Monica Schipper/Getty / Erik Asla Instagram
Tyra Banks has a very busy schedule: On top of balancing the demands of her multi-faceted career as a producer, TV host and supermodel, she is also raising a son.
"Coming home to him makes it all worth it," Banks told PEOPLE in 2020. "If it's late, I'll get into bed and cuddle with him."
Although she has been careful to keep York out of the spotlight, she has shared a few sweet photos and ancedotes about him over the years, including her journey to bringing him into the world, his standout language skills and his natural ability to "smize."
Keep reading to learn more about Tyra Banks' son, York Banks Asla.
He was born via surrogate
Erik Asla Instagram
Banks and her then-boyfriend Asla welcomed York to their family in January 2016. "As I gaze into the beautiful eyes of my son, I think about all the people who struggle with fertility or carrying a child and continue to pray for them every day," she told PEOPLE exclusively at the time. "My hopes and dreams are filled with well wishes that they get to feel what my little treasure, York Banks Asla, feels like in my arms."
The new mom also shared the happy news on Instagram, where she said York had her "fingers and big eyes and his daddy Erik's mouth and chin." Banks thanked the surrogate who carried York as well.
Banks had a difficult fertility journey
In 2018, Banks spoke to PEOPLE about her emotional fertility journey. She explained that she and Asla had tried in vitro fertilization treatments for a year, but none were successful.
Banks' mother, Carolyn London, told PEOPLE, "It hurt me so much to watch her struggle through that. She set up a nursery and in the bathroom she put a tile in the floor that said, 'Mommy Already Loves You.' And then she found out the IVF had failed. It ripped my heart out."
Banks and Asla eventually decided to use a surrogate, and Banks shared that the process was nerve-wracking.
"There are so many stages," Banks said. "It's like, 'Okay, it's a healthy embryo. Okay, it's month one.' I was just constantly living on edge until I held him for the first time."
She added, "Everything that happened all got me to this. It was meant to be."
He knows how to "smize"
Tyra Banks Instagram
It seems York may have a future career in modeling like his mom. In a 2017 interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Banks spoke about a picture she had posted of York that went viral on Instagram. In the picture, baby York is "smizing" — a term Banks popularized on America's Next Top Model, meaning "smiling with your eyes."
"I do not want him to model, Lord," she said of her son potentially following in her footsteps. "But he had that thing. Look at him. He's like, 'Hellooo. I am smizing.' "
Banks rarely posts pictures of him
In the same Late Night interview, Banks shared that she only posted York's "smizing" picture, which was his first full photo, because she wanted to get ahead of the paparazzi. Around the same time, Banks had taken York to the beach and the pair got caught by photographers. She assumed they had managed to get a shot of baby York.
"It wasn't so much that I was itching for the world to see him," she explained. "After they get the shot, I text his dad and I'm like, 'I've got to put this picture out before the paparazzi. I don't want them to make money off our child and have the first picture.' I wanted to beat them to the punch. So, I post the damn picture." As it turned out, Banks was able to hide York from the cameras and no photos surfaced of York at the beach.
In the years since that first photo, Banks has continued to keep York off social media and posts of him on her page are few and far between.
He speaks three languages
Erik Asla Instagram
In 2018, Banks told reporters that York, who was 2 years old at the time, already spoke three languages.
"He speaks Spanish, Norwegian and English," she said. "He's a smart one — but he's still crazy and damn near rolling on the floor and not listening to me most of the time!"
She also shared that York had a knack for recognizing colors. "My son is amazing with his colors. He has friends in his classes that are like 're-re-red' and my son is already up to silver and rose and rose gold," she said. "And he has been counting to 20 since he was 18 months. So he's really, really smart."
Banks isn't pushing him to follow in her footsteps
Erik Asla Instagram
"I wouldn't love for him to model, but I wouldn't tell him, 'Don't do it,' because then he'd do it more," she said. "I'm going to support what he wants and just hope it's not modeling! But if it is, I'll be telling him how to smize."
He has three half-sisters
Erik Asla Instagram
York's dad has three other daughters from previous relationships, Tatjana, Taylor and Tatum.
The photographer occasionally posts pictures and videos of his children on Instagram, including a 2018 shot of all the siblings posing together on Christmas.
He was home-schooled by Banks in 2020
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Banks, like many other parents, was home-schooling her son. She shared a picture of York's art on Instagram and captioned it, "Trying to keep home schooling popping....Slide to see my homemade coloring book creation that started this work of art colored in by my lil boo."
Banks also spoke about what it has been like to raise a young child during a pandemic with PEOPLE. "It's just life," she shared. "I find little kids so interesting. At first wearing a mask was awkward, but now, it's all he knows. It's just normal."
His grandma is helping raise him
In September 2020, Banks shared that her mother had moved in with her during the pandemic and was helping take care of York.
"My mom moved in with us and it feels like the most natural thing," she told PEOPLE. "Human beings are pack animals, so it's strength in numbers. And it is such a blessing."
But the former supermodel's new living situation isn't always easy. "She gets on my nerves sometimes. She buys way too many groceries!" Banks added.
Banks also said that London and York planned to watch her host Dancing with the Stars, although York was less excited about it. "He will be with my mom on the couch, bored," she said with a laugh. "He's very verbal. He'll say, 'Why do we have to watch Mommy's TV?' "
He loves to rap
John Photography/Shutterstock Tyra Banks and son York
York also has a musical side to him, and in a rare Instagram video, Banks showed off her son's rapping skills. In the video, which was posted in January 2021, York can be heard busting some rhymes about lettuce wraps. "Bacon and cheese and peppers on lettuce!" the toddler rapped. Banks joined in and the mother-son duo enjoyed an adorable sing-a-long session.
"Food tastes even better when you sing about it with the fam... How about these wraps, y'all??" she captioned the video.