After the models get behind the camera, Nigel tries to shoot them as movie stars stalked by paparazzi, but they just don't get it

By Mandi Bierly
May 08, 2008 at 11:52 PM EDT
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Dominique may be gone — let’s not all celebrate at once — but her spirit isn’t broken. We know this because she still referred to herself in the third person during her exit interview. Earlier in this week’s America’s Next Top Model episode she likened herself to last cycle’s winner, Saleisha. That comparison’s not entirely off: We’ll never think of either of them again after next week’s season finale. (Kudos, however, to this week’s ”My Life as a CoverGirl” commercial for actually showing Saleisha modeling. I was worried they’d resort to having her talk about the photos of herself displayed in an intimate gallery in Rome — otherwise known as the cycle 10 house.)

The start of this episode was booor-ing. But I should’ve had faith: It was actually heavy-handed foreshadowing. The Final Four were all feeling the pressure of having to deliver a great photo. (As the numbers dwindle, it’s not enough not to be the worst.) Everyone but Dominique was surprised that she was still in the competition. (I myself was surprised to hear that she eats candy all the time, considering we’ve never seen it. Perhaps that’s why she sneaks M&M’s and candy corn at 2 a.m. — the cameras are off?) Fatima, meanwhile, expressed her desire to score her first challenge win, and naturally, she did.

This week’s challenge was a useful one. The girls arrived at a park and were greeted by Paulina Porizkova and fashion photographer Francesco Licata. Paulina told them that knowing what things look like from behind the camera helps you when you’re in front of it, and so Licata proceeded to give them a lesson in composition and lighting. He then had them shoot each other as they hopped around like crazy tourists who thought it’d be fun to do an impromptu photo shoot in a gorgeous Italian park. (Oh, you know you’ve done that. Somewhere.) Because Anya is nice, she had nothing bad to say about anyone. Because Whitney is judgmental, she did: ”It’s nice to know that it’s hard to find a good picture of my competition.” Because Fatima’s frolic looked phony, Dominique told her to be real. And because Fatima didn’t say anything that was worth noting, I didn’t.

The competition portion of the challenge gave each girl five minutes to photograph Paulina. They were judged on their images and on their rapport with the model. At stake: an extra 50 frames in this week’s photo shoot. Fatima went first and was legitimately impressive. Her soft-spoken-yet-decisive demeanor served her well as she directed Paulina in various setups — all of which pleased the eye of guest judge Ann Shoket, editor-in-chief of Seventeen. Looking at Fatima’s photos, she deserved to win. Dominique, however, was the polar opposite. She had no vision, or at least none that she could communicate effectively. As Shoket noted, Dominique’s compositions were a disaster: ”What I was seeing is a lot of cactus hats.”

NEXT: Make like a tree, and leaf

Whitney was very professional, articulating exactly what she wanted Paulina to do, and why. Anya was the most fun for Paulina to work with — because legendary supermodels like being asked to throw leaves? — but was too chaotic. She went about achieving variety in the wrong way: Fatima placed Paulina in various locations but kept the same sultry vibe, while Anya had her giving a full range of emotions, which seemed schizophrenic under the time constraint. That said, the close-up Anya snapped of Paulina with her head tilted was the day’s most gorgeous photo. It looked like a still photo from a previously unreleased Shania Twain video.

The challenge win clearly motivated Fatima, who came home and hit the runway for practice. Her walk is looking much better, and unlike Dominique, I liked Fatima’s fluid posing at the end of the catwalk. After Dominique performed one of her tiresome motivational monologues — ”I feel myself melting,” Anya said of living with the energy vampire — it was time for the ladies’ night shoot with the ”noted and sexy” Nigel Barker. The concept seemed simple enough: You’re a ’50s movie star, out for a walk with your lover, being stalked by paparazzi. Mr. Jay told the girls not to stand and pose but to be cinematic. Translation: Move. They didn’t. Anya went first, and though she should’ve been comfortable enough in front of Nigel to take a risk — having posed nude for him earlier in the season — she played it too safe. And too stiff. Mr. Jay had to distract her to get a shot that didn’t look posed. In the end, she literally stumbled onto the week’s best photo, which made her Queen S— of Turd Island.

Fatima went next and was a disaster. Though Nigel acted out the scene for her, she never grasped it. She tried to say it was because she’s never had a boyfriend and doesn’t know how to express herself with a man on her arm. But I think she could’ve channeled that awkwardness into the shot. She could have been the press-shy movie star who was uncomfortable being photographed, period. Or she could have embraced the fight scenario Mr. Jay threw at her right at the end of her bonus frames. I would love to have seen one of those shots, but instead her best picture was sweet and smiley — perfect for CoverGirl, as the judges noted, but nowhere near what Nigel was after. Her inability to listen to and process direction landed her in the bottom two, rightfully. The fact that Dominique took her tranniest photo yet was the only thing that saved Fatima.

NEXT: To hooch, or not to hooch

I’m not sure whom I felt sorrier for: Dominique, who fell victim to an overzealous makeup artist, or the makeup artist, who had to stand there and listen to Dominique yammer while he painted her face. (Seriously, have you ever stopped and thought about how trapped the makeup and hair artists were with Dominique?) Though Tyra and her tranny alter ego Tyrone gave Dominique a lesson in how to soften her features at panel, it was too late. The judges were just waiting for Dominique to take a step backward so they could remove her poorly dressed ass (and hips) from this competition, and they got it. Nigel wondered whether Dominique had the face to sell CoverGirl; Tyra answered with her final words to Dominique: ”You’ve got to master this face. That’s your challenge.”

Finally, we got to Whitney, who I thought would nail this shoot because (a) she’s a natural flirt and (b) her face is the most expressive. But once again her emotions weren’t genuine. If she had taken a moment before Nigel started shooting to talk to the male model and come up with a scenario to act out together, I’m sure it would’ve produced a killer shot. They’d have been fluid instead of so push-and-pull; they would have had their stories straight. (That would have been good advice for all four of the ladies.) I also think Whitney needs to learn when to ”hide the hooch” (as Tyra put it last week) and when to put her sex appeal on display. In a dark alleyway in Rome is the time to sell it, folks. She could’ve played the exhibitionist starlet who’s happy the paparazzi found her. Then that fabulous split screen they did of Tyra imitating Whitney’s come-hither look would’ve been shown in praise, not punishment.

So, do you think Whitney, the longest-lasting plus-size beauty in Top Model history, will win the crown in next week’s finale? Or will it go to Anya or Fatima? The CoverGirl commercial challenge should play to Fatima’s strength, but even if she wins that battle, I say Anya wins the war.

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Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel
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