Did you watch it last night? You know, the most important program on American television, that not only addresses the issues our entire country should care about, but whose outcome has the potential to cause repercussions that will be felt around the world? I don’t mean the President’s State of the Union Address, folks, I’m talking about UPN’s America’s Next Top Model. Let’s not kid ourselves, you’re here to read about the pretty, skinny ladies…So let’s just do this thing.
Who Let the Underdogs Out
The show opens with Jenascia, a.k.a. Miss Shorty, and Xiomara, Miss Alternative, bonding over a smoke on the sidewalk outside the Red Tulip Building. Jenascia recalls the close brush she had with elimination over her big sleep last week, and says, “I don’t want to do that again, that wasn’t fun.”
You know what else isn’t fun? Being stuck on a long car ride where you are Camille’s captive audience. While some of the girls are cruising around in the model van and checking out the Manhattan sights, Camille, Miss It’s-All-About-Me, blathers on ceaselessly about either herself, things surrounding herself, things she has done, or thoughts she has, which appear to be mostly about herself and the things she has done. All the girls in the van appear to be enervated by Camille’s non-stop ego-thon, and no two are more annoyed than Bethany, Miss Tits (who, when she’s not rolling her eyes, simply stares at Camille as if in disbelief that someone can be so self-centered), and Yoanna, Miss 45-pounds-lighter (sorry, couldn’t think of a good one for her).
Yoanna gets so fed up that she says she’d like some quiet time to meditate, and breaks out a beautiful crystal rosary. “Oh can I see your rosary?” Camille asks, obviously not understanding the concept of “quiet”. Over a shot of Yoanna clutching her rosary and appearing in deep thought, I can only imagine what it is she’s praying for, but it’s abundantly clear to all that getting Camille to keep her mouth shut would require an act of God. Yoanna admits in her personal interview that Camille is “the most exhausting experience I’ve ever encountered” and “I really don’t like Camille.” Bethany appears equally appalled, describing Camille as “high-maintenance” and saying that Camille is the opposite of the way she describes herself.
Back at the old homestead, Xiomara, who could also be called Miss Congeniality the way she bonds with others, is chatting with Shandi, Miss Plain and Tall, who is curiously wearing a t-shirt that says “Afro” on it. Shandi talks about the good friendship they’ve developed, and Xiomara has even made up a nickname for them: the “U.D.” Despite sounding vaguely like a birth control device, Xiomara explains that it stands for “underdogs,” “because Shandi and I are hanging out in the cut but when we come out and perform we’re gonna kick your behinds.” Shandi goes on to say that she didn’t come out all the way from “Misery/Missoura” to sit on her ass; she’s willing to make a change and do what it takes to make it.
The girls head over to, as April describes it, “a place of physical worship”—actually, the Waterfront Boxing Club where trainer Martin Snow will whip their skinny hineys into Eye of the Tiger shape. It seems fitting, nay portentous, that rather than bring the girls to a regular fitness club, the producers chose a place with a ring at the center, as if to say “Let’s get ready to rumble!”
Martin introduces himself to the girls and gives them a pep talk, which I would like to transcribe for you but cannot, as I couldn’t understand a single word he was saying. Why is it so many fighters talk as if they have marbles in their mouths? Got hit one too many times?
Jenascia, not looking particularly enthusiastic, mentions, “I never work out.” But before you know it, the gloves are on, and the girls are sweating it out, doing a killer workout. As we watch the girls squat, punch, and push-up, Martin says something about fighting and competition (again, I’d like to tell you what it was, but the man is just inscrutable) and Yoanna shares her own thoughts on competition, “You can win but you don’t have to do it in a mean or aggressive way.” Cut to various shots of the girls beating the bejesus out of their punching bags. As for Camille, she believes that in competition, “You can’t let weakness get to you.” Cut to a shot of Camille looking fierce with her gloves on.
Weigh-in time. You know this is going to be nothing nice (fun side game: compare the girls’ actual weights to their reported weights). Martin lines up the girls to get weighed and measured. Camille goes up first. We learn her hips are a 26, and Martin declares her weight to be 124 (uh huh, funny because in her bio she reports her weight as 112). Camille argues with him about where the mark is on the scale and he whistles as if to signal end of discussion and tells her to “Beat it” which is oddly satisfying to watch. Next up is Yoanna, who admits she’s nervous since she lost about 45 pounds in order to be in the competition. Her hips are 35 ½ but when she steps on the scale, she tries to push the marker away before anyone else sees her weight (it’s 138). Camille takes this opportunity to talk about she perceives as Yoanna’s insecurity, commenting “She makes a big deal about losing al this weight. It’s as if she doesn’t feel comfortable in her own skin.”
Speaking of skin—and bones—Shandi steps up. Her waist measures 25 ½ , chest is only 30, and she weighs a mere 106. Catie expresses with shock and dismay, “I thought I was incredibly thin until I saw Shandi.” MY GOD, EAT SOMETHING!!! Bethany comes up and declares that “I have some issues with my boobs.” When she turns out to be 132 lbs and 33 ½ in the chest, April says, incredulously, “There’s no way she’s a 33, I’m a thirty three,” pointing to her own less, well, abundant boobage. Bethany says she gets a lot of grief for being blonde with big boobs, “I’m okay with it, they’re not.”
Walking the Walk
Later, the girls go to a place called “The Show” where they will meet the inimitable J. Alexander to work on their runway skills. He comes out from behind a gilded curtain in, well, I’ll let Xiomara describe it, “this really strange woman’s body t-shirt” (really one of those novelty shirts with a woman’s body in a merrywidow, garters, and stocking silkscreened on the front and back) and nothing else, except a pair of spindly high heeled stilettos. Yoanna says that she loves J. because he has trained some of the best in the modeling industry, while others appear a little bit more shocked by his ensemble.
J. says he wants to show the girls how a real model walks, and out from behind the curtain comes Maggie Rizer, which excites the girls. Sara says, “I was like ‘This is real’. We are meeting, like, real supermodels now.” New item on deli menus everywhere: Tyra and Janice, chopped liver. Yoanna is impressed by Maggie’s “healthy physique”, citing that as evidence that “you don’t have to be a size negative zero to make it in this industry.”
And that makes a nice segue into Miss Negative Zero herself, Shandi, whom we see clomping out most ungainfully onto the runway in nothing more than a flesh-colored bodysuit. Quel horreur! She looks like a giraffe with Muscular Dystrophy. And to make it worse, when she turns around we see that she has a horrible, flabby ass. How can someone so skinny have such an awful, floppy, flabby ass? Heather comes out next in a gigantic ballgown which she trips on and does a full face plant on the runway. Jenascia comes out in formal gown too, but one that makes her appear 2 feet tall. J. let’s out an “Ooh, child” of frustration, and tells her to walk in the gown, not let the gown walk her. Xiomara is told by J. to have a little more of a strut. Mercedes comes out, the first one so far who actually looks good in her outfit and has a competent stride, but J. still tells her to “make it less modeling school, more current.”
Then they show a shot of Breasthany, I mean Bethany, walking down the runway, both breasts jostling inside her flesh bodysuit looking like two kittens playing in a potato sack. Xiomara notes that Bethany is more “voluptuous” than most models, and Bethany knows this, saying that she knows she does not have a “stick-thin figure” but then “neither does most of America.” April emerges, and J. observes that she has a timid little slide. When Catie comes out, J. remarks that he sees something natural in her that shows she really could be a model. All J. had to say about Sara is that “She looked like a fish,” as he impersonates her open mouthed expression.
Then Camille, “Miss Bling Bling” according to J. struts out with stone-cold confidence and nails it. J. says her walk would look “great” with some adjustment, then at the end of the runway, Camille zips open her jacket, and strikes a pose with her hip pushed out. J. is sent into a reverie, declaring, “Black girls always have to give that extra. I ain’t mad atcha.” In a later interview, Camille talks about her focus and determination, adding “Maybe Yoanna didn’t like that about me and maybe wished that she could be more comfortable in her skin as I am in mine.” Then we get to see Yoanna come out, walking awkwardly, arms planted stiffly at her side like she was auditioning for Riverdance. “Ooh,” J. says, laughing at Yoanna, “We are gonna fun.” Camille laughs too. J. tells Yoanna her walk is “as useless as a flashlight with no batteries in the dark” and then he imitates her gallop, neighing like a horse. Yoanna just listens quietly, feelings visibly hurt, while J. and the others, especially Camille, laugh at his impression.
They break for lunch. Camille sits with Sara on a couch, where Camille proceeds to talk about Yoanna, Yoanna’s walk, the way Yoanna reacted, things J. said about Yoanna. Sara just plays with her hair and says nothing as Camille jabbers away. She cites, in particular, a moment when Yoanna had witnessed Camille, J. and the girls talking then looking at her, deflating her ego and causing her to do her walk with her head “straight down to the floor”. “How does she expect to be America’s Next Top Model?” Camille asks, when Yoanna walks in. In a DTC interview, Yoanna says, “I’m one of those people that if someone has an issue or might be saying something about me, come to me and say it.”
Back at home in the Red Tulip Building, there is no boxing ring, but the fight has already begun. We see an argument between Yoanna and Camille in medias res in the bedroom hallway. Yoanna tells Camille that her attitude is getting old. Camille says, “If I have something to say to you, I will say it to your face.” (I guess by “your face” Camille means Sara’s, J.’s, or whomever is around.) Yoanna points out, “The last couple times that you’ve had things to say about me, you’ve never said it to my face. And when I have confronted you about it—” Camille interrupts, claiming she’s never said anything, and if she does have something to say, “Trust me, I will say it to your face. You have my word.”
They fight bitterly for a while, with the other girls looking on wearily. Yoanna says that Camille is negative and hard to deal with, and in turn Camille says that thing about how she’s comfortable in her own skin and Yoanna is probably envious of that. Later Camille is in bed, talking about Yoanna not to Yoanna’s face, as per her “word” but to her roommate, Catie. “I will not let someone disrespect me,” Camille says, as Catie listens patiently (but probably wishing she could go to sleep). “Don’t play me. You have a better chance playing Lotto,” Camille says angrily before finally settling into sleep. Jenascia says, “I’ve heard a lot of [bleep]-talking about Camille, and I believe there’s going to be a lot of drama in the house.” This is rich coming from the girl that overslept and declared “It’s on, bitches!” While we were waiting for Jenascia and April to combust, it turns out the match-up ended up being between two other girls. Catie, who seems really sweet, if a little naïve, says “I like Camille’s confidence.”
The next morning, their assignment is to meet with a top fashion designer, but they’re not told who. “When I think of fashion designers, I think of Wet Seal, Gap, and Express,” says poor, sweet, misguided, mall-cursed Catie. They need to start these girls off with a basic fashion primer, starting with the difference between couture and prêt-a-porter. The designer turns out to be Carmen Marc Valvo, whom they meet at his studio. Yoanna impresses me again with her knowledge of the industry, I want to hug her when she says that Valvo is “one of the top fashion designers in New York today. There’s such quality and detailing in his work, I’m so excited to be in his showroom.” Especially after Catie’s Wet Seal comment earlier (shudder).
They find out that their challenge is to do a runway walk-off, and the prize for the best model is an invitation to a cocktail party at Valvo’s home that night, where they will have the opportunity to hobnob with influential fashionistas. He tells them some of his celebrity clientele include Lucy Liu, Kim Catrall, and Vanessa Williams. He shows them the dresses he’s selected for them to model, adding that some may be short or long and “that happens”. The girls get dressed.
Yoanna is overwhelmed at simply meeting Valvo, expressing disbelief that someone she’s seen on television is right in front of her, and now she has a chance to go to a party at his house where she might be “discovered”. Sadly, before the challenge even begins, Valvo approaches her in front of all the girls and tells her very bluntly that she has too much makeup on. “If you came in for a casting, and you looked the way that you look, I probably wouldn’t even ask you to put on a dress. Usually ugly women put on a lot of makeup.” She braves the criticism, nodding politely, but you can tell she’s dying inside.
They go to a long hallway, where Valvo tells them their job is to “sell the dress”. Mercedes goes first, in a flattering burgundy gown, and does a competent job, though Valvo says there’s not enough stride. April does okay in a dark, bias-cut silk gown, but Valvo tells her that her right arm is “like a dead arm”. Shandi, looking skeletal in a black column dress, is “not comfortable in her own shoes,” according to Valvo, who says she needs to get over it.
It’s Camille’s turn, and she milks her moment in magenta silk bias-cut cocktail dress. Valvo is impressed with her walk, and says she has a “powerful presence”. Jenascia clomps out in an ill-fitting white lace gown, unfortunately the least flattering of all the outfits. Valvo tells Heather that her turn was “like a double axle on ice skates”. Yoanna wears a lovely red goddess gown, but is still walking stiffly, with unnaturally, unmoving arms. Valvo advises her to work on her confidence. Catie looks quite ravishing in a red beaded dress, and Valvo tells her, “Very good.” Xiomara looks like a killer cyborg, and Valvo calls Sara “a twirling dervish”. Bethany complains that her gown is too long, but Valvo says that she was able to carry the dress with grace, and looked good. Apropos of nothing, Bethany says, “I hope people stop looking at my tits and start looking at my talent here.” Maybe if you stopped constantly bringing them up, both literally and figuratively, people wouldn’t notice them as much!
Valvo shares his notes with the girls, and when he criticizes Camille for milking her photo op and her speed, she refuses to take responsibility for any of her mistakes, always blaming someone else. They told me to do this…The person that trained us told me to do that. Valvo remarks that he was flustered by Camille’s aggressiveness. The girls watch the train wreck and notice Camille’s inability to admit her mistakes. Mercedes says, “Just say ‘Okay, thank you.” Yoanna feels “embarrassed, because we’re guests in his showroom.” He tells everyone that he has selected Catie to be the winner because “she walked with such composure and grace that she had me convinced that she belonged on a runway.” Everyone applauds, and there’s even an “Aw” for Catie, who so far really does seem genuinely sweet. Then he tells her she can pick two friends to go with her, and she names Mercedes and…Camille! In an interview, Catie says she enjoys their company and they’re her roommates, so who better? Yoanna admits that she is not wild about the decision, concerned that Camille might try to steal Catie’s thunder.
Talk to the Hand
Yoanna decides to get all Howard Dean on Camille’s ass, and wages a vociferous campaign against her in the van. She tells the girls in the car, among them Catie, Sara, and Bethany, that “She’s sucking all of our energy out, so that we can be weak and confused and not know what’s going on just so that we can be so [bleep]ed in the head that when it’s time to perform, she’s messed with us. And she is so manipulative and so sneaky about it.” Catie, oh poor Miss Clueless, you just want to pat her on that little head of hers, says, “I’ve been oblivious that you guys don’t like her.” Where have you been, Catie, in your own personal Disneyland, with animated birds on your shoulders? “Are you serious,” Sara says, “Nobody here likes her.” Yoanna warns Catie, “You were the one he liked the way you walked, he saw grace in you, you don’t know if he’s going to book you for the next show, don’t let Miss Cruella DeVille take that away from you!”
Catie is disappointed to hear about this other Camille, that’s not the person she thought she was. Catie says if she could do it over again, she would change the people she chose. “I don’t want her to use me,” she says, to which Bethany replies, “She’s using everybody, and any means, and anything around her to get what she wants. She’s pretty but her attititude makes her…downright ugly.”
Back at home, there has been a delivery of Carmen Marc Valvo dresses for Catie, Camille, and Mercedes to wear to the party. Camille is holding the letter from Valvo that accompanied the dresses, and Catie reaches over to take it away, saying, “Hey I’m keeping this if you don’t mind.” But Camille does not let go of it, says something inaudible, and keeps on staring at it while a chorus of girls is saying, “You should keep it. It’s your letter.” Catie says, direct –to-camera, “Now when Camille does little things, I’m more aware of it.” Catie is troubled, and asks Mercedes if it is inappropriate for her to bring the things she’s heard to Camille’s attention. Speak of the she-devil, she comes up from behind, and somehow the discussion is turned into a house meeting.
Everyone’s up for it, especially Yoanna. Camille asks why they’re so excited for a house meeting, to which Yoanna relies “I like them. I think they bring warmth.” Friction does that, honey. They take out one of the hand sculptures from the Mod bedroom to use as a sort of “Talking Stick” so that whomever has the hand is the only one speaking. Catie goes up first and says again, “I have been oblivious…” That’s pretty much all she has to say. Before she’s even done, Camille’s raising her hand to speak. She takes the hand, and says, “Everyone takes issue with my character, my personality…whoever wants to stat talking about Camille go ahead.” Bethany goes up first, then Mercedes, Yoanna…they basically all go to town on Camille’s nasty attitude. During Yoanna’s turn, Camille tries to interrupt, and that’s where they got the teaser clip of a fed-up Yoanna yelling, “I’M NOT FINISHED! JUST WAIT.” Camille remains wholly unapologetic. Catie goes up and says that what spurred the meeting was concern that Camille would try to steal Catie’s glory when “Hello America, it was me that won the competition, and I wanna make it about me.” Camille narrows her eyes into two little slits while other girls applaud Catie. As discussions continue, and the hand goes around, I notice that Camille interrupts everyone, and is not respecting the power of the Hand! Finally, Jenascia takes the hand and tells everybody that she doesn’t need to hear all this drama, “Because I’m surfing the crimson waves here myself, and I have my own problems.” Amen, sister.
Catie, Camille, and Mercedes go to the party and have a fabu time with fabu people. Mercedes observes that Camille is “really, really good at networking; I mean really, really good.” We watch Camille work the room like a pro. Catie, looking like Sandra Dee, is just so gosh golly amazed to be there. Valvo presents a 10 diamond carat ring at the party, and tells Catie that she will be allowed to wear it for the party. Wow, that things is big enough to misalign your spine. She models it for everyone, beaming like a prom queen.
One on One
Tyra comes by the house to have one-on-one time with the girls. They all meet with her and discuss their concerns, such as Shandi’s trouble with her walk, Beth’s trouble with her super-sized hoots. Concerning Beth’s breasts, Tyra says that “this industry will be concerned with you, head to toe,” but she can pose differently, and she’s not the only model with those size breasts in the industry, but the way she poses emphasizes them. Bethany argues a bit, but Tyra says, “You’re here, you have to work in this world,” meaning she has to comply to industry standards. Camille, of course, brings up Yoanna, saying that now people perceive her as “two-faceded”. Yoanna, of course, brings up Camille. Tyra doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of advice for these two.
Far from the Madden Crowd
The next day the girls have a photo shoot, for which they must bring everything, clothes, makeup, etc., themselves. Tyra meets them at a studio with a man with hair bleached beyond platinum, to an almost steely grey. He looks like Spike’s shorter, squatter brother from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Jay Manuel has been Tyra’s makeup artist for years, and Jenascia remarks that “This guy is pretty. He’s almost prettier than me, and that’s a damn shame.” Jay says that he will be the art director for all their shoots and today’s challenge is that they will be doing everything themselves, to see how well they’ve connected with their personal style. The product is Steve Madden shoes, and the girls must pick a pair, select an outfit around that pair, style their own hair and makeup, have photos taken by photographer Che Graham, then pick what they feel is their best shot.
The girls run to the shoes, and of course Camille gets to them first and hogs three pairs of boots before some even have one. Mercedes goes up first, saying she was going for “that tough/cute look” and she succeeds. Heather looks boring. Camille looks…well, ridiculous, because, as Xiomara explains, “She was trying to do movement shots, and had as laughing” and I can see why. Every time Camille jumped in the air, she looked like a flying squirrel and would land would a horrible thud. And she did it over and over again. Yoanna goes out in a very frumpy outfit, but Jay and Che love her anyway, saying that she knows how to move and her bone structure is beautiful. Jenascia looks cute, but I don’t thinkher dress matched the blue boots, Sara looked very 80s, and Catie looked like…well, like she shops at Wet Seal (shudder)—warning to inhabitants of the Fashion Police thread, she was wearing WHITE PUMPS (double shudder). Xiomara, as always, looks a man. An angry, angry man. April, I think picks out a gorgeous pink halter dress and pink calf boots. And Shandi, oh my, Jay says it best when he comments “I think she would benefit from a makeup lesson.” Also the sight of her flabby, barely-there butt pressed against the floor looked like a squished boob at a mammogram. Bethany, also in white pumps, does her best to not emphasize her boobs, but picks a rather unremarkable outfit.
We Must, We Must, We Must Release the Bust
The girls meet Tyra in the Judgement Room, along with Janice, Eric, Nigel, and special guest judge J. Alexander, who vogues at the table before announcing that the girls will be given a slip dress and heels and will do another walk for the judges. They come back, and Bethany (whose breasts look GIMUNGOUS in the slip dress) goes first. Janice says it looked as if she didn’t practice at all, and Tyra agrees. They look at the picture Bethany chose, and inform her that the company also picked what they felt was the best picture to create their ads. In Bethany’s case, she did pick the best picture. Janice describes Bethany’s pose as “She’s doing a Janice Dickinson, circa 1978.” And everyone else on the panel thinks she didn’t “push her booty up enough”. J. climbs on the table and shows her how it’s down, followed by Janice, while a look of angry humiliation creeps onto Bethany’s face.
Shandi clomps out, J. asks what happened, and Janice tells her she needs to “Practice, practice, practice—eat, sleep, [bleep] in your heels if you have to.” Of her self-chosen photo, Nigel says “I like everything but the face.” OUCH. And then Tyra shows the picture the imaging company chose for the ad, a better one emphasizing her long legs, and obscuring her face, which Janice called “Heaven on earth.” April walks, and Janice says that the “posey-wosey at the end of your walk really repulsed me.” April’s pick of photos is another amputee photo, and Tyra complains that you can’t see her face in it, although the company did make that picture into its ad. Heather is told by Eric that, “I know you were going for a sexy, sultry expression, but it comes off like you’re sitting on the toilet.” As for Sara’s extra-jiggly walk, J. says, “Don’t give her a runway, give her a chair and a gold pole.” But her ad is considered one of the best ones today, and it does look like a vintage jeans ad, very Brooke Shields Calvin Klein. Mercedes gets an “absolutely fabulous” and though I personally like her picture, Nigel finds her pose awkward. J. tells Jenascia that she walks like a linebacker, while Janice yells, “Are you kidding me with that walk?” and makes her height again an issue. Jenascia’s chosen photo and the ad didn’t match. Xiomara comes out, and I get my biggest laugh of the day from J. saying, “Girl, you walk like you’re on crack. Your eyes are so bugged out of you head like something just scared the hell out of you.” They like her photo though. Catie is told she has the strongest walk of all the girls, but as for her photo, J. says, “Oooh, girl, you look like a pretzel.” Tyra says it looks like she’s at the mall at stopped at a photo booth. Then Camille comes out, and J. exclaims, “Float like a butterfly and sting like a goddamn bee!” The judges tell her that all the girls should watch out for her, because she knows what she’s doing. Tyra compares Camille to herself, saying that she is a drag queen in a woman’s body, and she feels that Camille has a little drag queen in her herself. Her spider leg picture was a hit. Finally, Yoanna comes out…Tyra gives the walk an A+, and even J. says “You get major points for that one.” Tyra adds that she felt like she was in a real fashion show, and Yoanna beams. Her self-chosen, however, lacks appeal, but the ad the company made gets rave reviews from the judges.
After the judges deliberate, it’s brass tacks time…the 10 girls invited back: Catie, Yoanna, Camille, April, Mercedes, Sarah, Xiomara, Heather, Jenasci, and…after Tyra’s speechifying (in which she tells Bethany she still looks “pin-uppish” and that she’s never seen a runway walk as bad as Shandi’s in her life) she invites back Shandi. Sadly, Bethany and her boobs must go back to the loft immediately and pack to go home. Bethany is shocked and says she never expected to go out this soon, if at all, and she knows she has more talent than half the girls here. Shaken, she leaves the loft, and I expect to be seeing her in Penthouse sometime in the future.
The state of my union is confident and strong. Questions or comments? Contact me at snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com.