ANTM2, Ep. 1 Recap: All About Eve's Dirty Dozen
My first time watching Tyra Banks’ pet project, America’s Next Top Model, I am struck by how much it has in common with the classic World War II film, The Dirty Dozen. It might sound absurd at first, but what are you left with once you strip away the makeup, the fancy clothing, and the glamour? The story of one tough-as-nails leader whipping a unit of twelve ragtag characters into fighting shape and sending them into a battle from which not everyone gets out alive. In this case, just substitute “fashionista” for “fascist leader”. Oh, and add cleavage. But make no mistake, the war fought by Tyra’s Dirty Dozen for the title of Top Model is no less brutal or shudder-inducing. Who knew that an industry based on beauty could get so ugly?
Putting the Tyra in Tyrant
Did I happen to mention that the creator and producer and star and featured product placement and alpha and omega of this show is Tyra Banks? Lest we forget for a moment who the real Top Model is around here, the show begins with a photo montage of Tyra, displaying her evolution from splotchy prepubescent to Sport’s Illustrated supermodel. She barks out in drill sergeant tones about the “hard work, talent, and passion” it takes to become a top model and “I worked my butt off to make it to the top in the modeling industry so I know exactly what it takes to make a star”. Now don’t get me wrong, I loves me some Tyra, but c’mon already! There is a brief mention of last season’s winner, Adrianne, but Tyra mentions that this business moves fast, and she has gone on to select twelve new finalists of diverse sizes, styles, ethnicities, and origins from a nationwide search for the freshest faces of fashion.
Down the Road We’ve Just Begun
We meet our haute hopefuls on the “mean streets” of Manhattan, as they wander with suitcases in tow. They gather on their assigned street corners in small groups to get picked up; the first being Catie Anderson (18, and a stripper—no the electrical kind--from Willmar, Minn.), Xiomara Frans (25, a bartender from Morganville, N.J.), and Anna Bradfield (24, but going on 34 from the looks of it, and a housewife/mother from LaGrange, Ga.). They greet each other then perch on their suitcases like nervous little birds until a big “rock star bus,” as Xiomara describes it, pulls up to collect them. Right away, Anna mentions that she is a wife and a mother, which shocks Xiomara but mentions that she doesn’t believe being a mother and wife will hinder her career, and her husband is totally supportive.
The bus stops for another handful of girls: April Wilkner (23, an account executive from Miami Beach, Fla.), Camille McDonald (25, a student from Mamaroneck, N.Y.), and Yoanna House (23, babysitter/clothing designer's assistant form Jacksonville, Fla.). April asks Catie with some incredulity, “You’re only 18?” Catie says that she left school early expressly so she could move to L.A. to pursue a career in modeling, explaining that “School will always be there” whereas modeling may not. April explains that she manages accounts for Fortune 500 companies and is merely trying out the modeling thing “for fun”. When Xiomara asks Yoanna what brought her to New York, she answers that she has always wanted to be model but was overweight so she hired a personal trainer and dropped 50 pounds. Xiomara expresses that she is already starting to feel “different” from all the other girls, that she was never thought of as pretty, and her goal is to become an “alternative” sort of model.
Bouncing down the sidewalk is Bethany Harrison (22, a waitress from Houston), who says that people often try to pigeonhole her into “swimsuit modeling” on account of her blonde bustiness. “I have a lot more talent than the boobs,” she claims, although every single shot of her so far shows her thrusting her chest out. The next person we see couldn’t be more of a contrast, a wan and chestless beanpole in glasses named Shandi Sullivan (21, a Walgreen's clerk from Kansas City, Mo.). Her interview reveals that she would like to start feeling better about herself—and there’s nothing like superficial scrutiny by strangers on national television to help out your self-esteem, right? Shandi walks up to Bethany and Sara Racey-Tabrizi (22, a restaurant hostess from Seattle) and introduces herself. We learn that Sara is half Persian, and her Iranian father disapproves of modeling, equating it to prostitution.
Camille finally weighs in with her story. She rattles off a list of beauty pageants she’s won (well, if 1st and 5th runners-up counts as “winning”) as the others look at her with masks of politeness barely concealing their disdain. Bethany, in deems Camille “very fake”—this from a woman who so far has met her fellow contestants with a smile but then excoriates them the second their backs are turned. Sara also expresses negative feelings toward Camille, saying, “I can tell that Camille is going to be somebody that causes a lot of problems. I think she just really believes that she’s…the stuff.”
Finally, the bus picks up the last of the finalists: Heather Blumberg (18, a customer service rep from Moreno Valley, Calif.), who describes herself as “young” and “fresh fish” (What company does she work for, Chicken of the Sea?); Jenascia Chakos (21, a waitress from Burien, Wash.), who is, at 5’6”, the shortest girl of the competition; and finally, Mercedes Scelba-Shorte (21, a waitress from Valencia, Calif.) who grew up the “rudest” girl in Jersey but who mellowed out and became “a better person” after moving with her family to California.
Walk Slow, Act Dumb and Look Stupid
The bus finally pulls up to the docks on Manhattans West Side. The girls look out the window, clearly confused to see military, fighter jets, and aircraft carriers. “Oh God, please don’t be military training,” moans Mercedes. “Are we going to live on a ship?” Heather ponders. “What the hell are we doing here,” Jenascia questions, “I hope it has something to do with food because I’m starving!” Two Marines welcome them to New York, and escort them up to the deck of the USS Intrepid, which “saw a lot of action in World War II” and will now serve as the runway in their first challenge.
Tyra Banks greets the girls, wearing a sort of couture flight suit, and introduces the would-be models to runway trainer, J. Alexander, whose motto is “Walk like it’s for sale and the rent is due tonight.” Tyra explains that she wants to see what runway skills they’ve got, so the girls will be doing a fashion show for hundreds of New York’s “finest” from the Fire Department and military. The girls appear stunned, and Jenascia expresses dismay that their activity does not involve any food. Tyra stresses “This is real, this is a competition. I’ma be watching you."
J. leads the girls to the tent where they will have 30 minutes to do their own hair and makeup, and put on their own clothes. They must follow signs that indicate how to style their hair and apply makeup, and also wardrobe order for their three outfits. J. stresses that it is critical that the girls remember their order. It is a frenzy of flying hair and garments as the girls rush to get ready for the runway. At 4 minutes, the girls are finishing up and starting to get lined up in their correct order. At 1 minute and a half, April discovers that she has on the completely wrong outfit, and in a panic she rushes back to change. April even starts to cry, “because I am so stressed that I managed to screw up within the first ten minutes of this competition.” Jenascia spots April in trouble, and in the first act of heroics in this ANTM war, Jenascia actually leaves her place in line to help April change into the correct outfit with less than 1 minute until showtime. “I’m really not that nice of a person,” Jenascia laughs, “I don’t know what’s come over me.” “The only thing keeping my knees from collapsing right now is the fact that Jenascia is at my side,” April admits, “I’m thinking I owe her.” Let this sink in a moment. With literally 1 second to go, April returns to the line.
It’s runway time and the girls go out and strut their stuff. Tyra points out some of the common mistakes of the rookie model over reaction shots of her wincing as she watches the show: wobbly footsteps in heels, for example, or the tendency for amateurs to throw too many poses out when they hit the end of the runway (Blue steel!). Some of the girls, like Heather, freely admit that they had never been on a runway before and so had no idea what they were doing. Shandi had never even worn heels before. Tyra says that some girls, however, think they are so “sexified” that they can just go out and strut and rule the catwalk. They show a shot of Camille, Miss 5th Runner Up of Whatever, who says, “I just got up and did my thing…my walk was calm yet sexy.” Tyra begs to differ, retorting “Super-wrong.”
Once it’s over, the girls are relieved, but hardly one minute passes before J. Alexander comes in tapping a pencil frantically on his clipboard, and announces, “Okay girls, so that was your first fashion experience, and personally I think you all sucked.” Ouch! Spare the rod, spoil the model, I guess. April thinks that J. is talking about her, and feels like a failure. But J. is talking to everyone, and he tells them they need to be open for change. Jenascia is the only one to stand up to J., saying, “There was some difficult stuff though, with all the buttons and belts and straps, oh my!” J. nods but offers no other consolation, except to hand them the key to their new digs and send them on their merry way down the yellow brick catwalk.
Tiptoe to the Tulip
The girls’ destination proves not to be Oz, but “The Red Tulip Building”. They receive a welcome note from Tyra that reads: “Welcome to your new crib. Go to the fourth floor. It’s a bling-bling, punk-funk, mod kind of world up in there. Stake your claim! Tyra.” It turns out that the letter refers to the different bedrooms with their own, um, unique style. The bling-bling room, for example, is covered with tacky sparkles and has a giant gold ghetto nameplate hanging on the wall announcing that it is, in fact, the bling-bling room (as if you couldn’t tell). The mod room looks, naturally, like Pucci vomited all over it. And the punk-funk room looks like they had a closeout sale at Hot Topic. What is up with these Reality TV shows and their interior design? Does having strangers cohabitate require loud, acid trip color schemes, and patterns that could cause seizures in children below a certain age? The only thing I like about the place is the runway flanked by cushions in the living room, which is not only genius, but done in tasteful jewel tones.
The girls gather in the dining room to partake in the All-You-Can-Eat Model Buffet that’s been laid out for them--yeah, I know, it’s a contradiction in terms. They start to squabble over the accommodations, and the girl most vocal about her needs is Camille, who goes on and on about how she can’t sleep on a thin mattress because it hurts her back, blah blah. Sara thinks, “I’m going to be living with a bunch of high-maintenance drama queens.” Bethany notices that Anna has already started cleaning, and says, “What a good mommy!” When she does, it does not sound like a compliment. Catie thinks Anna is sweet and that her being a mom is “inspiring,” however, there’s something a little sad about watching the only plus-size, childbearing model shuffling around the kitchen, filling the dishwasher by herself. If she is not eliminated tonight, she will become these snobby bitches’ handmaiden! Also, Xiomara embraces Anna and tells her, “You’re my mama,” which I know is supposed to be touching, but just comes off as disturbing. Before bed, Anna calls her son to say goodnight and this is when we’re all go “Aw” in unison.
Tyra visits the girls at the apartment the next day for a pep talk, which starts by informing them, “I hand selected each and every one of you.” Like Juan Valdez picks coffee? It amazes me how Tyra makes it seem like she’s put this whole show together by herself. I expect any moment that she’ll pop out from behind the camera and say “I chose this camera angle myself,” or “I sliced the cold cuts for your model buffet by hand, myself!” When Tyra tells them that “Y’all fly” I want to point out that there is no verb in that sentence (C’mon now, an edumacated lady would say “Y’all are fly.”). She gives them the “live, breathe, and eat this” party line, while the girls nod like bobble-head dolls, then says that although every week someone will go home, “I have love for everybody”. She passes out necklaces that she, Tyra Banks, yes, designed herself. They’re ugly and appear to spell “TY” (what, no room for the “RA”?).
The girls head off for dinner at Manhattan’s famed Tavern on the Green. Camille goes on about how classy the place is and how hard it is to get reservations there, but says that the behavior of her comrades left much to be desired. This time I have to side with Miss High Maintenance, because I too am appalled to watch as Yoanna and Catie steal toilet paper, shoving several big rolls in their bags in full view at the table. We also see Bethany laughing with a mouthful of bread, her head thrown back like a hyena, and Shandi with her elbows up on the table, a huge lump of food in her cheek like a hamster hoarding seeds in there, and wiping her nose with a bare hand. Blech. Unlike Camille, I don’t take issue with how much butter they use on the bread. “Maybe I’m just a little more, um, educated than some of these girls,” Camille sniffs.
After dinner, TyraMail arrives at the table and April reads that they will have their first photo shoot tomorrow morning and must be ready at 6am. “I will totally make sure that I will wake every one of you up,” April says, unequivocally. Let that sink in a moment. Jenascia describes April as “the definition of nice. She’s that sweet of a person.” You know this is not going anywhere pleasant.
I Love the Smell of Judas in the Morning
The next time we see the girls, it is morning and the alarm clocks are buzzing them at 5:10. The girls rush around, getting dresses, putting contacts on, having breakfast. Bethany says that everything went so fast, what with twelve girls taking showers, doing their hair, et cetera, that “nobody’s paying attention to who’s here and who’s not.” I’m sorry, it’s not actually twelve girls getting ready, because Jenascia has not woken up and is still fast asleep in bed.
We watch the other eleven as they file out the door to the van, intercut with shots of Jenascia in bed with ominous music. But wait—April stops before getting into the car and asks “Where’s Jenascia?” Surely she will save the day and go back to wake up her good friend Jenascia (insert floaty head flashbacks saying “I owe her” and “I will totally make sure that I will wake every one of you up” here)…? “If I go upstairs are you guys going to make sure they don’t leave without me? Probably not, right?” April asks. The rest of the girls roll their eyes and don’t offer any help. April gets in the car, claiming, “I am not able to help her out and get her in that van without jeopardizing every single other person’s ability to get to the shoot.” She does look extremely pained as the van pulls away, and wipes a tear from her eye as she recalls the way Jenascia helped her out of a bind the first day. Mercedes deems it “survival of the fittest,” reasoning “Jenascia didn’t wake up, that’s her own damn fault…we can’t baby sit everybody else.” You want cooperation, not competition? Then watch Starting Over, you PollyAnna, because you won’t find any of that here!
The Twelve Faces of Eve
The girls report to Industria studios where they meet hot, I mean hunky honey hot, photographer Nigel Barker, who informs them that they will be shooting an ad for colored contact lenses, and the theme of their first photo assignment is “Garden of Eden.” You know what that means…NEKKIDNESS. Each girl has had a different Eve “costume” custom-designed for them individually, i.e. Winter Eve, Evening Eve, Floral Eve, Asian Eve, etc. Of course, the catch is that the costumes consist of mostly body paint, jewels, and, well, body paint. Catch number two is that for the photos they will be accompanied by a totally buff and in-the-buff Adam. Some people have no qualms about the project, like Xiomara who yells, “Bring it on!” Anna, however, feels it’s “not ladylike” and balks at her Eve of the Sea costume (pity, as it looks like one of the prettiest). "I do feel that I represent the moms and the wives of the U.S., I guess like a role model," Anna says, "and I do accept that responsibility." Well, as anyone from Tatiana Patitz to Paris Hilton can tell you, supermodels do not role models make, the converse of which is also true. Backing out of this assignment could cost Anna big time.
Nigel finally notices that there are only eleven girls present. Finally the photo shoot producer thinks to call the apartment, but Jenascia is fast asleep and misses the first call. The producers ask the girls what happened as they get made-up, asking things like if Jenascia was even breathing, and how come no one thought to wake her up, and all the girls offer lame excuses with some resenting the interrogation. Sara haughtily insists that just because she is Jenascia’s roommate doesn’t make Jenascia her responsibility, and Bethany scoffs, “I didn’t know I had to play Mom today.” Nearly two hours after her call-time, Jenascia finally wakes up to the ringing of the phone in the empty apartment. It just occurs to me that there has been a cameraman on her this entire time, taping her sleeping and even he didn’t bother to wake her up. Creepy. Anyway, she races to the phone and answers it, crying and distraught. The producer tells her she needs to get herself together pronto, and make her way to the shoot as fast as possible. “[BLEEP]ing bitches!” Jenascia spits, hanging up. We watch her race through the streets of New York in search of a cab.
The bitches, meanwhile, are getting airbrushed, glued, styled, and draped, and they are beginning to look quite ravishing. I just hope it’s a comfy temp for the girls in there. In a moment, there’s no need for a heater, as the mercury rises when the hunky Adams stride in wearing only leeeetle black shorts. The models are Mike Randy, AJ and Ian Jones, and soon, we learn, they will be dropping their teeny trou to pose with our girls, many of whom seem both pleased and freaked out with the attractiveness of their Adams.
The shoot begins, and Ian/Adam strips down in front of Sara, gorgeous in metallic silver , who can’t keep a nervous laugh from escaping. Nigel says that although Sara seemed a little scared, he’d like to see more from her. Nigel feels that Bethany, who ends up looking like a mirrored troll doll, needs to work on her movement, but her “exhibitionist” qualities are a plus (read: let the boobies do the work). April looks absolutely stunning as the Asian Eve, and Nigel agrees, “Her face is fantastic, her body is fantastic…my goodness me, that’s exactly what I’m looking for.”
Just at this moment, April’s best friend Jenascia bursts through the door, and all the girls shoot her tense looks, including April, still perched butt-nekkid on a log in the Garden of Eden. Jenascia meets Nigel, then breaks down in front of him. “I was so naïve to think that the other girls where actually going to help me out even though I had helped some of them out,” Jenascia sobs, “Like with April…she should be kissing the [bleep]ing ground that I walk on right now.” He gives her a consoling hug, but tells her she needs to “let that go” and deal. “Right now,” Nigel says, “What would be more of a problem for me is not the fact that you’re late, but that you’re upset.” “Bitches!” Jenascia declares one last time. Nigel has since gone back to work, explaining that they have a long day ahead of them, and there are more things to do other than worry about one person’s problem.
Xiomara is in the Garden of Eden next, and I’m sorry but lady looks like a dude. She’s a man, baby! Catie is clearly female, and painted up like a Renaissance cherub. She describes her Heavenly Eve as “basically a painting of the fifteenth chapel on me.” SISTINE! Michelangelo, if he’s tuned into UPN, must be turning in his grave. Camille must be “El Pollo Loco Eve” because she is painted up like a crazy chicken. It is at this point that Anna, who is sitting out the shoot in a robe on the sidelines, comments: “I saw these girls…their coochie was showing, their breasts were hanging out and nipples showing, and plus the male model is down there, you know, where your private party is.” Anna cries and tells Yohanca Cepeda, the make-up artist, who looks very warm and understanding, that she can’t do this because she wants to keep her “private party” special for her husband. It’s such a sad moment, and the angel in me feels so bad for poor Anna, but the devil in me is laughing so hard that the bladder in the devil in me wets the devil’s pants. Nigel tries to accommodate her, but when Anna still refuses to participate, Nigel asks her to leave the set.
In contrast Heather remarks “I don’t mind a really hot photographer looking at my body.” As the Floral Eve, she looks really cute and sweet, but Nigel dismisses her look as “very California” (read: generic blonde). Mercedes has trouble taking direction, a pity since she looks quite exotic in Egyptian style garb. Shandi, according to Nigel, doesn’t realize what a beautiful girl she is, and needs to learn to be aware of herself. Nigel says “Yoanna’s face is fantastic but her body needs a little work.” I look at her naked body and I have no idea what he’s taking about, since she looks perfect as far as I can tell. And then I stop my VCR so I can go to the kitchen for a piece of chocolate pound cake with vanilla fudge ice cream on top.
They’re finally done with Jenacsia’s costume, and she really does look amazing as a scarlet cupid. “I was a little bit teary all day, and all I could think was: ‘Those Bitches’,” Jenascia confesses over a shot of April. “You’ve got a beautiful body, play with it,” Nigel instructs Jenascia, “Real attitude-y, like BOOM.” The rest of the girls watch in curiousity as Jenascia gets shot. Xiomara criticizes Jenascia’s movement, saying “You don’t want a photographer to have to direct you.” After it’s all over, Jenascia, still crying, declares war: “I don’t know why they didn’t wake me up this morning, but if this doesn’t get me eliminated, it’s on. IT IS SO [BLEEP]ING ON!”
Bye Bye Miss American Pie
Elimination looms large in front of the girls. Shandi, and even Jenascia herself, speculate that Jenascia’s Big Sleep will cost her dearly come elimination time. Everyone finally gathers in the judging room, which is decorated with the same taste and refinement as the rest of the sets—with it’s crushed velvet drapery and gilded accents, this must be in 18th century French Whore Style. Tyra introduces her fellow judges (just don’t forget that Tyra is the one in charge here). Janice Dickinson is introduced by Tyra as the “first supermodel”—from what period? When Homo Habilis split off from A. Africanus? The slightly elfin Eric Nicholson, the senior fashion editor of Jane Magazine, waves a feyly at the girls. The fourth judge is a surprise: Nigel, the foxy photographer, is a permanent member of Tyra’s panel. Some of the girls look pleased, except for Jenascia, whose eyes widen in fear. Tyra tells the girls that the winner of the competition will receive a contract with IMG models, one of the world’s top management companies (they manage Tyra as well), a cosmetics campaign with my favorite cosmetics company in the world, Sephora, and a spread in Jane magazine. Tyra tells them that they will be judged on the following factors: their “natural talent” (i.e. the looks they came in with), their potential, personality, ability to be versatile, and finally, performance in photo shoots.
The private evals start with Xiomara, and they all watch her video from the fashion show. Nigel tells her that her “eyes weren’t connecting”—a nice way to say the terror in her eys made her look like someone was running after her with a chainsaw. They look at her best shot from the Eden shoot, and Xiomara exclaims, “I am so hot!” Janice begs to differ, calling it an “amputee shot” because the way Xiomara posed made it appear as if she only had one arm. April is next, and Tyra tells her that her walk is “okay” but she hasn’t a clue what to do at the end of the runway. But everyone is pleased with her Eve shot, even the hard-to-please Janice who describe April’s face as “flawless” and only advises April not to pose in a way that shortens her legs. Nigel tells Catie her walk is stiff, and Eric observes that she looks uncomfortable in her photo. Sara is too bouncy on the catwalk, but they like her boldness as the only Eve who touched her Adam during the shoot. Yoanna has a funky horse step on the runway, but they love her face in the photos. Janice tells her that she “has a classic face, made for beauty.” Miss Thing, Camille looks like she’s going to growl when Janice tells her to lighten up her walk, and Tyra wants more “pow” in the “booty” next time they shoot pictures.
Then Anna comes in. They discuss her being the only “Plus Size” model here, and she answers that she’s sure of herself, so it’s fine. Evaluating her walk, the judges remark that she looks more “beauty queen” than high fashion. Then comes the tough question; Tyra wants to know why there’s no picture for her. When Anna answers that she didn’t feel it was “ladylike” for her to do, Janice lays her head down on the table in frustration before asking if Anna;s reservations are religious in nature. “It’s not so much religion, I’m just trying to be Christ-like.” Okely-dokely, like that makes a whole lot of sense. Mercedes rates herself a 10 in the walk department; Nigel bursts her bubble by telling her to tone it down. Everyone loves the picture though, even Janice, who describes face, pose, everything as “knock out”. Tyra tells Heather that she is “borderline Plus-Size” and might want to either gain or lose a little weight to fit in a particular market (I know what I’d choose, I say scooping another bite of pound cake and ice cream into my mouth). Heather does not appear happy to hear this. Shandi is busted for looking at her feet the whole time on the runway, but everyone loves her photo—even Shandi who is excited to see she has a butt on her asparagus stalk body. Nigel tells her she’s stunning in the photo but needs help in the everyday wardrobe department. “College student,” Janice says, agreeing. She needs to make more of a statement with her regular clothes. Bethany needs work with her walk, but Eric says “I’m not sure about the boobs.” I don’t think Eric looks like he’s a boob man, anyway, but Tyra explains to Bethany that she needs to watch her poses or it will “take her away from fashion and more into that girly mag type of thing”. See you in Hustler, Bethany! And finally, Jenascia comes in. Tyra suggests she move less when she walks, and Janice laughs, screaming “You vogued!” Nigel says that Jenascia only offered hard looks during the shoot, and like to see more gentleness, then he finally broaches the topic of her lateness. Janice says that in order to compensate for her shortness, she has to punctual.
The judges deliberate, and they finally bring the girls in. Tyra hands out photos to the girls who will be staying, andi t’s no surprise that everyone’s name is called except for Anna and Jenascia. Tyra gives them both little speeches. To Anna, she mentions that while it’s unfortunate she decided not to participate in the photo shoot, the judges respect her decision as a wife and mother. To Jenascia, Tyra says she has to learn to depend on herself, because while the girls could easily have shaken her awake, everyone is ultimately out for themselves in this competition. Whomever Tyra does not call must immediately pack and leave PARADISE FOREVER! (Sorry, wrong show.)
Tyra calls out…Jenascia’s name, and says she is still in the running for “America’s Next Top On Time Model.” Anna turns away, but not without thanking Tyra and having someone call out, “Bye Mommy!”. And that’s it for the premiere of America’s Next Top Model. Thanks for hanging in there with me, and IT’S ON, PEOPLE. Oh yeah, IT’S [BLEEP]ING ON!!!
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. Questions or comments? Contact the author of this recap at snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com.