When I clapped eyes on the Kardashians’ topless blue jeans ad today, my mind immediately circled back around to an image that I’ve held near and dear to my heart for going on eight years. Behold, at right, the worst picture in America’s Next Top Model history. Suffice it to say, competition has been strong. This season alone, show creator/host Tyra Banks forced the girls to pose with relish-and-mustard-dripping Pink’s hot dogs and another in a giant bowl of Greek salad. And still, this picture is just horrrrrrrible. It is the posing equivalent of a 10-car pile-up.
This image was brought to us courtesy of cycle 3’s Kelle Jacob, the girl whose questionable claim to fame was living in New York City’s only gated community (times were simpler then!) and whose insecurities about her “snout” turned so crippling producers named an entire episode after her — “The Girl Who Cries When She Looks In The Mirror.” (Then again, the very next episode was called “The Girl Who Mutilated The Precious Brownies,” so there was a theme back then. Again, simpler times!)
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not writing this post with any intention of bashing poor Kelle. She was served a lifetime supply of embarrassment on Top Model. After the show, she shot a photo spread for Source magazine in the wake of her ouster, participated in a New York Times documentary about the 2008 presidential democratic primaries, and presumably returned to work at the art gallery she owned before the show. This isn’t about Kelle pity, not least of which for her looks because she is actually very pretty. More to the point, the picture has something in common with all things that are great (or perhaps a better word is memorable): There is more to it than Kelle could have ever have purposely brought. What I’m saying is, this photo is evil genius. And I can’t stop looking at it.
At least half the pleasure of this nightmare photo is the vision of Banks sitting over the contact sheet, rubbing her hands together in uncontainable glee at throwing this mess up on the screen. There have been many complaints over the years that Banks purposely chose a girl’s worst photo/commercial take, but I think this is the only one that really could be legally pursued. During judging that week, Kelle likened her contorted face to a platypus, and deliciously mean judge Janice Dickinson said the photo looked like Kelle was giving herself a breast exam. The best part? This wasn’t even the photo that sent her home!
Flash forward a few years to 2009, when Kim Kardashian was a guest judge on Top Model. You can almost see Banks taking note of Kim’s growing influence, leafing through her old photo shoots, and using KK’s judging stint as an opportunity to go full-tilt Inception on the booty-ful bubblehead. (Yes, folks, you heard it here first: Tyra Banks mastered inception well before Christopher Nolan.) A little more than two years later, we have the result of her evil wizardry — the Kardashian Kollection ad, which is a rip-off of Top Model, who ripped off Janet Jackson’s 1993 Rolling Stone cover, which ripped off Brigitte Bardot, who I think was ripping off Shakespeare. Long story short, this photo is timeless, and — at least in my eyes — it will never stop getting better.
What about you, PopWatchers? Do you have another contender for Top Model‘s worst photo ever, or does this one take the cake? What other pop culture ephemera have formed a shanty town in your brain, proving themselves to be anything but ephemeral?