Tonight on America’s Next Top Model, we find out that Tyra is actually serious about this whole “branding” thing. Ohhh, yes. Serious as a heart attack — which is what I almost had when I saw the show’s new title sequence, because HOLEY CHEESE, IS IT BANANAS!
Backed by a blank white sound stage and a frenzied techno beat, it shows a million cuts of Tyra and the all-stars preening and posing and almost headbutting the camera like it’s a mirror. This season is all about branding, and the title sequence is Top Model‘s way of branding itself, so I take it that means the Top Model “brand” is about confusion, craziness, narcissism in a vacuum. Yeah, that sounds about right. A+ branding, Top Model editors!
After Brittany’s egregious elimination, Alexandria is still upset that so many of her “fans” actually hate her, but Tyra’s talk about how “the opposite of love is indifference” helps her find a way to spin it: “I’m a misunderstood star,” she half-whines, half-brags to us. NOW WE GET IT! Like so many great artists before her, it’s not that Alexandria is obnoxious, it’s just that she’s so misunderstood. She’s not appreciated in her own time, you guys. I would give anything to not be appreciated in my own time!
In A Word…
Tyra shows up at the house and announces that she’s bringing in a “brand management” guru to help the girls take their 15 minutes of fame and expand it into a “career.” So now the show is just being blatantly honest about how these girls have done almost nothing to earn their (let’s not be too generous and call it “fame,” let’s go with) notoriety, and they’ll do just about anything to grow it and keep it. (Except, you know, to just focus on getting better at modeling and be MODELS.) I don’t really know how to respond to that, except to say: Good luck with that. And: I think the chance of (most of) these girls expanding their time on a reality show five years ago into a long or rewarding career is about as likely as any of the models on this show, you know, becoming America’s actual top model.
But oh well, we’re here so we just as well jump on the Pretend-Time Bus along with everyone on the show. Shift that bus into Branding gear, because we’re on the road to Destination: Dreams Coming True Town!
The branding guru, “Martin,” teaches the models that branding all comes down to one thing (a business; person; a deadly cigarette industry) becoming associated with one word. (That’s it? Wow, marketing school sounds suuuuper easy.) So now, instead of embodying a “phrase” or “concept” like “sexy but not hoochie” or “super gay,” Top Model wants the girls to take it one step further and boil down their images to one WORD! “But … but … I contain multitudes!” Shut up, Walt Whitman. Your pastoral, patriotic, artistic genius crap NEVER would have survived in the age of personal branding!
The next and best part of this little seminar: Martin goes down the line and tells each of the girls what her word is. According to the “fans” they “polled.”
Hold on. Think about this for a moment: Your entire existence, boiled and stripped and whittled down to a single word that you must embody and live to serve FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Do you get to choose that word? NO! The faction of a reality show fanbase that is SO ardently obsessed with that reality show that they actively participated in a survey are going to choose that word for you! Again: GOOD LUCK WITH THAT.
Oh well, again. Everyone knows Tyra picked these words, anyway. Let’s see what they are! And judge and laugh at them forever!!! (My word would be: “Lonely.”)
Lisa: “Daring.” Lisa LOVES this: “Um, constantly break rules? I think I can handle that.” Haha, I love Lisa. And I dare YOU not to!
Sheena: “Unexpected.” Like, racially? Because there aren’t any other Asian models with big (fake) boobs? Then I think she needs an unexpected catchphrase. Like, “Surpriiiise, it’s Sheena! And my rack!”
Kayla: She makes the mistake of thinking that just because Tyra dressed her in a giant rainbow flag, her word will be about being GLBTQ. Uh, NO, Kayla, wake up! It’s not 2007! Martin literally says, “the stuff about being a lesbian was hip five, six, seven years ago.” Kayla is offended by this, because Kayla actually has a functioning brain in her pretty head, unlike Martin, who thinks about how he could package and potentially monetize his own poop. Instead, Kayla’s word is “free,” which is exactly what she is NOT, now that she has to tailor her entire existence around a marketing campaign about that. If there is a word for that specific tragic paradox, I hope it is long and German and sad.
Shannon: Is it “Boring”? No, it’s a euphemism for boring: “Trustworthy.”
Allison: “Unique.” Everyone cheers and pats her on the back. THAT’S THE BEST [EASIEST, UNIVERSAL, ALL-ENCOMPASSING] WORD OF ALL!
Angelea: At first it seems that Angela’s word will be the perplexing “Cheap Shoes,” but then it becomes “Persistence.” (Arguably the loveliest euphemism for “delusional” there is!)
Bre: “Girlfriend.” Whatever that means. (No seriously, what does it mean? I’m so lonely.) Also, so confused, because Bre is very happy to have her brand be “girlfriend” and still no one will tell me what it meeeeeans.
Camille: Proud. (Bitch.)
Laura: Lovable. That makes sense, and it makes me happy, because Laura was totally going to structure her life around that, anyway. She can’t help it!
Alexandria: Martin breaks the news, again, that Alexandria’s “fans” think she’s annoying. (But my favorite part is when he elaborates and explains that means, “there’s no value in what you’re saying.”) Instead, though, her word is “Tough.” So many great synonyms for “bitch” in this group! Will we, like Pokemon, collect them ALL?
Bianca: “Candid.” (Hey look, another Pokemon!) Bianca is thrilled: “I feel like he just gave me permission to not hold back anymore.” Wait. So … all of those times she was insanely aggressive before … THAT WAS HER HOLDING BACK?
In the end, Martin’s overall message is clear: Live, speak, breathe, dress your word. Forever and always. Basically, he tells them not to be multidimensional human beings anymore. That shouldn’t be too difficult! This is their second time around as a reality star, after all.
Bianca decides to immediately embrace her “candidness” by screaming at Alexandria and Dominique because she thinks she heard them talking trash about her. Dominique legitimately has no idea what Bianca is screaming about. Camille decides to give her a new word: “Childish.” I can’t WAIT for the models to keep using their words against each other for the rest of the season. They definitely weren’t superficial and reduced as human beings and antagonistic BEFORE. Watching them embrace their labels and attack everyone else’s will be so fun and interesting and so NOT completely stupid and obnoxious!!! (No, wait, I think my word would be “Sarcastic.”)
It’s TY-Over Time!
Guest judge Ashlee Simpson shows up. She must be here to talk about how to remain famous without ever actually doing anything. Oh, excuse me. Doing anything WELL. Or about how to be famous by being someone famous’s sister?
Oh, no. I guess my word should be “Always-Wrong,” because Ashlee’s here to talk about — you guessed it! — Branding. Apparently branding doesn’t mean forming your entire existence around one adjective anymore. That’s so five minutes ago. Now branding means: Changing your look constantly!
Yep, it’s time for makeovers. The models squeal with excitement and terror, like pigs headed for the slaughter. Poor things don’t know what they’re walking into.
Miss J informs both Alexandria and Sheena that they’re going to get super short cuts, in order to stand out and be unique! Just like Ashlee Simpson’s Michelle Williams-wannabe cut! Very “unique.” The girls are terrified, as they should be. Sheena has PTSD from the last time they raped her head, but luckily for her, this time Miss J is just joking. She gets to keep her hair. That was “unexpected.”
Lisa tries to convince her stylist that it would be “daring” to keep her hair length, but he’s not convinced and vows to cut it even shorter now, to spite her. Lisa mourns her lost four months of “work” (remaining alive while her hair grew out), until Jay gives her a reality check: “You looked like a dowdy housewife.” All of a sudden, now Lisa is “daring” because she owns her new short cut. So those “words” the girls got are a lot like horoscopes: They can mean anything you want them to mean, because really, they mean absolutely nothing. I FINALLY UNDERSTAND BRANDING, YOU GUYS!
When she sees her cut, Alexandria screams … with ECSTASY! “AHHHHHH!” she squeals as she smiles and claps her hands, for all the salon to hear. The older, wiser all-stars begin to catch on that Alexandria is a “natural actress.” And that she never turns it off. And that they’ll all want to chop off her head soon, just to find out if there’s a real person in there somewhere.
Isis imitates Alexandria. And somewhere, Brittani and Molly from cycle 16 are watching this and high-fiving, “TOLD YA SO!”
Bre hates her short, mohawk-ish cut so much that she runs into the bathroom and cries about it. She says she wants to pack up and go home, because she’s already lost the competiton now that she’s lost her CONFIDENCE. “Now I’m at rage!” she tells the producer, who’s come into the bathroom to talk her down* (*sedate her with a horse tranquilizer). But then, Martin appears, like a soulless little Jiminy Cricket on her shoulder, and Bre thinks back to his branding lesson. Suddenly, her attitude changes: the key to accepting her haircut is to be a girlfriend, and “to be a girlfriend, I have to be a girlfriend to myself.” Whaaaat! I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS! (Bre has clearly not watched Whitney, because girlfriends are a draaaaaag, amirite ladies who hate themselves?)
The Photo Shoot: Hot, DAWG!
As they’re finishing their makeovers and cosmopolitans, The Jays bring in a bunch of hotdogs to the salon and ask if anyone’s hungryyyyy … for a PHOTO SHOOT!
But not just any photo shoot. That’s what mere MODELS would do. Instead, each all-star needs to create a hot dog recipe for Pink’s Hotdogs. And that hot dog should reflect her branding word. And she should ALSO reflect that word in the photo. (Good thing none of their words were “Healthy’ or “Vegan.”) The winner will have her photo and hot dog featured on Pink’s website as “America’s Next Top Model Dog.” (www.DreamsComingTrueTown.com!)
I seriously love everything about this cycle. Even though it’s a joke and it knows it’s a joke, and that makes my job into making a joke about a joke that knows it’s a joke, I LOVE THIS CYCLE.
Laura’s hot dog has chili and barbecue sauce. “Everything that would be in a cookout, because I’m lovable!” When Camille gets up to eat her hotdog “proudly,” she disappoints Jay, who asks Laura come up and show Camille how to sexily eat a hot dog. Camille is disgusted. She hasn’t eaten a hot dog in ten years, whereas “this is something Laura lives and breathes every day.”
Jay is so in love with Angelea’s makeover that he calls her “refined” (!) and he is also happily surprised that Bianca has embraced her brand so thoroughly. Doesn’t being “candid” just MEAN being yourself? Bianca got off ridiculously easy.
Sheena tells us a little secret about her Pink’s recipe: “The unexpected twist? I added some rose petals and flowers!” TO HER HOT DOG. Her photo shoot is also tasting bad: “It looks like you have to pee,” Jay says. He asks her to channel Kim Kardashian. “It still looks like you have to pee.” What? Kim Kardashian has a bladder, too, right? No? She got it removed as part of her cyborg surgery? Huh.
Alexandria gets on set and cries because she’s JUST SOOO HAPPY about her makeover! “I’ve never cried from being HAPPY before!” she says, reaching and searching with her hands for her imaginary future Oscar. Gimme a break.
Laura tells us Kayla’s conundrum: “How do you make a hot dog gay and lesbian and free?” Well, probably not in a way you could put in an advertisement. Or in a way where you’re eating it. So Kayla has trouble.
Lisa names her hot dog “the skinny little bitch” because it has no bun. How DARING! Actually, it’s pretty genius. I’m now rooting for Lisa, because this show just gave her license to do whatever strikes her and act all sorts of insane, and she can defend anything she does as part of her “brand,” and THAT is something I could watch all season long. Jay gets it: “Everything is a dare. That energy is just piercing,” he says of Lisa’s photo shoot, in which she chews and laughs maniacally while straddling a stool. GO LISA!
Jay loves Bre’s hair even if she doesn’t, but she has a hard time looking like a “girlfriend” to her hot dog. I think I know what hand motion would do the trick…
After the photo shoot, Kayla is nervous. It took her a little too long to “grasp” the concept of the photo shoot. C’mon Kayla, all you were supposed to do was embody the word “free,” which means having no boundaries or restrictions, by shilling a corporatized hot dog recipe within the boundaries of a single photo while restricted by an evening gown. WHAT’S NOT TO GET?
Tyra is wearing another pair of suspenders, and appears to have not washed her hair since last week. She’s really going after this whole Oliver Twist thing. Hard. Andre isn’t wearing a porkpie this time, which makes me sadder than I’d care to admit to you. (VERY sad. Mine JUST arrived from eBay!)
Dominique: Even though she looks more “surprised” than “survivor,” they love the shot.
Bianca: The photo really does look candid, because Bianca is actually smiling. She looks beautiful. And happy. That second one is strange.
Shannon: She’s pretty, but Nigel only “guesses” than he trusts her in the photo. (I stand by “boring.”)
Camille: She looks more pageant and perfect than “proud,” says Andre. The photo is cheesy, but not in a “on a hot dog” good way.
Laura: “This is TOO loveable! I feel like I shouldn’t be looking at it. It’s lustable,” says Nigel. (Laura is giving her hot dog a beej.)
Isis: Her photo is dirty and raunchy, not “inspirational.” (Isis is ALSO giving her hot dog a beej.) But Tyra likes it. Ohhhh yeah!
Kayla: It feels too “posey” to be free to Ashlee. The judges wish she would “let go” more, like by flapping her arms like a bird. “BE FREE! BY DOING EXACTLY WHAT WE TELL YOU TO DO!” Hahaha. Poor Kayla. She can’t win! That word will be the end of her.
Allison: Tyra warns her not to go “too much into cute” with her posing. Actually some legitimate advice — it had to come sometime!
Alexandria: The judges love the picture and her haircut, even though it’s not at all tough. They don’t seem to care very much. It’s like these brands mean NOTHING or something.
Sheena: Uh oh. The judges think Sheena seems too safe and sweet. There’s been a lot of Sheena tonight, so with that disappointed critique, I’m putting her on ELIMINATION WATCH.
Angelea: Andre compares her to Sofia Loren, and Nigel thinks she looks endearing. Angelea is defying expectations left and right tonight.
Lisa: Finally, someone who actually works her word! Lisa is daring from her head down to her incredible American flag pants. In her photo, she manages to pull a “Do you like sea food? Then SEE! FOOD!” and still look … pretty? Well, Sarah Jessica Parker pretty. But that’s impressive!
Bre: The judges note that she seems sad about her haircut. Tyra wonders where the former, full-of-life Bre went, and Bre says she’s more reserved and wise at 25 now. Ashlee: “I’m 26 and I feel really old now!” Oh, both of you, shut the F up.
It’s time for the judges to deliberate. Tyra: “When you return, I will announce which one of you has been eliminated. Again.” She’s really getting off on asking all these girls to come back for more punishment. Yeah… me too, Ty-Ty.
“It’s over-reached. It’s over-crotched. It’s OVA!” – Andre on Isis’s photo.
“‘I’m not that 17 year old girl’? Like, what does that MEAN?” – Tyra on Bre. I fully see why Tyra would not be able to understand that someone could mature over time.
“She’s the prettiest girl here.” – Ashlee on Bianca. Watch your back, Ashlee. You don’t SAY that on TV about a group of models. Being the prettiest girl in every room is ALL THEY HAVE.
“It’s consistent. You know what you’re getting with Lisa.” – Nigel on Lisa’s complete and utter insanity.
Before elimination, Tyra decides that even though SHE is the one who asked Nigel to grow his hair out, “it’s not on brand,”so she shaves his head. I stand in my door frame to avoid earthquake damage as the planets realign themselves.
Oh no, the secret’s out now! I’m not always prettyyyyyyyy…
The girls come back in, and Tyra tells them Nigel “decided to lead by example, and I cut his hair. But now it is time to cut one of YOU.”
Best Photo of the Week: LISA! Tyra tells her, “This photo is DARING. You are DARING.” OK, now it’s just starting to sound like brainwashing. But at least this serves as encouragement for Lisa to be more and more and more shameless and entertaining (“daring”).
Second Best: Bianca. And that’s just reinforcement for Bianca to keep being a “candid” bitch in the house. Yessss. Can’t wait!
And on down the line…
Bottom Two: Sheena and Kayla
WHAT. Sheena looked lovely if bland in her photo, and Kayla got an impossible word. NOT FAIR!
Tyra tells Sheena that while she’s vivacious in person, “a star needs to be better in their photos, better in their movies, better in television than in person.” (Note that this is Tyra being better than she is in real life.) Kayla gets her photo, which means Sheena is eliminated.
Sheena: “It’s never the end, girls!” But it is. “You know I ain’t goin’ nowhere!” Oh, but you are, darling. But at least Sheena leaves with a positive attitude: “It’s OK, because I’m always going to be remembered as an all-star!” Well… you’ll always be an all-star, anyway.
Just kidding. I’LL always remember Sheena. And I’m talking to her tomorrow morning. Do you have any questions for Sheena? Post in the comments, and maybe I’ll ask her.
Next Week: Mario Lopez, the host of H8R, interviews the girls for Extra, and then they do a photo shoot on stilts. You know, the usual.
(Images courtesy of CW)