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America's Next Top Model recap: Platinum-Blond Ambition

After charming partygoers and rocking a photo shoot, Anya emerges from the pack; meanwhile, Fatima’s race to get proper travel documents incurs Tyra’s wrath

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America's Next Top Model

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Just when I thought I wasn’t invested, at all, in this season of America’s Next Top Model, I finally found a favorite: Anya. Why? I believe she actually wanted Fatima to get her travel documents together in time to make the trip to Rome (the other girls, I’m guessing, would’ve been happy if she’d been knocked out of the competition by default). Anya’s warmness came through at the 7-Up party (like the beverage, she’s 100 percent natural). And she rocked the running-for-the-airplane photo shoot.

Also, for the first time, her platinum blond hair didn’t scare me. She should always have ’40s waves in it. It’s too harsh when it’s straight.

Speaking of harsh, let’s get into Paulina’s visit to the girls’ loft. She dropped by to give them lessons in mingling and interviewing. I’m thinking producers sent her instead of Tyra because Tyra wouldn’t have been able to listen to Anya speak for 60 seconds straight. Paulina told the girls that when one meets someone important, one needs to converse — not have a blank face. She then pretended to be a cosmetics tycoon named Miss Dubois, and had the girls approach her one at a time. Though my fave Anya seemed genuinely interested in getting to know Miss Dubois, I don’t consider ”How’s your family doing?” a great opening question. Neither did Paulina, who answered, ”They’re all dead, dearie.” But Paulina appreciated Anya’s quick recovery: ”Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. But I know that you’re a strong woman.” Fictional, but strong.

Unlike Paulina, I call Katarzyna’s idea of offering Miss Dubois more champagne a winner. Paulina (and Whitney) thought it made her look like a waitress, but really, if this were a swanky party, the waitstaff would be wearing some kind of uniform — or at least something less fashionable than a wannabe supermodel. Stacy-Ann also took a hit during the make-believe meet-and-greet because she came off fake while cooing to Miss Dubois about her company’s moisturizer. Of course she came off fake — the product is fake, Miss Dubois is fake, and Stacy-Ann is not an actress. I wish Paulina would have played Paulina. It’s not like the girls have actually had any quality one-on-one time with her, so it’d have been like they were talking to a stranger. Then we would have seen if they could engage someone in conversation.

Next, Paulina pretended to interview the girls. Naturally, Lauren froze. Dominique, however, rambled on about how Top Model has given her the chance to meet young women from different backgrounds, and what a great learning opportunity that’s been. Paulina told her that she needed to learn the art of the soundbite, which is funny, because Dominique’s always been a great source of those on the show. Perhaps if Paulina were aware of all the drama that’s gone on the house because the girls don’t respect each other’s backgrounds, she would’ve given Dominique props on her ability to spin. Well done!

Of course, all this ”training” was in preparation for this week’s challenge: The girls had to attend a 7-Up party in a Jay Godfrey gown, work a green carpet for photogs and be interviewed by The Insider‘s Lara Spencer, and mingle with the other D-list guests. Dominique committed the cardinal carpet sin when she told Lara she was wearing Jay Giorgio. (Ouch.) Lauren, in an ill-fated attempt to not come off like a zombie, let herself get a little too loose: Lara asked her why she should be the next Top Model, and punk-rock Lauren answered, ”I could kick the s— out of those girls anytime.” Nice! But not nice. While that didn’t impress Lara, Lauren did manage to momentarily win over Nigel inside the party because she appeared confident (like, when chatting up Paulina’s husband, Ric Ocasek) and present. If someone feels the need to applaud you for being ”present,” that’s not a good sign.

Stacy-Ann thought she was going to win the challenge, despite having stumbled over the word ”intimidate” on the carpet and, during the party, reminding me of that scene in Showgirls, where Nomi (Elizabeth Berkley) performs at a boat show. Whitney believed she had this challenge in the bag because of her sparkling personality, only she came off like a well-rehearsed Miss America contestant. (Truth be told, Whitney deserved some kind of award for not popping out of that stunning blue dress. Was this episode sponsored by double-sided tape?) Anya, however, was crowned the belle of the ball, and her prize was getting to hear other people say that 7-Up is 100 percent all-natural before doing a photo shoot that covered her in nothing but leaves, lemons, and limes. At least she earned $10,000 for her efforts this time, as opposed to when she posed nude for Nigel for free. I expected her paycheck to stir more jealousy in the house than it did — those lemons she brought home for the girls must have been damn tasty.

NEXT: Catch that plane!