In order to combat bullying, 14 beautiful women put on skimpy bikinis and think about empowerment. Take that, bullies!

By Margaret Lyons
September 16, 2010 at 01:00 PM EDT
Mathieu Young/The CW
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It’s week two, model behaviorists, although tragically it’s not makeover week. What the fart? Bring me makeovers, Tyra! I demand a montage of eyebrow waxings, of snipsnipsnips, of disastrous weaves. Instead, I guess I’ll settle for an episode about bullying. Hmph.

At the top of the episode, Anamarie bragged about how “f—ing awesome” she was, which is reality show foreshadowing for “this person is going to get sent home.” Top Model, I know you a little too well.

The ladies headed to Venice Beach, where we were treated to a montage of California b-roll: rollerblades! shirtlessness! This may as well be the bumper shots for the Beverly Hills Beach Club episodes. Squealing! So much squealing. The modeltestants were then serenaded by ”Venice Beach icon” Harry Perry. The could be a musical genius, but all I could think was that is the dirtiest visor in the world. Filth visor, you guys. I didn’t even hear his song. Anyway, home sweet home.

Chris tried to befriend Ann via boy-focused girl talk, but Ann accidentally (I think?) thwarted her attempts by professing that “hobos are kinda hot” and that she’s into “warlocks.” Chris sorta recoiled, and I sorta wondered if Ann… oh, I don’t know, did tech crew for the drama club in high school. That kind of affected dorkiness can be endearing, but it can also be off-putting.

Elsewhere, the ladies were talking about their weight, and Anamarie boasted about her “calorie-restricted diet.” That term is usually used to refer to the longevity-focused intense dieting rather than to just not eating very much, but it’s pretty clear that either way, Anamarie is extremely thin. Elsewhere-er, Kayla told some of the other women that she’s a lesbian and would love to be the first gay top model.

Tyra Mail! Mercifully, last season’s Papyrus-set notes have been replaced with a tasteful serif, so I can now take Tyra Mail much more seriously. (It’s still barely registering on the serious-o-meter, though. Don’t worry.) Then it was off to this week’s challenge: Walking in a Diane von Furstenberg fashion show! Er, on a weird clear platform that jutted out into the air, four storeys off the ground. Welcome to upskirt town, population: everyone’s panties. It was bad when Mr. Jay garbled “von Furstenberg” once, but twice? As Joan Harris would say, that’s egregious.

Then it was walkin’ time, and the ladies were all strapped into safety harnesses, so no one would die. (But they could still die of embarrassment if one of them, oh, got thwacked by a pendulum and then fell off the runway.) Ann was awkward (drink!), Lexie complained that the runway wobbled, Chelsey seemed good, but Chris seemed overly stomp-y. Anamarie confessionalized that the other models were ”nobody” to her, so of course the get-what’s-coming-to-you fairy paid her a visit, and she wiped out at the bottom of the stairs. Ha! It’s a big bad chaotic universe out there, and it’s hard not to feel like worthless IHOP speck sometimes, but then every so often, something perfectly righteous happens, and it’s like a little wink from the galaxy telling you to keep on keepin’ on. Anamarie’s stumble felt like vindication. (I am finding poetic truths in moments of Top Model. Please send help.)

NEXT: Was blind but now I see

Sara looked a lot like Claudia Schiffer as she marched down the runway, and I was equally impressed with Jane’s striking looks. Kacey was worried that she wouldn’t be able to see the runway without her glasses on, and I was worried that I was being sucked into a vortex time machine taking me back to cycle 3 when Amanda couldn’t see in the dark. Anyway, let it be known: ANTM does not care about your vision, ever.

Rhianna’s walk was really slow, Liz was gorgeous, Esther’s mouth hung open which is not a great look, and Terra looked like the pouty princess of grumpyland. Kendal has a classic runway physique and looked perfect up there, but Kayla vamped too much at the end and it was tacky.

Speaking of tacky, it was time for the photoshoot! Also, it was time for Rhianna to stop wearing that truly hideous ET hat. Mr. Jay was wearing a t-shirt that said ”band geek” because, he said, that’s what bullies used to call him. Uh… right. Sure, I’m sure that is totally true. Anyway, this week’s shoot was all about the mean words bullies use, and how we as beautiful models have new, empowering words to overcome the barbs. I kind of got the premise of the shoot, but the modeltestants were terrible at choosing words. (Also, I’ve been watching too much If You Really Knew Me, because I was hoping we’d have a crazy breakthrough/sharing moment on this episode where the modeltestants would all vow to be honest and decent from here on out. Dream on, I guess.)

First up was Esther, whose bully word was ‘weirdo,’ and whose power word was ‘independent.’ She struggled with gangly arm placement, but luckily her bodacious tah-tahs weren’t a problem. Team Breasts!

Rhianna picked ‘stupid’ as her bully word, and Tyra condescendingly tried to pep talk her about just ”thinking differently.” But we’ve all seen the hat! We know better. Her empowered word was ‘undefinable,’ which I thought was a cop-out, and she tanked at the shoot. Perhaps that hat has squished her brain. Team No More Hat!

Lexie claimed she was called ‘elf ears,’ which is much kinder than what I was going to guess her bully word would be, and she picked ‘unique’ as her triumph. She’s about as unique as a butterfly tramp stamp tattoo. Chelsey picked ‘Casper’ and ‘fearless,’ which doesn’t really subvert the Casper insult, but she did a good job on set. Kacey picked ‘Oreo’ and ‘Nubian Queen,’ but seemed to be sort of deadfaced when the camera was on.

Next was Kayla, who was really shaken by the whole process. She cried as she told Tyra about being called ”queer” as a slur when she was in high school, and it so trumped everyone else’s experience that it was tough to take anyone else’s background particularly seriously. I thought Kayle might pick ”queer” as her power word, too, given that it’s been reclaimed in a lot of GLBT-empowerment contexts, but she picked ”free.” Fair enough. Team No Homophobia!

Kendal picked ‘lanky’ and ‘fierce,’ but right after Kayla’s segment, it was hard to feel like ‘lanky’ was much of an insult. Let’s all make a PSA about how uncool it is to make fun of someone for being lanky. Does that even happen? (Sorry to minimize your pain, Kendal.)

NEXT: Jane’s power word is the best/worst power word ever

And then there was Jane. Jane the Princeton student. Jane the ostensible smartypants richy rich. Jane picked ‘big face’ as her bully word and ‘big square head’ as her power word. Jane, have you been borrowing Rhianna’s hat? What the what are you talking about? Big square head? This is how she psychs herself up? This is the mantra she repeats to herself as she listens to ”I’ve Got To Keep On Moving” after a bad week? Or after she gets a haircut and feels all fancy and walks down the street thinking everything’s coming up Milhouse!, her next thought is big square head? That is a horrible power word, Jane! Pretty much any other word would be better. ‘Shoe’ is a better power word. ‘Recycle.’ ‘Seven.’ Seriously, anything.

Terra’s ‘soup cooler’/’luscious lips’ combo was less offensively stupid, but Terra had a straight-up meltdown on set, complete with sobbing and getting the shakes. Terra, just repeat to yourself ‘big square head,’ all you’ll feel better instantly. I swear! I feel better just thinking about it.

Liz picked ‘mutt’ and ‘biracial beauty,’ which I can’t make fun of, and I thought she looked pretty great. Sara picked ‘manly’ and ‘athletic,’ but given her ultra-femme runway style, it’s sort of tough to believe that she was once considered boyish. Whatever, kids are idiots. Ann had ‘giant’ and ‘Amazon,’ and sweetly/almost pathetically said, ”giant is like a monster, but Amazon is glamorous.” Ann, you are breaking my heart.

Chris picked ‘bony’ and ‘slim,’ which put me in a coma, and Anamaria picked ‘bucktooth’ and ‘sexy mouth.’ And then we got the Anamaria Is Very, Very Thin portion of the evening’s events. (Also… she’s like a cross between Lady Gaga and Dr. Miller from Mad Men, no? The camera zoomed in on her visible ribs and her slack-looking skin, and while I’m generally loathe to crap on someone’s body, it’s hard not to cringe at just how painfully thin Anamaria looked — especially when she told us how deliberately she maintains her weight. Finally, it was Kayla’s turn, and even though she was still sort of crying, she looked amazing.

Then Demi Lovato showed up for no reason, and Jane said she was a ”huge” Demi Lovato fan. Really? I mean, I have no beef with Demi Lovato, and I thought she was pretty good on Grey’s Anatomy last season, and I can fully get behind her anti-bullying platform. (Geez, maybe I’m a huge Demi Lovato fan….) But I really did not think college students were her fanbase. Big Square Head is full of surprises, I guess!

Panel time, at long last. The modeltestants filed onto the risers in a choreographed move that was strangely hypnotic. Man, this season really IS fancy. This week’s guest judge: Diane von Furstenberg! It is fundamentally impossible not to adore this woman. Look at her back in the day. Sorry, did you just die? I did. I like this shot, too, especially because it is just so ’70s that I pretty much need to lay down on a bed to zip my high-waisted bellbottoms with pliers. Anyway, DVF was in the house, as were ATL and Nigel. Part of me will always miss the days of Janice Dickinson or Kimora Lee Simmons, but this panel is pretty solid.

First up was Lexie, who got good marks but looked a little schnozzy to me. Perhaps that’s just me not liking her very much. Kacey was deemed too athletic, and ALT said Jane’s body was ”gauche.” What about her BSH, Andre? Is that gauche?

NEXT: I want Diane von Furstenberg to be my fairy godmother/BFF

Kayla’s photo was goooooorgeous, and Diane loved it. Can she come back every week to purr gently accented sage wisdom at the contestants? How about just to me? The judges all raved about the photo, and Tyra adorably told Kayla to ”go on back and be happy.” I don’t love the Tyra who gives annoying advice like ”sticks and stones” bullshizz or who makes everything in the world about her, and I find so much of her persona on this show to be canned and strained. But that one little tiny moment was adorable! ”Go on back and be happy.” Can we have that Tyra all the time, please? Please?

Liz’s photo was just okay, Esther was ”awkward” but sexy (story of my life! Heyoo), and Kendal had a bad photo but the judges all remarked on her body being ideal for runway. Sara’s photo wasn’t great, but Andre really didn’t like it — he’s the panel’s resident Negative Nancy, and it rules so hard. Terra’s photo was a total eh, Chris was told to turn it up to 11, but Chelsey’s shot was haunting and lovely. Plus her gap teeth are totally in style right now.

Diane praised Rhianna’s choice of power word, and murmured about French vocabulary, but all I wrote down here is ”READ ME A BEDTIME STORY, DVF.”

Anamaria got a brief lecture about how thin she looks, and the judges were really careful just to say that she didn’t ”look” ”healthy,” and that style and beauty are all about ”health.” That’s historically and demonstrably false, but okay.

Finally, Ann earned praise across the board. ”I think you can be a big model,” Diane told her, and Ann pretty much floated back to the line. I am rooting for Ann so hard now.

The judges’ deliberation was brief — ”This is a terrible picture of Terra” cracked me up so bad, Nigel — and then it was go time. This week’s winner? Ann! Yay, Ann! You go with your man voice, girlfriend. Next was Kayla, who also earned a ”yay” in my notes. Two yays! Chelsey, Kendal, Lexie, Liz, Jane, Esther, Chris, Rhianna, Kacey, and Sara were safe. Would Anamaria and Terra please step forward?

Tyra delivered another lecture about Anamaria’s weight before sending her packing (as Terra vowed to get her act together). Tyra was way, way careful just to say that Anamarie may be healthy, but she doesn’t look healthy, and that’s what matters for a model. It’s not a great message, especially if you think about the flip side, which seems to come up more often in the fashion world: being gruesomely unhealthy but looking great. (Read Crystal Renn’s Hungry if you need an example or 10.) After all the feel-good antibullying stuff, would it have been so hard to have some kind of mention here about body image issues or disordered eating? Oh, well.

What’s your ”power word,” model behaviorists? Were you sad to see Anamaria go? And are you rooting for Ann and Kayla along with me? Also… Is this season shaping up to be awesome, or did I get Stockholm syndrome?

Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel
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