Greetings, Top Model fans! My apologies for not being here last week to recap the premiere — but I watched it as soon as I got back from vacation (priorities!), and I still have some lingering thoughts to share, namely on the premise of this cycle in general.
Well first of all, I’d just like to congratulate Tyra on doing what I’m pretty sure none of us thought was possible, and that is making it to 18 (EIGHTEEN!) cycles of ANTM. She’s milked this thing so far past its expiration date that it’s just straight up cheese now. And yet … this cycle shows real promise! Not because a forced modeling rivalry between Brits and Americans is inherently interesting, because it’s not. It’s not even logical. I doubt anyone is ready to throw down and claim that the national cultural differences between young, pretty British girls and young, pretty American girls as filtered through the fascinating, complex world of modeling was a topic that really needed to be explored — especially by that notoriously fair and insightful sociologist, Tyra Banks.
No, the promise, and potential glory, of this season is just how silly it all is. The crazy accents, the cultural misunderstandings, the constant presence of the stars and stripes and Union Jack — none of it has anything to do with modeling, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a whole lot of (mindless, pointless) fun. And after last season’s “All-Star” cycle, which over-hyped and under-delivered in pretty much every respect, it’s refreshing just to see a batch of fresh, eager-to-please girls under Tyra’s thumb this time. For while Tyra’s exhausted her show’s format, and exhausted all of us with her bottomless ego, these girls and their misplaced, all-consuming ambitions are what make the show feel new again — even though, as was noted last week, half of them previously appeared on Britain’s Next Top Model. But I didn’t watch that, and I’m from AMERIKUH, so they’re new to me, and that’s what matters.
Anyway, last week the first Brit, Jasmia, got eliminated when her jumping John Lennon impersonation failed to impress the fickle judges, while American plus-sizer Seymone won best photo for almost flashing the camera as Michelle Obama. It’s been years since I agreed with or even understood the judges’ reasoning — so whatever. But I still find it suspicious that the photo that won is also the photo that allowed Tyra the occasion to mention that she’d “heard” Mrs. Obama and her daughters are big fans of the show, and were surely thrilled when Michelle’s impersonator, wearing neon blue eyeshadow and brandishing a plastic Statue of Liberty torch, won for her ability to spasm-jump on cue. None of that could possibly be true, unless the Obama girls watch this show the same way we do: Ironically, and with a highly honed dual sense of horrified awe and delighted schadenfreude. If that’s the case, I would like to formally invite Michelle, Sasha and Malia over to my house for a viewing of Dance Moms. Afterwards we can host an online forum for teen girls about body image and teamwork, if that sweetens the pot.
Via “Tyra Mail,” a terrible fake reporter delivers the news that this cycle, inspired by the “funky cuts and colors” of Britain’s runways, this cycle’s models are not getting mere makeovers. They’re getting “SHAKEOVERS” — which is simply a Banksian way of saying she’s commissioned Katy Perry’s team of colorists and Ke$ha’s team of stylists (if she had one, beyond her toilet bowl and a pair of rusty scissors) to go apesh*t on their heads. The girls peek a list of the planned makeovers (I cannot bring myself to type shakeovers — shudder — with any sincerity, so I won’t be doing that again), with items like “BRIGHT RED DYE JOB” and “SKINNED CAT SEWN TO AN OLD BEEHIVE,” and everyone freaks out. It’s the price of beauty, ladies. Oh, excuse me — I mean it’s the price of attention on reality TV. Beauty has nothing to do with this.
At the salon, Laura is made literally patriotic with red, white and blue hair. If this modeling thing doesn’t work out, she’d be great as a WWF ring girl, or one of those spokesmodels at NASCAR races who hand out free energy drinks. AzMarie, whose buzz cut doesn’t leave much room for shaking over, gets the letters ‘ANTM’ buzzed into the back of her head. Yes, it’s gotten to the point where Tyra is literally branding her girls.
This just screams “PROFESSIONAL MODEL WITH PROFESSIONAL ASPIRATIONS”
Mariah, who’s only been with guys before this, is crushing on the androgynous AzMarie — but so is bisexual, tri-colored Laura. So if this modeling thing doesn’t work out for AzMarie, maybe she’ll at least get some azz.
UK girl Annaliese gets off a bit easy, escaping the chair with a slightly bigger, curlier afro than she came in with. Actually, quite a few of the girls escape with normal colors and cuts, including Mariah (who really just got bangs), and Kyle, who’s absolutely stunning as a dirty brunette. Sophie, whose bleached pink hair looks like cotton candy, points out that the UK girls are looking a whole lot more editorial than the American girls now — and we all know that looking “editorial” is the key to success on Top Model, at least until the middle of the season, or whenever you develop actual modeling skills.
In the middle of her makeover, Eboni gets burned by some sort of styling iron on her cheek. She starts crying and asks not to be filmed for a minute. I think she’s going to live.
UK plus-sizer Louise throws a few mini-fits about her makeover — they give her a faded bowl cut, which she’s not too thrilled about, and then dye the underneath parts of it darker. “I look like Justin Biebs!” she laments — until it turns out she meant that as a positive thing? After all that bitching and hand-wringing, she brags “I feel like I’m the most powerful one here!” about her new look. I can’t figure this girl out.
An enigma in a Bieber cut
Back at the house, the Brits try to psych out the Yanks by noting that so many of them got long cuts with thick bangs, and look identical.
Yep, they’re basically triplets.
Obviously that’s a sign from above (Tyra) that the Americans are interchangeable and the judges will soon weed out the pack, right? … WRONG! While their reasoning is sound, Brits are forgetting ANTM‘s most crucial law: Tyra’s decisions have no basis in reasoning.
Apparently this season will also include Fear Factor-esque mini-competitions meant to further demonstrate the culture gap (i.e. start fights) between the two groups. This week, the girls walk into their lobby to find two tables of classic “American” foods, like pig’s feet, and normal “British” foods, like haggis.
The girls compete to see who can eat the other group’s foods faster … and the Americans win, UH NO DUH, thanks to Seymone’s impressive ability to scarf down that haggis. But, unlike their future toilet woes, the Americans’ glory is shortlived, when Candace mocks Seymone by asking “Why didn’t you share the haggis?” — at first insinuating, and then flat-out saying, that Seymone is some sort of food-hoarding fatty. The Brits rejoice that the Americans will tear each other apart, and they can just sit back and watch. Again it’s like they’ve never seen this show before and don’t understand its laws, one of which has always been that the more drama you cause, the longer you’ll stick around — at least at first. But I still think Sophie will stick around for a while, because she made this face when she said it:
Ahhhhhh! Sophie, why are you forcing me to betray my homeland by becoming my FAVORITE?
Tyra Mail promises that the photo shoot will have the girls feeling like kids again — but like most Tyra Mails, that’s a promise that Jay Manuel won’t even try to keep.
This week’s guest judge is also the guest star in the photo shoot, and a woman most famous for her womb’s ability to churn out human(ish)-shaped money-making machines: Kris Jenner. Kris is wearing her favorite old-timey brothel madame dress for the shoot today, which is loosely based on the deepest, darkest circle of Hell, where you’re forced to wear raccoon makeup and sh*t your pants while you play preschool games with the Kardashians and an evil clown.
In keeping with the not-so-subtle celebration of Kris Jenner’s demonic uterus, the models are dressed as overgrown, overdone toddlers. A more literal take on Kris’s three older daughters than we’re used to, but I like it. The girls take turns posing draped over Madame Kardash’s feet like ragdolls and dogs while her two younger, forgotten daughters (Kreshendo and Khandelier?) stand in the background, dressed as the female ghost twins from The Shining. It is a picture of “childhood” recast as an acid tripping adult’s waking nightmare, like an episode of Rugrats projected on the side of Willy Wonka’s tunnel of death. Let us not speak of it further — and let the judges do so instead.
Since I wasn’t here last week, I just need to tell you guys now: I mourn for Andre Leon Talley’s presence on this panel. While I sort of appreciate her complete lack of tact (for its entertainment value), Kelly Cutrone strikes me as the kind of woman who sees dollar signs above the head of every person she meets. She’s always speaking in terms of who’s most useful or sellable — and she does it in a narcissistic way, always making sure to mention her job and credentials. It’s not about who’s most sellable as a model — it’s who’s most sellable to her, for her business, at her company from The Hills or whatever the hell. This assumes we know and care about her a lot more than I, personally, do — and if there was ever a more alienating or inhuman approach to talking to and about people, I don’t know what it is. Andre Leon Talley had an artistic flair — and such a fervent love for richness and fantasy that it bordered on insanity — that Kelly completely lacks, and I miss it terribly.
Still, as Tyra’s so weirdly fond of reminding us, given how ridiculous and non-real-world her show is, this is a BUSINESS, and Kelly is nothing if not a business-minded gal. And so we soldier on — but we do so without glitter capes or “dreckitude” or pork pie hats, so I hardly blame you if you question the point. I do. But on to the judging I guess:
AzMarie and Ashley: AzMarie is off the mark again, and doesn’t seem to be modeling at all. Ashley was adorable on set. She looks sweet as pie in the shot.
Kyle and Mariah: Kris liked Mariah’s energy on set, and it translated to the photo. But Tyra thinks her face is too sexual. Kyle looks “too conscious,” and it looks too model-y.
Catherine, Laura and Sophie: This is Nigel’s favorite of the batch so far. Sophie’s face looks great but her body didn’t follow. Still, she “pops” in person. Laura is upside down, and it’s “creepy baby” fabulous. Catherine looks elegant and sweet, but Tyra wants a little bit more — she didn’t stand out.
Candace and Eboni: Eboni is giving some real sexy sex, and Tyra is proud that she pushed through getting her face burned during makeovers. Tyra literally says, “You can burn me, but you can’t break me.”
Annaliese and Seymone: The judges don’t like it. Annaliese looks like “Diana Ross on crackerjacks,” says Kelly. “She didn’t quite know what to do on my lap,” says Kris. Seymone isn’t working her body at all. She’s just sitting there.
Louise and Alisha: They ATE THE BABY FOOD. Yuck! Alisha was supposed to be looking jealous that Louise was getting the baby food (again, yuck) but she didn’t push it far enough. The whole time she’s talking to the judges, Louise is picking at her nails and being awkward, and Kelly especially cannot hide her disdain for this behavior.
The best photo of the week goes to: LAURA
And the rest, in order:
Bottom Two: Mariah and Seymone
Tyra tells Mariah that her photo was “nice,” but lacked that extra-special something. Seymone had the best photo last week, but Tyra says the judges now think that was a “fluke, beginner’s luck.” Still, they’re willing to give her another shot. MARIAH, the gorgeous Native American tribe member, is eliminated.
It’s still too early for me to muster many feelings on these eliminations, but I will say this: Mariah was far too beautiful to go home this early, and I feel sad for her that her only photo shoots turned her into Pocahontas and a Kardashian baby. That’s just not fair, even though nothing on this show really is. And I plan on telling her so when I talk to her tomorrow. Have a question for Mariah? Post it in the comments before 1pm ET, and I’ll ask it (if it’s not a bad question)!
(Images courtesy of CW)