On ''America's Next Top Model,'' the girls travel across the globe to the land of Oz, where Natasha and Renee shine while Jael and Brittany fall short; plus, Tyra in a kangaroo costume!

By Vanessa Juarez
Updated April 20, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
America's Next Top Model
Credit: De Yonker

”America’s Next Top Model”: Pack those bags…

G’day, mates,

We started off with a visitor: April, from cycle two. She’s been working as a travel correspondent, it seems, and had come to relay the message that she is way smarter than the cycle 8 girls. Okay, so she didn’t actually say that, but her put-togetherness (minus that purple-trimmed sequined number) spoke volumes as she tried to teach the girls how to conduct interviews. Her advice? Shoot for a vibe that falls between being a chatterbox and curling up into a ball. But the girls, as April might’ve said, looked like deer caught in headlights.

Meanwhile, I adored Renee’s blue eyeliner and pink lip gloss. The combo gave her a softness that reminded me of those Victoria’s Secret models who make a pair of pajamas look like the coziest thing you could ever slide into. (Of course, when you actually purchase them, it’s like, ”Oh…shorts and a tank.”)

When the girls gave the interview tactics a try on each other, the fun almost turned into a major brouhaha over who’s going to win Top Model. As Natasha said of Dionne and Jael, ”When I look at them, I imagine two cats ready to jump on each other.” Apparently, April taught them all she knows about being a correspondent — except for the important stuff, like ”Don’t be combative.” All of the girls still think looking pretty is their ticket to win. Communicating with others is, like, so last on their list of priorities — even though Jael, using her trademark punctuated speech, claimed otherwise. ”I. Think. I’m. Really. Good. At Speaking. With. Other. Human. Beings.” My colleague calls her Napoleon Dynamite (which seemed unkind until she bore that hideous smile later during the shoot).

After a night of playing around in the pool together, the girls were greeted the following day by a bouncing Tyra, who was decked out in a kangaroo costume. I must still be traumatized from my Papa John’s days of having to dress up as a slice and pass out flyers at busy intersections — at first, I thought Tyra was going to say that the challenge was putting on silly costumes and talking to people on the street. (Hey, it would’ve been good product placement.) Thank goodness she didn’t. Instead, she told the Yanks dat dey should pack their bags for Australia.

Natasha shrieked with excitement over the Sydney news…five minutes after Tyra announced it. She didn’t understand. She’s Russian, remember. Speaking of which, was it my hearing problem (which came from when I was 3 and I cracked my head open on the concrete after riding my tricycle down…oh, never mind) or did Natasha say, ”Some people are crazy about Tye-bet” as opposed to Tibet, the place that Brad Pitt spent seven years exploring?

(By the way, the kangaroo and its handlers were hilariously random. They didn’t know what to do or where to stand. Can you imagine being a PA on the episode? Ken Mok telling you, ”Find me a kangaroo outfit — and a real-life one, too. Pronto.”)

And with that, they were off to Australia, where the lovely Erika Heynatz, the original Australia’s Next Top Model host, gave the girls their challenge: to interview strangers about fashion, using jargon they’d absorbed from the Aussie slang bible she gave them. So they struggled (some more than others) with words and phrases such as yanks (Americans), avro (afternoon), thongs (flip-flops), exy (expensive), daks (boxers), dag (funny person), lippy (lipstick), to crack on (to hit on), cactus (dead), and ear bashing (nagging). The prize? A recurring correspondent gig on The Tyra Banks Show.

Brittany was nervous about the challenge because when she was in high school, she got run over by a car and had eight stitches stapled into her head and, as a result, the short-term memory part of her brain is addled. Excuses, excuses, excuses. On her list of ailments thus far: feeling sick to her stomach, tight hair extensions, and now this. I don’t mean to be callous, but everybody has issues. You gotta just suck it up — unless, of course, the excuse is that a dingo took a bite out of your brain and ate your memory.

This was definitely the most challenging shoot of the season: a commercial for CoverGirl. If you’ve ever done any kind of voiceover work, you know how tough it is to remove every ”um” and ”like” that naturally slips out in conversation. On top of that, they had to speak in thick Australian accents without elongating the vowels in a way that people often mistake for the Brits’ brand of English. (What’s the Aussie slang word for sh-t?)

The judges’ clip later showed a different story of Renee’s performance, but I thought she had the top spot in the bag. Overall, she nailed those lines, the Aussie accent and that charming kicker of a wink. The judges joked about her Steve Irwin quality, but I actually thought she exuded more of a Princess Di aesthetic, with that combination of tousled hair and bushy overalls outfit.

Dionne did so-so. The green eye shadow really opened up her eyes, but I thought her big gold earrings were competing with the hat hanging from her neck. Of course, that wasn’t her fault, but it was distracting. And she just didn’t put enough soul into it, which also could be said for Jael and Brittany, who displayed the even-worse sin of not making an attempt. An annoyed Jael said, ”I just want to, like, touch the grass and animals and breath the air.” Whatever that — pessimism, Napoleon Dynamite-ism — was about, it showed. The judges caught onto it and sent her home — unfortunately, not in time to prevent her from uncomfortably stating, ”I’m not finished spreading the joy to the universe.”

As for Jaslene and Natasha, they did well enough to feel safe about not going home. Jaslene looked great in a getup that Jay aptly compared to Janice Dickinson on safari.

I still think Brittany is going to make it to the end, despite this poor performance. But I just do not understand why she was so distraught. ”I feel like I did my best, and I’m not that upset with that, I’m just, you know…five years later, it sucks.” What sucks? If she has post-traumatic stress disorder, that’s a different situation, one that she probably needs to get counseling for. But this memory-loss thing? I mean, she remembers how to get home every day, right? Not to mention the fact that she was reading straight from the cue cards. Don’t tell me that by the time she got to the end of each sentence, she already had forgotten its first words. The best tell-it-like-it-is comment of the show came from J. Alexander, who said, ”Fashion has no sympathy or empathy.”


Out: Jael

5. Brittany

4. Dionne

3. Jaslene

2. Natasha

1. Renee

Until next week!


P.S.: In case you missed it, Natasha somehow won the challenge. What’d you think of that, and her getting top props this week in general? Who’s glad Jael’s gone?

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