After charming partygoers and rocking a photo shoot, Anya emerges from the pack; meanwhile, Fatima's race to get proper travel documents incurs Tyra's wrath
America's Next Top Model

Just when I thought I wasn’t invested, at all, in this season of America’s Next Top Model, I finally found a favorite: Anya. Why? I believe she actually wanted Fatima to get her travel documents together in time to make the trip to Rome (the other girls, I’m guessing, would’ve been happy if she’d been knocked out of the competition by default). Anya’s warmness came through at the 7-Up party (like the beverage, she’s 100 percent natural). And she rocked the running-for-the-airplane photo shoot.

Also, for the first time, her platinum blond hair didn’t scare me. She should always have ’40s waves in it. It’s too harsh when it’s straight.

Speaking of harsh, let’s get into Paulina’s visit to the girls’ loft. She dropped by to give them lessons in mingling and interviewing. I’m thinking producers sent her instead of Tyra because Tyra wouldn’t have been able to listen to Anya speak for 60 seconds straight. Paulina told the girls that when one meets someone important, one needs to converse — not have a blank face. She then pretended to be a cosmetics tycoon named Miss Dubois, and had the girls approach her one at a time. Though my fave Anya seemed genuinely interested in getting to know Miss Dubois, I don’t consider ”How’s your family doing?” a great opening question. Neither did Paulina, who answered, ”They’re all dead, dearie.” But Paulina appreciated Anya’s quick recovery: ”Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. But I know that you’re a strong woman.” Fictional, but strong.

Unlike Paulina, I call Katarzyna’s idea of offering Miss Dubois more champagne a winner. Paulina (and Whitney) thought it made her look like a waitress, but really, if this were a swanky party, the waitstaff would be wearing some kind of uniform — or at least something less fashionable than a wannabe supermodel. Stacy-Ann also took a hit during the make-believe meet-and-greet because she came off fake while cooing to Miss Dubois about her company’s moisturizer. Of course she came off fake — the product is fake, Miss Dubois is fake, and Stacy-Ann is not an actress. I wish Paulina would have played Paulina. It’s not like the girls have actually had any quality one-on-one time with her, so it’d have been like they were talking to a stranger. Then we would have seen if they could engage someone in conversation.

Next, Paulina pretended to interview the girls. Naturally, Lauren froze. Dominique, however, rambled on about how Top Model has given her the chance to meet young women from different backgrounds, and what a great learning opportunity that’s been. Paulina told her that she needed to learn the art of the soundbite, which is funny, because Dominique’s always been a great source of those on the show. Perhaps if Paulina were aware of all the drama that’s gone on the house because the girls don’t respect each other’s backgrounds, she would’ve given Dominique props on her ability to spin. Well done!

Of course, all this ”training” was in preparation for this week’s challenge: The girls had to attend a 7-Up party in a Jay Godfrey gown, work a green carpet for photogs and be interviewed by The Insider‘s Lara Spencer, and mingle with the other D-list guests. Dominique committed the cardinal carpet sin when she told Lara she was wearing Jay Giorgio. (Ouch.) Lauren, in an ill-fated attempt to not come off like a zombie, let herself get a little too loose: Lara asked her why she should be the next Top Model, and punk-rock Lauren answered, ”I could kick the s— out of those girls anytime.” Nice! But not nice. While that didn’t impress Lara, Lauren did manage to momentarily win over Nigel inside the party because she appeared confident (like, when chatting up Paulina’s husband, Ric Ocasek) and present. If someone feels the need to applaud you for being ”present,” that’s not a good sign.

Stacy-Ann thought she was going to win the challenge, despite having stumbled over the word ”intimidate” on the carpet and, during the party, reminding me of that scene in Showgirls, where Nomi (Elizabeth Berkley) performs at a boat show. Whitney believed she had this challenge in the bag because of her sparkling personality, only she came off like a well-rehearsed Miss America contestant. (Truth be told, Whitney deserved some kind of award for not popping out of that stunning blue dress. Was this episode sponsored by double-sided tape?) Anya, however, was crowned the belle of the ball, and her prize was getting to hear other people say that 7-Up is 100 percent all-natural before doing a photo shoot that covered her in nothing but leaves, lemons, and limes. At least she earned $10,000 for her efforts this time, as opposed to when she posed nude for Nigel for free. I expected her paycheck to stir more jealousy in the house than it did — those lemons she brought home for the girls must have been damn tasty.

NEXT: Catch that plane!

This week’s photo shoot was actually a group one. In a pale imitation of Ryan Seacrest’s cruelty to contestants on American Idol, Mr. Jay greeted the girls, who’d stayed up all night packing their bags as instructed by the Tyra Ticker, on a tarmac in front of a private jet. He then thanked them for bringing their bags…because they’d be props for the day’s shoot. Again: nice! But not nice. The concept for the shoot: jetsetters running for their plane in freezing, windy weather. Fatima missed the shoot entirely because she’s apparently never seen Top Model before and didn’t know that the show eventually ends up abroad. She lost her ”travel document” back in Atlanta, and her lawyer was having a hard time convincing her consulate that needing to fly abroad for a reality TV show she’ll never win was a good reason to expedite her papers. All I kept thinking was, Wouldn’t the producers have asked the girls if they had their passports, visas, or whatever they needed to go abroad when they filled out their applications for the show? Wouldn’t Tyra, as an executive producer of Top Model, have been made aware that Fatima had been granted a 9 a.m. appointment with her consulate on the morning of the photo shoot — and thus not need to make a big scene of asking where Fatima was? Maybe they kept it a secret from the judges’ panel for dramatic effect, but it just made Tyra look lazy. Like she’s phoning this season in.

In the end, it turned out that all Tyra’s tough talk to Fatima meant nothing: Even though Fatima had no new photo for them to judge, the panel thought she had more potential than Stacy-Ann, and they sent the sing-song sweetheart — whom they considered to be a poseur at the party and a poser during her shoot — back to Miami. Tyra thought Stacy-Ann’s ”best photo” had the wrong angle for her severe jawline. To which I say, Then why didn’t you pick another photo, Tyra? All the girls were in every frame shot, so you should’ve had plenty of photos to choose from.

In other news from the panel, the judges once again swooned over Lauren’s picture. Yes, her legs looked amazing, but her face just looked pissed off. Pissed off is the only expression Lauren has on film, and it’s beginning to bore me. Much like the judges ol’ Dominique-is-a-drag-queen joke. Enough already! She looked gorgeous in that photograph. She found a great angle (or great makeup artist) for her face, and you all need to recognize. I love that Mr. Jay stood up for Dominique, saying that she’s a girl he’s seen improve week to week. Of course, sharp-tongued Paulina responded, ”But what is there to improve in the first place?”

I can’t decide who the panel was hardest on this week. They took aim at Whitney, and called her a Miss America contestant — not a model. ”Do you know any models that talk like this?” Tyra asked, with a fake smile and wide vacant eyes. ”’And I want to save the world, and the Iraq.”’ (I think we should all refer to it as ”The Iraq” from now on.) Paulina suggested that Whitney and Lauren learn from each other: Whitney needs to rein herself in, while Lauren ”needs a little bit more of the ‘Okay, I can walk”’ confidence. Oh, Paulina. I love to watch the models’ faces when they think you’re going to say something nice about them and then, you don’t.

So, here are a few parting questions of my own:

· What was this episode’s cruelest moment? Could it have been Tyra rubbing it in the models’ faces that they’d be flying coach to Rome while she and the other judges would be flying on the private plane that the girls had been staring at all day?

· Do you have a read on Katarzyna yet? I feel like we’ve seen no footage of this girl. Is that because she’s THE most boring person on the planet, or because everyone else has just been that bats— crazy this season? When Katarzyna said that she’d try to channel someone who thinks she’s better than everyone else for her photo shoot, Nigel said, ”You do that very well and very naturally.” What has he seen that we haven’t?

· Was Fatima’s body of work stronger than Stacy-Ann’s? I suppose so, though that just makes her Queen S— of Turd Island, in my opinion.

· How do you feel about The CW selling Dominique out in that promo for its new reality show, Farmer Wants a Wife? ”If you love to hate Top Model‘s Dominique this season, you’ll really love Farmer Wants a Wife‘s Josie!”

· Should Lauren stop saying ”I cut my thumb off”? She sliced through her thumb nail while chopping an onion for potato pancakes. Okay, maybe she lost the tip of her thumb. But still, big difference.

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Trya Banks
America's Next Top Model

Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel

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