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'Top Model' recap: Camera ready

Analeigh may have been the first to go, but Sam never really seemed quite in the running, as McKey racked up all the praise on her way to becoming the next Top Model

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Michael Desmond/The CW

America's Next Top Model

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‘Top Model’ recap: Camera ready

Thank goodness this cycle’s finale was only an hour long: I don’t think I could have sat through another 60 minutes of the judges and Mr. Jay pretending that McKey actually had competition. It’s hard to believe that the season of America’s Next Top Model with a transgender contestant turned out to be the most boring. The only thing that really got a rise out of me this episode (besides some classic quotes from Samantha) was McKey’s voice-over admission that she’s been modeling since 15. That’s bulls—. I’m fine with contestants having previous experience, just not when they (or the show’s editors?) try to sell themselves as “boxer girl.” This baby now has trust issues with her black mama, Tyra.

So, this season’s final three challenge involved the girls shooting a CoverGirl commercial and billboard-Wal-Mart ad, while trying not to be distracted by another unfortunate fashion choice by Mr. Jay. (Looking at his purple shirt, we really should’ve seen his Willy Wonka-meets-Dr. Seuss runway theme coming…) Cycle 10 winner Whitney was on hand to pimp the peppermint-oil infused lip gloss, which I refuse to mention by name, presumably because the CoverGirl reps knew that these three ladies would suck at it. The story for the commercial was thus: Three friends on vacation spot a cute boy, and, apparently, take turns kissing him. I thought nothing would top Sam’s “I want to be in Wal-Mart!” quote… until she spoke again: “One of the scenes we have to kiss the boy. Oh my gosh. It’s like, Dude, please don’t have herpes.” I’ll miss you, Sam. After Mr. Jay moaned about Sam’s uncharacteristic lack of energy, it was McKey’s turn in front of the camera. She was a bit of a bobblehead, but eventually got her lines out (only one of which was in Dutch — whew!). Analeigh, however, had a total meltdown. I think she knew her fate rested on her commercial and the pressure overwhelmed her. I get that models need to be able to memorize lines (kind of) but I think the judges should have given Analeigh more credit for being the most believable when she was hand-fed lines by Mr. Jay.

After the universally disastrous commercial shoot, it was time to snap the CoverGirl ad that will be seen in Times Square and in Wal-Mart stores across the country. My favorite part of this segment was when the photographer’s name flashed across the screen: Jim De Yonker. Love it. Mr. Jay left the ladies alone with him to see if they could handle themselves on a shoot. Sam was happy-go-lucky but not creative enough with her poses. Analeigh worked her body but not her face. And McKey, well, she was the only one who got people talking. De Yonker said she was wonderfully “cuckoo in the head,” which is apparently his term for “flashing a maniacal grin.” Guest judge-fashion designer Addy van den Krommenacker (my favorite name since Jim De Yonker) said she looked naughty, which he liked. Tyra championed McKey’s mastery of the “naughty-sweet” pose — and cautioned her against slipping into “naughty-crazy.” (I will miss those Tyra table side tutorials. See also: Tyra’s teach for toothy Analeigh on the difference between “close lip and sexy” and “close lip and not sexy.”) And Nigel just said what we were all thinking: McKey was the only one who looked like a model (beautiful lips, beautiful face, beautiful toothless smile).

Following what I imagine was a brief deliberation, the judges decided to send Analeigh home and give McKey (who they likened to Lurch, but I still prefer Gumby) and Samantha a shot at the title. Considering Tyra scolded Sam about her non-model smile and catalog in-person appearance even when congratulating her for making it into the Final Two, I think it was clear that McKey was going to have to have a booger in her nose during her Seventeen cover shoot and trip and fall on the runway — twice — to lose the crown. (I apologize for the use of the word “booger” there. But how often does one get to use that word? I’m keeping it!)

NEXT: Candyland, Candyland

I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see the mock-up Seventeen covers this cycle. Samantha looked liked she rocked her shoot. And understandably so: “Seventeen, baby, it’s so me! I was like 17 three months ago!” she said. Maybe McKey had to reshoot her final cover, and that’s why we didn’t get to compare them? Moving on as quickly as the show did, we get to the final runway challenge. The girls modeled Addy van den Krommenacker gowns (which are much prettier than the name implies) on a Mr. Jay-designed catwalk that Samantha accurately described as “mountains of pink whimsical, magical Candyland.”

The girls were nervous about said mountains of crazy, but Mr. Jay told them not to be. They had to run to get up them, Jay. Let the ladies, worry! My two favorite moments from the fashion show had nothing to do with actual modeling. The first was when Tyra told the girls it’s okay to say you’re nervous because saying it aloud will relax you — and Sam let out a soft, sweet, “I am nervous.” It’s refreshing to see someone that trusting in today’s world, isn’t it? The second moment was when Miss J made his entrance parading in front of a man whose head was inside a large balloon and the camera cut to Nigel looking legitimately frightened. (I don’t know why it pleases my to see Nigel scared, but it does.)

The consensus on the girls’ runway walks was that they both kinda blew. I concur. McKey said she was “basking in the glory of it,” but she totally wasn’t. The only difference between McKey and Sam was that McKey hid her nerves better. The tension in Sam’s pout made her look fragile, while McKey’s made her look snooty — perfect for a runway model. As Tyra, wearing her best dominatrix schoolmarm ensemble at the final judges’ panel put it, “You didn’t just serve dress, you served face.” Bottom line: Sam’s face read worry; McKey’s read confidence (or, I’m better than you, I can’t decide). She wins.

In the end, the show was, as it should be, all about Tyra. We were reminded how she cut Sam’s hair and bam!, a model was born. (“The baby just said, Wah, Mommy, I am a model.“) And we got to see her squeal when McKey picked her up, repeatedly. Mercifully, Tyra didn’t pause long before she announced that McKey was America’s Next Top Model — a surprise only to those who hadn’t been listening when the judges and photographers said, “There’s a model! There’s a model!” throughout the season.

Do you agree with the judges’ decision? Did you buy Sam’s tears when she delivered her parting words about how she never saw herself as a “pretty girl” before? And where do you think our “linebackerish” final two and figure-skating second runner-up will end up? I can see McKey’s face landing her real work. (Not sarcasm, for a change!) Sam, hmmm. She took some great photos, but I think she needs to bake a little more before she gets booked. And as for Analeigh, I’m with Paulina — the girl should be an actress. She’s gorgeous but still very likeable. (After a Slamball story line on One Tree Hill, why not a figure skating one?)