds very much alike.
"Both industries are hype," she says. "It's not how good you are. It's how good someone says you are."
Then there are the differences.
"The fashion world is so much more fabulous. People look at you and say, 'Tyraaa, tres jolie, babe. Ohhh, beauuutiful.' In Hollywood, it was more like, 'Hey Tyra, want some Cheetos?"