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Emmys 2017
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America's Next Top Model recap: Runway Runaway

Ebony becomes the second wannabe, ever, to wanna go home — and Tyra lets her catwalk away; plus, Tyson Beckford and Mary J. Blige drop by

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Jim DeYonker

America's Next Top Model

TV Show
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Holy Benny Ninja, Tyra! Though Top Model usually makes us settle for F-list guest stars like the Swirl Twins and last week’s Lloyd Eisler, the show pulled out all the stops last night with not one, but two real celebrities. Yep, in this season’s most dramatic episode yet, cycle 9’s girls got to rub shoulders with the likes like Tyson Beckford and Mary J. Blige. (Speaking of legends, your regular Top Model TV Watcher, Michael Slezak, had the night off, so you’ll have to bear with little ol’ me until next week.)

It wasn’t long after Tyson surprised the girls at their front door that the fierce faces of our top models suddenly turned into the lovesick, moony mugs usually reserved for the most desperate of Bachelor contestants. But can you blame them? A little testosterone is always welcome on the set of Top Model, and when it comes in the form of Tyson Beckford, can the wannabes help going a little gaga? Yet, curiously, the girls seemed more enthusiastic about their Old Navy shopping spree earlier in the season. Hmm. Old Navy, Tyson. I’d say it’s a level playing field.

But the male model didn’t just show up to boost morale. Despite Tyson’s inability to convey an articulate thought, the man can still make a potato sack sexy, so the show’s producers decided he was the perfect person to teach the models how sell a product. And since Top Model isn’t afraid to go there, the girls were later tested on the lesson using such objects as popsicles and bananas. So long, women’s movement. Nice knowin’ ya!

And what better way to prepare the girls for creating a public-service announcement about AIDS than to teach them how to make a watering can suggestive? That’s right, for their first challenge of the night, Tyra’s minions were teamed in threes to write and execute a 30-second PSA for the AIDS charity Keep a Child Alive — a bit of a departure from Tyson’s libidinous lesson. History shows that most Top Modelcontestants fare worse than a weave on Jenah when it comes to speaking on camera (see: Jade’s CoverGirl commercial from cycle 6), but these girls weren’t half bad. They may have slipped up here and there — Bianca forgetting the name of the foundation and Chantal tripping over her words — but this season’s contestants seemed to take to the video format. Although I appreciated the winning clip by Ambreal, Heather, and Jenah, the eloquent and empowered PSA by Sarah, Saleisha, and Ebony should have taken the prize. Maybe Jenah’s clumsiness with her posters added a much-needed dramatic spin.

Two of the winners, Ambreal and Jenah, received $500 gift baskets of body-care products from Carol’s Daughter, but Heather walked away with the biggest prize of the night: a photo shoot for the company art-directed by Mary J. Blige. This not only gave Heather the opportunity to schmooze with heavyweight photographer Matthew Rolston but also allowed her to concentrate on full-frontal face shots. Last week the judges claimed that Heather only produces profile pictures, but in a conversation with Bianca this week, Heather said she’d been mixing it up. This little nugget made me wonder how often Tyra & Co. select photos to show weaknesses, instead of choosing a true best picture. I mean, do they really expect us to believe that the finest shot from Ebony this week was one in which she displayed that less-than-flattering sneer?

Back at the house, the girls received their Tyra mail, which led to Saleisha’s guess that the shoot had something to do with recycling. (No, really, Saleisha? Were you tipped off by the fact that the clue actually mentioned ”recycling”?) For the umpteenth time this season, the girls infused their modeling skills with a do-gooder message. Tyra is really trying hard to add ”humanitarian” to her already long list of credentials — is supermodel/talk-show host/singer/dancer/master of disguise not enough? Her efforts are admirable, sure, but I can’t imagine these photo shoots will help the girls’ portfolios in future go-sees. (”This is me coughing up blood. This is me pretending to be a plastic bottle….”)

NEXT: Full frontal