America’s Next Top Model: The Possibility of Unperceived Existence

0_LauraNicWoods1118So it’s happened again, another cycle of ANTM has come and gone, like the seasonal flu. Betcha  thought I wasn’t going to get around to recapping this thing. To be honest, I had my doubts too, but I’m determined to drag out the hammer and put the final nails in this “petite” sized coffin.

Let’s face it, this season was pretty meh. Tyra may have tossed little people in the mix to liven things up, but she also managed to remove a lot of the drama. I like both of the finalists, yet I can’t say I really care who wins, partly because, much like the Governership of California, I’m not really sure this is a contest worth winning.

At least the contestants still think it’s worth being anointed by Tyra. Most of the episode is devoted to their appreciation of how Tyra and her magical show has changed their lives. Laura dreams of saving her kinfolk from a life of squirrel eating out in rural Kentucky. Perhaps they can add reality show television to the stimulus funding; it seems to be how our nation’s youth dreams of lifting itself out of poverty. College and book learnin’ dosn’t seem to be doing the trick.

Nicole, in turn, credits Tyra with breaking her out of her depressive shell. Once too shy to speak in front of class, now, thanks to Tyra, she’s fondled acrobats, played a Japanese-Malagasy, and smized on national television.  Please let this be the end of your loosened inhibitions, Nicole. I’d hate to see you turn up on Rock of Love 12: The Herpocalypse.

All this self revelation takes place as Nicole and Laura cavort around the enormous, empty mansion. It’s like Home Alone with models. In the hot tub, Nicole admits Laura was the first girl she related to, while Laura confesses she thought Nicole was snotty, on account of her big city words and ability to operate parking meters. Just kiss already, you two.


The penultimate Tyra mail, thank Jebus. I know that damn safe will be back to haunt me next cycle though. It reads, “If a model falls in the forest, will anybody hear it?” A more or less complete mangling of the thought question “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”  and its corollary “If Tyra talks about herself and no one listens, does she cease to exist?”


“Does a model shit in the woods?”

It’s the Cover Girl commercial! They’ve received the scripts along with the mangled philosophy vis-á-vis forests and sound. Nicole immediately senses an advantage over poor, dyslexic Laura. Little does she know, the commercial involves horse castration. Advantage Laura.

The girls tumble into the huge van, specially outfitted with child seats for the midget season, and journey deep into the Hawaiian woods. A forest elf greets the travelers.


Nicole tackels the elf and holds him down while Laura forces him to divulge where he hides his pot o’gold.  I kid, it’s Jay Manuel and his pea coat made from actual peas. And look! Who that hiding behind a tree? It’s what’s-her-name, the winner from last cycle! (She really was hiding behind a tree.)


“Hi! I’m not dead!”

Jay announces they’ll be shooting both the commercial and the WalMart ad in some sort of complex sequence, probably because they’ve only rented to forest for an hour, in between the Jankowitz-Patel Wedding and the Maui Druid Society Annual Sacrifice and Marshmallow Roast. Teyona does her best to hawk the latest CoverGirl marketing disaster, EyeGouge or LashRash or whatever it is. There’s a good five minutes of her circulating around the make-up area like a sales woman on commission. Hang in there, Teyona, you’re almost free! You just need to trick another into taking your place!


Continuing this cycle’s cheapskate theme, Nigel returns to shoot the Walmart ad. And in yet another cost-saving measure, a park ranger directs the commercial.


But let’s get to the filming. Laura goes first (while Nicole does her shoot with Nigel – time is money, people!). Will the tortured prose excreted by the CoverGirl copywriters defeat her? Almost. She stumbles at first, possibly because “Lash Blast” is a stupendously bad name for a product, but she pulls herself together, heartened by the thought of buying Wanda Sue an electric sewing machine to replace the wood-burning one.

While Laura struggles with reading because of her dyslexia, Nicole’s handicap is far more deadly, model-wise. She seems smart. Oh no! No one wants to be like the smart girl! We all remember the debacle of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg BlushFlusher campaign. Jay worries that Nicole sounds like she doesn’t take the product seriously. This of course, just makes me like Nicole more. No one should take “Lash Blast” seriously. The number of takes mount up, ominously. Eventually someone must have lobotomized Nicole, because they got the appropriate level of air-headedness the product requires.


During the photo shoot, Nigel chokes out a couple “smile with your eyes” but to his credit, refuses to say “smizing.” Stay strong, Nigel. The English language is depending on you. Nicole, as usual, performs very well, and as a reward gets an awkward hug from Nigel. Nigel is less enthused about Laura, mostly because when he asked her what she thought about to produce the needed happy emotion for the shoot, she replied “milkshake.” The proper answer, apparently, was “Nigel” or even “Tyra.” Sorry, Nigel, but sometimes a gal just really wants a milkshake, you know?


“Milkshakes …. puppies … castration … “

Afterwards the girls return to the house. Teyona returns to her post behind the tree, jumping out at hikers, screeching “Lash Blast! Laaaaaasssssh Blaaaaasssssssst!” The hikers awaken hours later, naked, confused, and covered in an array of poorly marketed cosmetics.

Over at the mansion, Ann Shoket stops by to supervise the cover shoot, where “cover” means the inside flap of Seventeen. The actual cover will be of someone capable of shunting a few more dollars into magazine’s dying veins. Like maybe that Kristen Stewart. Mormon sparkle vamps are so hot right now. They’ll do the not-cover shoot right there in the house. Jebus, they really are spending zero money. Either that or the girls are under some sort of house arrest. Quarantine? I can rule none of these things out.


“Just stay here. There’s nothing to see in Hawaii, trust me. Might as well stay in and watch TV.”

Photographer Gilles Bensimon, best known as having once been married to the ball of crazy that is Kelly Bensimon, will shoot the photo. You know, having seen the depths of insanity to which this man was willing to be joined in holy matrimony, his friendship with Tyra is much more understandable. Tyra’s a stable genius compared to Kelly.

But I digress. There’s another boring photoshoot, where the girls are dressed in supremely ugly outfits. They can be consoled by the fact few people will see them, as the actual cover will probably be Heidi Montag. Or they can weep for humanity. A little from column A and a little from column B, I suppose.


Laura is wearing a tube top over a tank top, paired with long, fingerless pink gloves, and a necklace that looks suspiciously like bottlecaps.

After the shoot, the girls rattle about the mansion, practice their walks, and try to remember what life on the outside was like. Nicole tries to build a radio out of coconuts and palm leaves, before realizing that only worked on Gilligan’s Island. Laura manages to capture a bird and ties a help message to its legs. Sadly, her dyslexia caused her to write “Save styra foam” instead of “Save us from Tyra” and is interpreted by it’s finder as campaign to stop littering.

But wait, help has arrived! Not that they get to leave, or anything. Tyra arrives to help them get all the admiration they have for Tyra off their chest. She’s giving like that. They’ve been dying to let Tyra know how much she’s helped them, nay, all dwarf models, nay, all of humanity. Naturally Tyra beats them to the punch, immediately bringing up how groundbreaking it is to have “petite” models like 5’7 Nicole.

Besides the Tyra adulation, it’s a chance for the girls to share their pain and feed Tyra’s Oprah fantasies. By the way, how psyched is Tyra that Oprah announced her retirement? Anyway, Nicole confesses that she used to eat her lunch in the bathroom to avoid other students. And now, Tyra points out, she’s a finalist! Psychological problems solved! She can join the legions of other reality show contestants reveling in their newfound mental stability.

Laura, of course, discusses how trapped she felt in rural Kentucky. Before the show she thought models came from outer space! At least that’s what Uncle Cletus kept saying. She’s starting to suspect his story about being taken on board the mothership and forced to have sex with Heidi Klum wasn’t true. And the thing he gave Aunt Brandine wasn’t astro-syphilis, after all. Tyra assures Laura she’s beautiful on the inside too.


“You’re at least 5’10 on the inside.”

Finally, the girls tunnel out of the house, flag down a passing driver and escape. It’s the runway show! All the girls who made it to Hawaii have stuck around to walk in the show. Genius! They save on models, and can keep the group rate for the return flight. Inexplicably, Eddie Murphy’s daughter is also walking, although she is not a model. Product placement?


Paths to a Modeling Job: 1) Hard work and good looks 2) Reality show contest 3) Famous parents

All the models are coated in glitter (I blame you for this, Twilight sparklevamps) and given horrible dresses. But no runway show is complete without a ludicrous theme. Rob forbid models should just walk down the runway and show the clothes. This show’s theme is the elements: fire, wind, and water. Sorry earth, they’ve been over you since the half-assed green cycle.


Feel the excitement

They’ve really gone all out for this show. They’ve borrowed the paper mâché volcano the Lokelani Middle School used for their spring dance. Miss J has broken down and worn the grass skirt he’s been dying to put on since they got there. Tyra is wearing a one-sleeved muumuu. Actually, if she paired that dress with a turban, it would be awesome in a Norma-Desmond-goes-on-vacation kind of way. Oh, and Eddie Murphy takes a break from whatever it is Eddie Murphy does these days to watch his daughter capitalize on being the fruit of his loins.

So anyway, I suppose we have to talk about the show. As I mentioned the dresses are hideous, even by this show’s standards. Nicole in particular gets a weird disco-victorian dress whose only connection to the element of fire is that flames may be the kindest fate for that travesty. Nicole’s walk is similarly terrible and blundering. Her shoulders swing like she’s aiming to punch you in the face once she reaches the end of the runway. Perhaps the designer.


Laura’s walk is much better, although her arms are quite stiff. She’s decked out in a nude-covered slip to which some intern starting gluing aluminum foil scraps only to give up halfway through.


After fire, the models dash backstage to get reshellaced with glitter and prepare for wind. Continuing their stunning display of literalism, the wind segment had, naturally, wind. If that’s not enough, the models have to stride out covered in sheer fabric, before dramatically removing it at the end of the runway. Besides hammering home the wind theme harder than a carpenter on steroids, the scarf provides other potential benefits: (1) it blinds the models, raising the potential for model collisions; (2) potential entanglement of the model during removal at the end of the runway; (3) it hides the ugly clothes. Sadly, only the last benefit actually appears, and only until the models take the covering off.


Having successfully completed wind, the models change for water. Is there any doubt it will involve actual water? At least they get to wear bathing suits. Wouldn’t want to ruin those awesome dresses! Instead they all wear identical, cheap bikinis that were clearly purchased in bulk, and clumsily draped with sheer fabric. It’s obviously not part of the line and just an opportunity to cram the models awkwardly together under a shower.


After backstage hugs from Tyra, Nicole and Laura get to remove the glitter, but must wear their ugly dresses again for the final judging. At least it give me a better screencap of the fugliness.


See what I mean? At least they finally get to wear heels, just like real, grown-up models. The judges are surprisingly kind to Nicole about her walk. While they think it’s lumbering, they also agree that it’s “signature.” Isn’t that the kind of wrong-headed thinking they spend time beating out of the girls? Miss J is surprisingly silent on the subject, or maybe he popped a shirt-sleeve. Laura receives better marks.

I won’t spend time on the old pics that the judges waded through. I was sorely tempted to fast-forward through the whole section, especially since Tyra once again says crazy things about looking tall, by which she means thin.

FINALLY, we get to the commercials. The actual, editied commercial composed of a million jump cuts and a squajillion takes, is actually quite cute. And it will never be seen again. Oh, what the hell, here it is.

They are not quite so smooth in their best takes. Laura seems very nervous, perhaps appropriately so, since she’s dealing with a product whose name suggests it will blow-up in her eye. Nigel complains he can’t understand her accent, the elitist bastard. Laura confesses she hasn’t understood a word Nigel’s said all season. They love her photo, calling it simple and clean. It’s nice, but not really a major ad-campaign photo. More of an actress head shot photo.


Nicole’s best take is much better, and quite toothy. Given they’ve pardoned her awful runway walk, she’s cruising right into the win. If they were going to hand it to Nicole, they would have given her a far more bitchy edit. For Nicole’s photo, Tyra admires her ability to be relaxed but confident. I admire her ability to wear vast amounts of blush.


They wrap up with a lot of gushing about how wonderful the gals are. Nigel says they prived that “who you are is relevant” which, while I agree that who you are is relevant, I wouldn’t say they exactly proved. Was it in their ability to look tall-thin? I’m secretly hopeful that they’ll decide that two short models equals one tall model, and let them both win.

During deliberation, there’s some body-snarking as Miss J has issues with Laura’s proportions and Nigel has issues with Nicole’s, although I am not exactly clear why.

Nicole wins! This make me happy. Laura cries. They should let her castrate something as a consolation prize. They send her back to Kentucky where they can regale the folks with her strange tales of parking meters and towering puffy-sleeved ambiguously gendered runway coaches.


Nicole is whisked off to a photo shoot, set up in the hallway, as the studio rental runs out in an our, and they have to break down the set before they lose their deposit. Nigel snaps a few photos while Tyra smizes it up, sliently counting her millions.


Fun fact: Hawaii produces 88% of the US supply of static electricity.

Oh, and one more thing! You know the song they play during the weepy model exits at the end of the program? The one that goes “top moooodel, top moooodel” all autotuned to hell? Sure you do. Well here it is. The whole thing, just like you never wanted. I dare you to make it all the way to the end. I couldn’t. (There’s no real video, just the photo and the audio.)

So what did you think? Do you still care or remember? Did Tyra help you understand that short people aren’t monsters, they just look like them?

I’m torn about covering next cycle. Frankly, I was going to throw in the towel and cover something else, in my lazy, perpetually behind schedule way (suggestions?). On the other hand, it’s just so hard to quit what’s become a socio-anthropological study of Tyra’s brain. Plus, I have heard (spoilers!) that the next cycle will travel to New Zealand., which brings up the possibility of a Lord of the Rings themed shoot. So, should I stay or should I go?

brilliantmistake | 12.03.09 | Filed in America's Next Top Model,Recaps

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