She’s ba-aaaack! America’s Next Top Model cycle 15 premiered tonight, and once again Tyra and her crew wittled down their pool of tall, thin beauties to just the right group of 14 tall, thin beauties whom they’ll test, tweak and mold until one is crowned a Top Model.

Now in its fifteenth cycle, you may have worried that ANTM is entering the geriatric phase of its TV lifecycle–those golden twilight years before the sweet release of death (cancellation).

But I’m happy to report that, for all the love/hate feelings I possess for Tyra, her egomaniacal gang of minions and their ridiculous television program that is often about anything but modeling, after watching tonight’s premiere, I’m fairly convinced: Top Model will only jump the shark when Tyra tells it to jump that shark. With this new cycle 15, she’s managed to revitalize and re-legitimize her modeling competition while still maintaining the elements that we love: The drama. The costumes. The self-discovery. The tears. And, of course, the Jays.

The Prizes: They’re Legit.
If you didn’t already know, Tyra has finally managed to align her competition’s purpose (to launch a legitimate model) with its prizes. This cycle’s winner will be featured on the cover of Vogue Italia, in two spreads in Beauty in Vogue, get signed with IMG Models and still get that coveted Covergirl contract. In her premiere intro, Tyra calls the season “Top Model: Elevated,” and, this time, it’s hard to scoff. But don’t worry, this is still your show: In that same intro, Tyra manages to make it all about her, displaying childhood photos and even dressing up in a Catholic school girl uniform to reenact the moment she was “discovered.”

A brief history through the mind of Tyra:

Who, me? Really, me? Oh, me. Yes, me. Me! ME! MEEEEEEE!

Meet the Models:
So Tyra handpicked (ha, I’m sure) 32 semi-finalists to compete for this epic prize package, and guess what beautiful, exotic, “elevated” location she’s sending them to? Kenny Rogers shows up to break the news:

Wah waaaaaaah. Maybe Top Model IS entering its geriatric phase. Isn’t Palm Springs where old ladies go to wizen in the sun and die as human raisins?

Right off the bat, we meet Terra and Chris, the sassy sister duo who are sure to play-bicker for a couple weeks until the competition heats up, at which point they will take off their gloves and sister duel-to-the-death for real. If both of them are still there at that point. (But you just KNOW that Tyra is gonna milk that “Cain and Abel” tension for as long as possible.)

We also meet Vanessa, the self-satisfied pageant queen who says she “doesn’t blame” the other girls for being nervous around her. She was called the “rich bitch” in high school, and she’s “used to getting what she wants.” Translation: No one likes her.

I’ll be making adult films within the year. (Talk about being “on top”!)

We then meet Emily, who looks nervous as she gets on the bus, and then admits that in her hometown, they don’t have so much “diversity of cultures.” Translation: She has never seen a black person before. This becomes a problem when, on the bus, she writes in her diary that she “almost got roomed with a black girl, ew,” and–GUESS WHAT–one of the black girls on the bus reads it and confronts her about it. As she should, because that is a stupid and racist thing to write, even to yourself. It’s wrong to read someone else’s diary, but some things are so wrong they shouldn’t even be kept to oneself. Self, wise up! Stop writing hateful nonsense, self!

Emily’s defense: She was just talking about one particular black girl (the “black” qualifier being her mind’s way of remembering which girl, or something), and the “ew” was in reference to the girl’s personality. I think? I think that is her defense? That is not the best defense, Emily.

Rest your case. PLEASE!

As her punishment, Emily got to room with nobody, as she did not make the cut. Go figure.

Then there’s Ann, who is, like, 8’4” and 105 lbs. (OK, more like 6’2” and 105 lbs.) and has always been made fun of for her height and for being “strange” and for being depressed about bacon sandwiches.

You’re the only one who understands, Mr. Whiskers.

Ann is indeed very tall and very strange, but also very adorable and sweet, and I’m rooting for her. Her deadpan monotone will really come in handy when Tyra starts pulling out the big guns o’ crazy toward the end of the season.

SPEAKING OF CRAZY: This Lady Gaga wannabe. Ugh.

“Consumerism and materialism is the opposite of everything that I represent,” SHE SAID AS SHE AUDITIONED ON A REALITY TELEVISION PROGRAM TO BE A HIGHLY PAID HUMAN CLOTHES HANGAR.

Shut up, Jordan. You couldn’t “abide by pop culture” any more unless you wore a TV around your neck that livestreamed the E! network. Plus, you runway walk like a stripper.

The semi-finalists arrive in Palm Springs, and the Jays greet them with their first challenge: They’ll go up against their “direct competition” in a runway challenge to see which of them stands out. Each model falls into a category: Light skin, dark skin, strong jawline, sexy, alternative, et cetera. “Alternative” actually means “wears a hat while grasping hands anxiously.”


After the runway exercise, it’s time for the girls to meet Tyra and the Jays for their requisite “This is my name and this is why I cry at night” testimonials.

Tell Mama Tyra where it hurts.

Interview Highlights:

Precious Kayla (who is officially the first to cry) goes from Shirley Temple to sleek ‘n’ shiny:

Rhianna is a super-weirdo. Like, intensely bizarre. She “gets most of her inspiration for posing from nature.” Here, her “tumble weed” pose:
“I love looking like a freak,” says Rhianna. Mission accomplished.

Esther is a modern orthodox Jew who honors the Sabbath, but is willing to go against God and work the weekends for her Top Model dream. “I drew my line in the sand when I auditioned.” I feel a smiting coming on!

Jane is a privileged pony-owning princess from Princeton. Say that five times fast.

Liz is a mom who works two jobs and is also a full-time student. But she’s no complainer. (Yet.)

Sarah kicks off her ANTM stint with a second-hand embarrassment-inducing “rap” about herself. Luckily she’s beeeeautiful.

Kendal is a shy, “pure” girl who is “grossed out” by semen. Choice quote: “I just like to cuddle. Somethin’ wrong with cuddlin’?” Love. Her.

Kendal: The Danielle Evans of this cycle. COUNT IT!

Miss J can fit his hands around Ann‘s waist, and has been told in the past that she’s too tall to model. “I think her awkward is so right,” says Tyra. I second the motion!

First Cut: From 32 to 20
The girls are invited to a “garden party” which is actually a partner photo shoot, but only 20 girls can drink tea and nibble on crumpets. Who’s it gonna be?

Ann: “I’m nervous about the cuts coming up.”

Vanessa: “One of the girls told me that the other girls talk bad about me because I’m one of the prettiest here.” Later: “I’m not really nervous because I know I’m amazing.”

Guess which one made the cut! Hubris: It’s a bitch.

But ooooh, Ann. She needs a little work. Here’s her “shocked” face.

antm-ann-shocked.jpgAnn may be lost, but Tyra thinks she can “find her and rescue her.” Boy, her arm must get tired from patting herself on the back so much.

The Final Cut: Top 14
It’s elimination time. And you know what that means: Tyra’s patented “creepy doll come alive to murder you” face as she announces each name.

antm-tyraannounce1.jpgCome live with me. Let’s play!

Tyra chooses these girls to live in the Top Model house (see them here):

  • Anamaria
  • Chelsey
  • Kayla
  • Kacey
  • Sarah
  • Rhianna
  • Kendal
  • Ann
  • Esther
  • Lexie
  • Liz
  • Jane
  • Terra
  • Chris

Pop culture denouncing Jordan is surprisingly broken up about not making the cut.

And you thought hipsters didn’t care about anything.

All in all, I couldn’t be more excited for this season of Top Model. Tyra put away her theatrics (Remember when she auditioned the girls as a cyborg? Or an evil queen? Or last cycle’s Facebook rip-off?) and actually picked real model-looking ladies. Some of whom I can sincerely root for, and most of whom have truly entertaining personalities. And it looks like the legitimacy of this cycle’s prizes will inform the rest of the season (or at least episode 2): the girls’ first runway and photo shoots are challenging without diving into campy or losing their fashion edge.

Damn you, Tyra, but oh how I love your work. I’m hooked anew. Go Ann!

Next Week: The girls move into their Venice Beach home and participate in their first runway show, in which they’ll model Diane von Furstenburg outfits on a neon runway several stories up in the air. Then, an anti-bullying photoshoot, in which each girl must think of a word or name that was used to bully them in the past and write it on their bodies.

So, tell me Top Model fans:
What did you think of the Top Model premiere? Predictions for cycle 15?
Who’s your pre-season favorite? Who will be the first to go?

Tell me what you think in those comments! And don’t forget to make your Fantasy TV League picks for next week’s first elimination.

Meghan Carlson

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Meghan hails from Walla Walla, WA, the proud home of the world’s best sweet onions and Adam West, the original Batman. An avid grammarian and over-analyzer, you can usually find her thinking too hard about plot devices in favorites like The OfficeIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother. In her spare time, Meghan enjoys drawing, shopping, trying to be funny (and often failing), and not understanding the whole Twilight thing. She’s got a BA in English and Studio Art from Whitman College, which makes her a professional arguer, daydreamer, and doodler.