The girls wear cuts of cow as clothing and get grilled at panel; plus, they pose for firemen
America's Next Top Model

Is it just me, or was this one of the most delicious episodes of America’s Next Top Model ever? Let’s dig in. Two things to get out of the way here quickly: (1) Our own Michael Slezak had no idea that Mr. Jay would be taking his models to New York’s meatpacking district when he scripted this week’s episode of’s America’s Next Top Doll series. (In another channeling-Tyra coincidence, Slezak’s plastics find themselves doused in ”real live animal blood” — read: Asian chili sauce, sweet and sour sauce, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste — while recreating the Carrie prom scene.) (2) Even though Mr. Jay was dressed in all white for the meat shoot, he totally reminded me of the Snow Miser.

Now on to business. Anyone else surprised that there wasn’t one vegetarian among the models who was morally opposed to wearing, as Whitney put it, ”dead animal carcasses”? It seemed most of them — save Aimee, who nearly earned herself a ticket back to Washington because she couldn’t get past the steak stink — shared Whitney’s view: ”I was like, ‘That’s not that bad. Like, I eat steak. It wouldn’t bother me to, like, put it on.’ ” Mr. Jay said provocative is ”what sells in this business,” but I don’t know anyone who’s lining up to buy pieces of clothing that have been paired with meat panties, meat skirts, meat ascots, meat dickeys, or meat halter tops. (And in fact, I couldn’t actually tell you what any of those pieces were, which I don’t think would please a designer.) Jay never gave the models an actual reason for why they were wearing the raw meat and posing with hunks of it, did he? Paulina and Tyra said it was a metaphor for how women are sometimes treated in the modeling world. On so many levels.

Of course, Claire and Anya (whose platinum hair drowns her out too much when she hasn’t been made up for a shoot) delivered great photos, while Stacy-Ann and Fatima failed to look fierce. Their dainty attempts at snarling were highly amusing TV, though totally boring as still photos. I loved Whitney’s photo because she was the only one who allowed the absurdity of the situation to affect what her face conveyed. She can be sexy and something else (in this circumstance, slightly comedic), which most of the other women haven’t mastered. It’s no surprise that Lauren, a zombie-movie fan, rocked this gory shoot. She gave herself a backstory: Look menacing and act like you’re Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, only, you know, pretty. It pains me to say it, but I think Dominique got a bum rap at panel. Jay praised her for giving him variety, and yet Tyra chose the one photo that Nigel would think belonged in a calendar for ”meat boys.”

Other thoughts: It’s too bad Marvita’s aggression didn’t translate to the photo, but kudos to Katarzyna for holding her steak skirt like it was fabric! Clearly, Fatima and her ”crazy tiger growls” deserved to be in the bottom two after she admitted to Paulina that she didn’t listen to direction during the shoot. And Amis was rightly sent packing for acting, as Paulina so astutely noted, like a child who wants to stand out but doesn’t know how. (The answer is not skipping, or wearing a headband, or giving yourself a pen tattoo, dear.)

As odd as you might think Amis is, Dominique is just as out there. The way I see it, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who sense that others haven’t yet warmed to them and work double time to befriend them, and Dominique, who taunts them. ”So you guys can cry tonight, all of you that wanted me to go and don’t like me,” she said on the Fab Cab ride home following last week’s near elimination. ”You can be very terrified ’cause I’m at least gonna be here for a whole ‘nother week.” I get that she was trying to intimidate the other contestants, particularly Whitney, but I don’t understand why she felt that ”I was bottom two, then thrown up on a pedestal.” No, Dominique, when Tyra said you’d be here for at least another week, she was throwing the hairstylist who gave you the bum dye job under the bus. Why would that have possibly been the ”best freakin’ bottom two” in Top Model history? Every week Tyra guarantees someone in the bottom two another week — by calling her name. I don’t think Dominique understands that when Tyra created the 14th spot for her this season, it was because she was tied for 13th place. Not first.

Speaking of Dominique, it’s time to read the Tyra Ticker — ”Turn up the heat, or you’ll get hosed” — and head to the fire house. Tell me you, too, were hoping that Miss J. would, literally, turn the hose on any model whose runway walk had not improved. Alas, this show has just enough class not to do that. Instead, Miss J. took them to the fire house to teach them about the art of the quick change — and to have them walk in front of some of the city’s bravest (and most silent). While I didn’t necessarily spy any man worthy of a month in the FDNY’s annual Calendar of Heroes (2008 now on sale for $9.99, y’all!), Stacy-Ann seemed pleased: ”Oh, wow, a whole bunch of really cute firefighters. I’m like, Ahhh! Yaaaay! So it was super, super cool.” The girls had 90 seconds to change into shorts, a white henley, a hat, suspenders, and heels, which everyone accomplished save Fatima, who pisssssssed Miss J. off by trying to stay in her own pumps because ”I like these.” Again, for a woman who claims to be smart, she does some seriously stupid s—.

Other highlights: The inferno known as Katarzyna managed not to set off an alarm. Dominique’s walk was fine (”It’s Dominique!”) until she got a little too flirty with the firemen, and J. earned back some of his comedy cred by demonstrating what she was one step away from. (Cue the stripper music and bend at the waist.) Fatima’s walk continued to be a Clydesdale-size disaster, and like J., I lost all faith in this girl. Lauren was predictably clueless, but at least we finally got to see J. trying to teach her something. And then there was Amis, who skipped like a loon because ”It makes me feel good.” It wasn’t until the judges’ panel that I understood Amis. When she gets nervous, she tries to cover it up by being campy or goofy or wearing a headband that makes her look like Axl Rose. You hear that modeling and acting are all about confidence, and I’m beginning to believe it. The minute you sense that someone is unsure of herself — Fatima, Lauren, and Amis on the runway — it’s all you can see in her face. No other emotion registers.

NEXT: Wardrobe malfunction

This week’s real runway challenge was modeling Tuleh designs for two surprise judges: cycle 8 winner Jaslene, the cha-cha diva who Amis poetically described as looking like a ”big, ol’, beautiful, doe-eyed, yummy little Latino sandwich,” and Ann Shoket, the editor-in-chief ofSeventeen. The models had three minutes to dress themselves, and following some truly over-the-top (even for this show) aerial shots, the eventful show began. Fatima buttoned her cardigan incorrectly, which she thought no one would notice. (Maybe because she failed to notice the white stripe running horizontally along the bottom of the sweater?) That, combined with her speed walk, was enough to make J. say, ”Off with her head.” Whitney got to make up for being covered up in last week’s lingerie shoot by wearing a bikini on the catwalk — and flashing her left breast. Explaining why she didn’t bother to fix it, she said, ”So I didn’t look down, ’cause I figured if I looked at it, then definitely everyone else is gonna look at it.” I find it strange that none of the judges, at the challenge or panel, addressed her wardrobe malfunction. I know when I used to take dance lessons I was told if a strand of hair fell out of place, you should leave it. But isn’t a bare breast a different matter? Or only when you’re modeling in front of children?

The top story at the runway show, however, was Lauren. Did you think Jaslene’s comments to her were too harsh? ”Do you want to be here? Do you want to be a model?” Cha-Cha asked. ” ‘Cause you looked like you didn’t even want to be up there. I was, like, very disappointed. You’re a beautiful girl, but when you were walking, you’re all over the place. Too fast.” I agree with Paulina, it’s time for tough love. The judges are always harping on how perception is everything, and people could perceive Lauren as indifferent if they aren’t privy to the confessionals every week telling us that she’s too punk to consider herself pretty. Lauren felt insulted, and said the fact that she’s ”letting all these things happen to me” should prove her commitment. I think that’s her problem: She’s too passive. She’s not taking control of her situation. It was good to see her looking through magazines and studying poses (when Amis was attempting to impart knowledge: ”Jaslene said something that really made me think. She’s like, ‘What do you want? What do you want to be?’ Or, like, whatever, I don’t remember what she said exactly”). But we need to see her busting her butt on that practice runway in the apartment. In the end, Katarzyna won the challenge, probably because they covered her up. She chose Amis and Marvita to share her prize, a Lot 29 advertorial in Seventeen with Jaslene. Have you ever seen a more unlikely trio than those three? But it looked like they really made each other laugh, and that’s something those girls can use in that apartment. Honestly, I’d be fine if we didn’t see another second of footage of the models ”at home.” The faux drama is growing so old. Do we care if Fatima thinks Amis is a clown for giving herself a tattoo of an anchor (or a butt crack)? I realize we have to set up that Aimee, the ex-Mormon, isn’t going to be comfortable in the nude photo shoot that’s coming, but do we really need to see the girls fighting over whether she can call dibs on one of the three bathrooms for an uninterrupted shower? I mean, Aimee seemed to be thinking rationally — everyone use the restrooms, plural, now if they need to, and then while she’s in one, anyone who needs to pee again can use the other two. And if you’re gonna show us the fight, show us all of it. We had no context for why Marvita jumped into the fray, why Whitney felt the need to drag Fatima’s ”negative energy” into the conversation, or what Whitney had done to make Dominique look at her and think, ”Southern, not-cultured, white trash.” (Whitney said she knows drag queens who walk better than Dominique. Drag = culture where I’m from. Fatima said Whitney’s always stirring things up. Like what? ) What haven’t we seen?

So, what do you think? Are you bored with the house dramas that seem to go nowhere? Are you, like Paulina, over Lauren’s insecurities and ready to see her hold her head high? Who has a better chance of showing the judges more than one facial expression next week: Marvita, Fatima, or Stacy-Ann? Can Katarzyna really get rid of what Tyra referred to as (moan it with me) ”unh, unh, unh” by wearing her hair in a bun next week? And which was more irritating: the way Tyra sang the judges’ introductions this week, or that in her meat photo, Tyra was cutting a steak, not wearing one? (Notice that I’m just pretending Miss J.’s ”sparkle brows” do not exist.)

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Trya Banks
America's Next Top Model

Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel

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