It's here! It's time! It's happening! The America's Next Top Model:
season began tonight, and the premiere was appropriately
hectic and over the top (or, more accurately, "batsh*t mental"), with
just the right combination of drama groundwork laid out and kooky
off-the-cuff declarations proclaimed. Literally every single person on
screen is a character, caricature, crazy or c-word. In other words: If
regular Top Model
is the TV show embodiment of Tyra Banks, then Top
is what would happen if regular Top Model
down into a pure, highly potent resin, injected back into Tyra's system,
and this is her resulting fever dream.
I'm already in love with it. The season begins as it should:
With Tyra's nightmare promo
-- and yes, I
mean that both ways, as in "the promo is about her nightmare" and "the
promo is a nightmare." A gloriously terrible nightmare that shows us
what these all-stars are aspiring to: That one day, they too will be so
famous and powerful that they can host their own reality show that will
be so long-running and successful that one day, they can bring back
their own all-stars and then play those all-stars as offensive, hammy
caricatures with an array of bad wigs and accents in an intro skit like
they're the new, demented female Eddie Murphy. Tyra truly is living the
dream. (And we now have definitive, documented evidence
that her acting
skills have not improved whatsoever over the past 10 years.)
So it's the all-star cycle. You know that! But Tyra wants you to know
why this cycle is so important to her: Because it's ABOUT HER, even if
she refuses to come out and just say it. "This time it's not just about
modeling. It's about finding that star power than can build a brand."
It's not enough to be good at one thing anymore -- now, to be a
celebrity, you need to be mediocre at several (or preferably all)
things! Just ask Mariah Carey's fragrance line or Snooki's books or Jake
Pavelka's bone-carving tool kit (forthcoming). Obviously, the model
who's been most successful at turning herself into a brand is
Tyra, so now she's bringing back her favorite former rejects
to see if she can mold at least one of them in her illustrious,
multi-faceted image. And by facilitating their personal branding on her
reality show, that means Tyra will soon have ownership over TWO human
brands -- her own, and her progeny's -- and who else can say that? Katie Holmes (Suriiii), I guess. But that's about it.
Then we get a look at this season's prize package which is, admittedly,
an $100K Covergirl contract, an Express campaign, an Italian
Vogue spread and a correspondent job with Extra. Basically, the
winner's face will be all over the place, whether you like it or not.
And isn't that what being a "brand" means these days? Complete media
saturation? We may get sick of you, we may shudder and roll our eyes at
the very mention of your name, but at least we'll never forget you.
Just to sweeten the pot, before the first episode's happenings even
begin to happen, we get a glimpse at the "branding" exercises to come
this season and they. Are. RIDICULOUS. I am foaming at the mouth, so
badly can I not wait to recap when the all-stars have to write their own
songs and star in their own music videos. And make "signature
fragrances." (Is "stonecold bitch" a possible topnote?) And audition to
be on CSI
There's also something about how Tyra, in her quest to create
her own language (See: "Smize") has a new term to add to our lexicon:
"Pot Ledom," Which is TOP MODEL
SPELLED BACKWARDS EXCEPT NOT REALLY,
it's "Model Top" spelled backwards! Tyraaaa. Also, at some point, Tyra
will perform something called a "Bootie tooch" dance WITH KEENAN
there was a punctuation mark that could express more intense excitement
than an exclamation point, I would have used it right there. KEENAN! Now
we're talking personal brands, you guys.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. First, the all-stars, like Tyra's
14 prodigal daughters, must return to Model Mansion. Let's see what's
new with them!
Angelea, cycle 14:
"I was truly the star of cycle 14," she says. Damn
straight. I love her and always will. She has more natural funny in her
pinky finger's acrylic nail than I have in this entire recap.
Laura, cycle 13:
Our favorite Southern shortie seems more surprised than
anyone that she's a "full-time model" now, and I'm happy to see working
in the 'biz hasn't jaded her, or her adorable smile, at all. I really
hope these tall bitches don't crush her or her spirit.
Bianca, cycle 9:
"Bianca's good at being fake," says Angelea. A fight is
already in the works. Bianca has already thrown out the word "mogul,"
which means she is coming in waaay too confident, which means she is
destined for explosive destructive.
Lisa, cycle 5:
The best way I can describe her outfit is "drag queen train conductor/aerobics instructor." Loooove her. She peed in her diaper, and recorded her first single. They grow up so fast.
Bre, cycle 5:
Bianca is pissed that her BFF Bre didn't tell her she
would be here. They get into the first fight of the season, but claim
it's not a fight. "This is nothin'!" they promise,
mid-passive-aggressive bicker-fest. I love Bre and think she could do
better than Bianca.
Brittany, cycle 4:
The party girl says her head is in "a different
place" this time around. But she has a drink in her hand, so somehow I
Dominique, cycle 10:
She's still upset that Miss J called her a tranny back in the day. WHY EVER WOULD HE SAY THAT?
I DON'T KNOW!
Sheena, cycle 11:
I think she got lip injections. It is a testament to her personality that I don't even care.
Isis, cycle 11:
She's now AAAALL WOMAN. But not really, since the show will never let us forget that she used to be a man.
Kayla, cycle 15:
She's the best! Even without her red hair. That is all.
Allison, cycle 12:
Still strange. Still quiet and shy and yet strangely
alluring, like a possessed china doll a little girl would find in an
antique store in a horror movie.
Camille, cycle 2:
OH NO! Everyone is afraid of ANTM
's original bitch, and her reception is icy, but she plays it cool. For now.
Shannon, cycle 1:
"I don't want to just be a model, but a role model."
She must not have watched this show since she was on it 100 million
years ago, because this is neither the time nor the place, Shannon.
Alexandria, cycle 16:
She wants to "set the record straight" about
herself. She will surely do this by provoking everyone and then acting
innocent when they get frustrated and come at her. Just like last
Mister Jay arrives to tell the all-stars what they're in for. "It's
about star quality. We've got to start this competition off with a
BANG!" That apparently means they're doing a photo shoot in their own
backyard (The BACKYARD? How glamorous!) and each of the all-stars will
be styled as "larger than life versions of their Top Model personas."
Photo Shoot: LARGER THAN LIFE(-SIZE!)
Right off the bat, Bianca is furious that she's getting her red hair
back. "This is not OK," she fumes. But she's a changed woman!
Bianca, no amount of brainwashing can wash away your Dark Passenger.
The key locks the Dark Passenger inside...
shall meet her again, and it will be all the more bloody because you
denied her today.
Once again, Tyra seems to purposefully start the season off on an uneven
foot, as some of the "personas" include easy-to-model outfits or
easy-to-understand messages, like Allison's "china doll" and Kayla's
"super gay" (however offensive that one may be), while others make the
all-stars look like Ke$ha backup dancers or R. Kelly backup dancers (Bre
and Sheena, respectively).
Like every first photo shoot, this one feels frenetic because we have to
get through 14 models in about half as many minutes. "This is going to
be complicated," Isis admits as she looks at the diverse competition.
And she's the most diverse of them all, of course. Because of her
"image" as the transgendered model, they've got her looking sexier and
more feminine in a bikini than I ever could. Than most of us ever could.
I am a mix of admiration and shame, but that's a familiar feeling. I'm a blogger.
When it's Shannon's turn, they're clearly putting her to the test
immediately: She refused to pose nude in cycle 1, so now they try to put
her in "angelic" underwear (TM VICTORIA'S SECRET), which Shannon is morally against. "I don't wear underwear outside," she says.
It's in those Commandments somewhere! In between that stuff about
coveting your neighbor and having false idols (... like Tyra?).
Nevermind that her lace "underwear" are longer and less revealing than
the tiny white bikini bottom she'd rather wear instead. Everyone knows:
If it swims, it ain't a sin. If it goes under pants, you'll make Satan
And white lace is against Shannon's religion. It becomes a matter of rationale versus conviction, with Mister
Jay representing rationale, and Shannon representing conviction.
Conviction wins, though Jay succeeds in putting a few cracks in
Shannon's armor: She starts crying about how, once again, Top Model
trying to force her to betray her beliefs. "I'd rather just go home and
do something else," the crying angel whines, like she didn't know what
she was getting into. Like she didn't know the only morality that
matters on this show is Tyra's.
"NO I'M FINE SERIOUSLY WHY DOES EVERYONE KEEP ASKING ME THAT I'M FINE AHHHH THE SIN IT BURNSSSSS"
If she didn't know all that, she should be
even more ashamed: She's had 16 WHOLE SEASONS to learn that lesson. WELL
GOODBYE, SHANNON! Tyra might have let the prudeness fly in cycle 1, but
this is cycle 17, girl, and there's just no room for moral superiority
around these parts. Have fun modeling overcoats in Chicago.
After the photo shoot, Mister Jay tells the girls that this first
judging is going to be a little different: Since they're the "fan
favorites," they're doing their first live judging panel in front of a
whole theater full of fans! I remember when the press release came out
about that so many months ago, and I'm still jealous of everyone who got
to go. Did you go? Was it fabulous? Were you close enough to see the
whites of Tyra's eyes? Were the pupils red? Gahhhhhh I wanted to be
there SO BAD! But now, the next best thing: I get to watch a 10 minute
chopped up highlight reel of it!
Live Judging: Wham, Fan, Thank You Ma'am
Tyra, donning a jaunty little hat and suspenders because she is STILL
into that whole Oliver Twist thing, introduces tonight's guest judge,
Nicki Minaj, who's wearing a wondrous Christmas sweater that she stole
from your Grandma. And a hair style/makeup style she stole from a Lego woman.
In this, we find our first lesson about what it means to be a
"brand," however subtle: Everything new and good is just stolen and
mashed up from everything older and good. No, there's definitely no
better way I could have phrased that profound universal truth, lay off
NIGEL HAS HAIR! It might take me a while to get used to
it, but ... it's fine. Except that it seems to have turned him into a
slightly more arrogant, less proper version of British. Andre is in a
porkpie hat and poncho.
I said porkpie,
and I meant porkpie, and I'll
say porkpie until he changes his mind and gets into, like, dunce caps or
First up: Lisa.
She's got a Cat in the Hat hat and a little tie-dye tank
top on, and makes sure to tell Nicki Minaj (and us) that her music
"stage name" is "La Puchinetta" (which is Spanish for, "The
Puchinetta"). Lisa's photo shows her doing the mid-air splits out of the
hot tub, because her Top Model
persona is "most likely to contract an
STD at a frat foam party."
She's dressed like Little Bo Peep, and Andre looooves it. I
love it. To Catch a Predator cast members love it! The judges also love
her "porcelain doll" photo, which is bizarre and striking. Allison is
consistent in her strangeness, and yet it never gets dull.
Nigel reminisces about when Angelea did her "Hammer Time" dance
for him. Angela's photo portrays her as "Buffalo Hood 708," but Andre
likes how she turned it into "Beverly Hood." Look out for Beverly
, a rom-com about a whipsmart sassy gal from the streets who by
unlikely and/or magical means ends up bring the Princess of Hollywood
(starring Jennifer Lopez or Jessica Alba?) to come out sometime next
Her signature walk is back too, but that whole thing was so
that the judges seem to view how much they hated that walk
nostalgically, like Camille just stomped out of an actual time capsule.
Her "diva" shot impresses Nigel because it has a softer side, and Tyra
thinks her legs have only gotten better over the years.
Just two months ago, she had a baby, and she looks amazing.
No joke; AMAZING. Dominique's "masculine/feminine" photo leans much more
toward the feminine, but in a lovely way. No matter her sex, Nicki
Minaj would like to kiss her. That's an achievement!
Andre loves her photo, but Nicki isn't sure -- maybe it's a
generational thing. Tyra sounds skeptical that Shannon refused to wear
her original outfit, but not completely damning. Maybe Shannon will
survive after all.
She is shocked to receive some boos -- it sounds like a
chorus, but she says they come from one particular fan, a man, as she
walks up the runway. "That was rude!" Alexandria says. As for her photo,
Nicki Minaj hates it, but saves her "BOO!" for the private judges'
The judges are all about her vintage jumpsuit, which is Dynasty
meets Urban Outfitters perfection. But they're not as crazy about her
photo, even though it would be GREAT to sell energy
She screams something excited and unintelligible into the mic,
and Andre looks horrified. That's no behavior for a future Express
Tyra makes sure to mention Isis's gender reassignment. Her photo
is sexy and gravity-defying, which is the BEST combination in terms of
sexiness. Andre: "You are the new mermaid, darling!"
She's wearing that furry skirt that Holly wore on the Bachelor
premiere, and I hate that I know that. The judges are split on her
photo, but her face looks beautiful, so she's definitely safe.
Nicki hates her curly haircut, but I think it's cute and I am
right, as usual! Andre thinks her photo is "cliche," but Nicki thinks it
Her photo is of a "super gay," which is a strong and silly concept that unfortunately still leaves the judges lukewarm.
Her grandma Wanda Sue made her dress this evening. Wanda Suuuue!
Do you have a website? Laura's photo is of a "country cutie," and it's
adorable. Very 50's pinup.
After viewing the photos and hearing the fan screams, Tyra gathers the
group, hushes the crowd, and breaks the news: "We're looking for
something extra-special this cycle. Your photos will be judged, but your
personalities will also be judged. How you worked this crowd. How the
crowd responded to you." Uh oh. Alexandria must be worried. The judges
leave for their "private chambers" ('arry Pottah!) to deliberate and
decide which All-Star will be sent home before she even had a chance to
spend the night in Model Mansion.
PEW PEW! It's a shootin' star, guv'nah, innit?
- In their polling of the crowd, Allison
was their all-time favorite.
- The judges love Angelea's
new hair. I hope they won't mess with it too much in "Ty-overs."
- Tyra calls Kayla
"Miss Photogenic." Isn't ... that ... like ... the point of the show?
- Andre wishes Brittany
would "dial it down," as he finds her
"abrasive." Of course Nicki found that appealing about her. I think
these two should host a talk-show together where they pick a topic each
week and argue both sides. It could literally be anything and they would
disagree on it! Tyra is grief-stricken that the crowd didn't make a
single comment about Brittany, because they couldn't remember her. Uh
- In her continued awarding of yearbook titles, Tyra calls Shannon
Chaste." Nigel thinks she's Miss Confused. Neither of those bodes well.
has "strong polarity," which means lots of people hate her and lots of people love to hate her.
- Tyra is most proud of Bianca
's "transformation" from when she was originally on Top Model
The judges have made their decision. Tyra: "Our first all-star is getting shot back into the galaxy. She's going home. AGAIN."
Best Photo: Isis
And on down the line...
Bottom Two: Brittany and Alexandria
Tyra gives her little speech about personal failures, and Alexandria
looks like she KNOWS she's out. But Tyra surprises no one by surprising
EVERYONE and revealing that she would rather keep someone who's hated
than someone who's forgettable. Brittany is eliminated. "Do you know why
you're still here? It's called polarity. The opposite of love is not
hate. The opposite of love is indifference," she lectures Alexandria,
and goes on to say that it is better to be hated and memorable
than to be neutral and easily forgotten. I need only one word to give
the perfect rebuttal, and that word is "Hitler." So it turns out this
show is the perfect companion to its new precursor on the CW, H8R
because it too incites further hatred by having no idea what it's
talking about when it comes to celebrities and hatred. NEAT!
Brittany is shocked that she's going home first, and she's sad that
people didn't remember her. I'm sad, because I DID remember her, and I
liked her. And now she's going to be the girl everyone remembers for
being not memorable enough. Brittany doesn't deserve such a confusing
and sad legacy, but I hope this just fuels her to go on and make her
own, on her own terms. I'll never forget, Brittany. I'll never forget.
... Which is good, because I'm talking to Brittany tomorrow at 2pm PST.
Do you have a question for our first eliminated all-star?
Post it in the
comments. And while you're down there, tell me: What do you think so
far of the All-Star cycle?
There's honestly nothing I'd rather talk
about. Ever again.
Um. Also. Before I forget. Did you notice in the final screen that they changed Alexandria's surf board to a MOTORCYLE?!?!
One episode in, and my life is already changed for
(Images courtesy of CW)