America's Next Top Model recap: A Shock to the System
After the models move to New York City, Kim questions the whole premise of high fashion and walks out, but Tyra eliminates another wannabe anyway
Note to the folks who cut reality-TV show promos: If you want viewers to be shocked, don’t warn us that we’ll be shocked. Rarely does the moment live up to the hype, and this episode’s ”most shocking elimination ever” — a wannabe quit because she hates expensive clothes! — was no exception. The only thing I found surprising was that Kim and I have something in common — neither of us is all that interested in high fashion. (Let’s pretend for a moment that the winner of America’s Next Top Modelactually does become a high-fashion model and get right into it, shall we?) Looking back, there were a few not-so-subtle signs that the ”whole fashion thing” didn’t excite Bank Teller Barbie, who took herself out of the competition at judges’ panel. She yawned during Miss J. and Mr. Jay’s trolley tour of Manhattan. She complained about modeling $500 shorts and a $700 purse at the Badgley Mischka fashion show in Times Square. She told Fatima, ”I don’t believe that people should pay like $2,000 for an outfit. I think that’s ridiculous. And I don’t want to support that.” (Anyone else wonder how sharp-tongued Fatima tolerated conversations with Kim? I’d pay to see Fatima locked in a panic room with Stacy-Ann.)
Not to encourage conspiracy theories, but if you wanted to argue that producers always knew Kim’s heart wasn’t in it and kept her around long enough to make her inevitable exit, I’d listen. After all, none of us understood what she did at Top Model Prep to earn her spot in the final 13 to begin with, and then Tyra miraculously decided to up the number of contestants to 14, and this week chose to eliminate a second girl after Miss J. had already ripped Kim’s name from the list Velcroed to the front of his military-style jacket? Plus, Kim had zero charisma, and her final exchange with Tyra lacked a pulse. Tyra: ”Do you want to just go home?” Kim: ”Yeah.” Bottom line: I find it hard to believe that Kim’s true ”scrinched-up, snotty-old, snot-nose-rag, bored-to-death” attitude, as Miss J. put it, didn’t show itself in Los Angeles. Part of me wonders if she would still be in the competition if the first fashion show had been for Wal-Mart. The other part thinks that even then she wouldn’t have wanted to hear the judges put her down (Tyra: ”Take the head band off at least….That’s a little better”) or understood anything anyone said (did she honestly think that Jay was suggesting she smile during the homeless photo shoot?). As for the episode’s other ”shocking” moments…
1. Amy unveiled her new name — Amis. As you’ll recall from the premiere, Tyra could not handle having both an Amy and an Aimee on her show, and demanded that one of the girls change her name. Free-spirit Amy decided on Amis ”(A) because it sounds like Amy, (B) because it’s in the Bible.” I’m no expert on the Bible, but I kinda wish she’d have gone with Hosea.
2. Models smoked — outside! After the contestants arrived in New York City with their lungs in tow — seriously, can’t we fast-forward a few weeks to when Tyra’s screaming ”pretty b—-es” will be too pooped to make a peep? — the ladies made themselves at home in their fancy loft. Curiously, we didn’t see them argue over who would get to sleep in one of the six bunk beds and who would be forced to participate in the group pillow fight that the producers pray will break out in the large community bed the others will be sharing. Instead, we saw words exchanged over three of the models obeying the no-smoking signs. ”Kimberly, Amy [Amis], Fatima had the nerve to go outside and just smoke,” Atayla said. Right, they went outside. The last time I checked, no-smoking signs applied indoors. I have no idea why Atalya and Marvita (who uttered something about everyone making sacrifices) had their panties in a bunch. If producers meant no smoking, period, because they don’t want to influence young viewers, then they wouldn’t/shouldn’t have shown the footage. At least we got another classic line to remember Kim by: ”I don’t think smoking is gonna make me any less of a model.”
3. Fatima got into another fight. Or two. Wait, make that three. No, four. Fatima remains a mystery to me. After her third run-in with Marvita in this episode, she admitted that she’s been acting tough because she thought the girls would walk all over her if they thought she was soft. Huh? When has that ever been a problem on this show? Okay, besides Gina and Jade? I don’t buy it. I don’t think she was threatened by Amis when she felt the need to tell her, ”You just talk a lot. I’m just like, I don’t know what you’re talking about….I’m just sayin’ you have to be careful sometimes, because people are not gonna take you as serious…if you wanna come off as a clown all the time.” It’s almost like Fatima has a problem with women she perceives as weak or beneath her. It wasn’t until after she heard that Marvita had been molested and raped and saw ”how strong she is” that Fatima apologized for offending her. Did Fatima think she was being helpful when she reiterated to Marvita that she and Katarzyna — please, can we all just call her Kat? — have small, ”squished” faces? (In the words of Marvita, ”I’m like, this ho is trippin’!”) And isn’t it a natural reflex to say ”sorry” anytime you bump into something that feels remotely human, like say Marvita’s face?
4. Lauren and Amis had no idea how to model. Here’s one small problem I have with the show or, at least, the editing of it: I don’t want to hear the judges tell Lauren and Amis each week that they are clueless — or see the judges make those disgusted faces (Miss J.) — when they haven’t tried to teach them anything yet. I want to see Jay-J. work with them so we can tell whether they have any potential. I thought Lauren looked gorgeous on the Badgley Mischka runway in that delicate magenta gown, but we all knew she’d do a crap walk. The woman has never worn heels. To be perfectly honest, I don’t get why we had to rush this runway into the second episode anyway. Clearly, it meant very little to the judging at this early stage, since they didn’t even have the designers guest-judge at panel. And Miss J. really only critiqued Marvita, who knew he’d ”be on me like white on rice” for walking with her head down. Here are a few of the notes I took during the runway show: Claire is still the best, with speed, elegance, and the ability to make you focus on the garment yet not forget her face. Dominique looked completely at home. Kat, Whitney, and Stacy-Ann had great energy but used a little too much hip. Fatima, though still a bit awkward from the neck down, looked stunning with her hair pulled tightly back. No one applauded for Kim. Back to Whitney, who could be the best plus-size contestant in the history of the show — I wish I had her bedroom eyes.
5. Tyra found a way to plug her talk show! This week’s photo shoot — pose with homeless youth while they’re wearing couture and you’re wearing ”street” clothes — touched on a subject near and dear to Tyra’s heart since about a year ago when she was homeless for a day on her talk show. (It’s called The Tyra Banks Show, in case you didn’t know.) Though the concept sounded a bit ridiculous when it first came out of Jay’s mouth while he was dressed like The Matrix‘s Neo, suddenly favoring gray instead of black, the segment did do a commendable job of raising awareness of the Reciprocity Foundation — a program that helps homeless youths enroll in college, start careers, and outshine Top Model contestants named Atalya and Allison. I thought Atalya, who was ultimately sent packing, showed promise on the Badgley Mischka catwalk, but her film was apparently damningly redundant. Allison (the Annihilator), who’d been a walking sound bite last week, was just a shell of a woman this episode. She looked kinda mean on the runway and a lot like Sarah Silverman’s sister — you guys are right! Jay had nothing positive to say about her shoot, but he did come up with a hysterical description of one of her poses: ”It’s feeling kinda early man.” I wish he’d explained exactly how her Pilates training screwed her up. Of course, Lauren and Amis struggled in the shoot. Jay described Lauren as ”a fish out of water,” and Amis, well, ”Amis was just hopping from one side to the other side and not really focusing and harnessing her power.” Hers was the strangest shoot I’ve ever seen. She was holding poses for less than a second. I wonder what speed film the photographer was using. Other notes from the shoot: I didn’t understand the ”glory” part of Tyra’s melodramatic appreciation of emotional Fatima’s one great shot: ”I feel the pain, I feel the glory, I feel the beauty, darling. This is fabulous.” While Fatima and Marvita drew from real-life experiences with homelessness, Whitney tapped into some kind of invisible wind machine that the judges found just as awe-inspiring. Claire continued to be impressive with a photo that made Tyra praise the power in her face and Miss J. think of flatulence because of the position of her hand over her stomach. (Incidentally, flatulence is what I thought of when Tyra fanned herself with the pieces of Kim’s photo and said, ”Kimberly’s torn shots are giving me wind, darling.”) Aimee caught the panel’s attention with her piercing eyes — could she be the cycle’s sleeper? — and Kat and early favorite Anya were praised for their light-catching cheek bones. Speaking of incredible bone structure…
NEXT: What a drag
6. Dominique still looks like a drag queen. This could be filed under the category of Judges Need to Stop Talking About It and Fix It. After the girls got their Tyra mail on what I’m calling the Tyra Ticker, they went to Elite Model Management to get some first-impression feedback from the agency’s North American director, Neal Hamil, and Paulina Porizkova, who was introduced as the replacement for Twiggy as a judge on the show. I wish we would’ve seen Paulina’s critique of all 14 girls, but those evaluations we saw were spot on and, as she promised, ”truthful but hurtful.” Taking one look at Dominique, she said, ”You remind me slightly of the actress Robin Wright Penn, except like a transvestite version of her.” Neal’s jaw dropped, but he recovered in time to add, ”We both just want to take a Brillo pad and just clean you up.” I’m tired of hearing that Dominique is ”draglicious” and watching the judges laugh at her (though, granted, that pause at the top of the panel catwalk was absurd). If she’s that much of a joke, don’t make her a finalist. Or, here’s a crazy idea: Help her. I have some faith that Paulina might be a hands-on judge. She gave Marvita a tip about relaxing her jaw to avoid a square face. She was rather expressive when she explained to Kim that she should bring forth her dark side with an accompanying pull-it-out-through-your-throat gesture. And she stood up to Nigel, who tried to bust Lauren for being too nervous. (I have such a love/hate relationship with Nigel: I see myself doing one of those slap-him-then-kiss-him routines. You?)
So, what do you think of opinionated Paulina? Will she be a better judge than Twiggy? Can she teach awkward Lauren and ”inexperienced model staring into the light” Amis how to pose? Have you figured out what kind of game Fatima is playing? Do you find the loft decor (giant photos of Tyra with past winners promoting their favorite causes, the oddly punctuated quote, ”If you stand for — nothing, — you’ll fall for anything”) as inspiring as you’re supposed to? And did you happen to catch the uncanny resemblance between the homeless photo Tyra posed for and the ”naked hobos in the city” picture EW.com’s Michael Slezak staged for his America’s Next Top Doll blog series? Slezak had no idea Top Model would be doing a homeless-theme shoot. Great minds and reality-TV hosts think alike.