If Shakespeare and Tyra Banks are to be believed (and I bet you never thought you’d hear those two mentioned in the same sentence), then all the world’s a stage and we are merely players. This week on ANTM, Tyra seeks to diversify the girls’ talents, as well help them to open up, by giving them acting lessons. It’s important for the girls to learn how to emote because, in the world according to Tyra, the modeling industry and entertainment industry go hand in hand. Why, everyone knows there is no hybrid more delightful (and not in the least bit annoying or precious) than the model/actress. I’m sure we all remember Tyra’s stunning thespian turns in such fine films as Coyote Ugly and Halloween Resurrection, or spend hours analyzing her tour-de-force performance as a Barbie doll come-to-life in the TV movie Life-Size. No? Anyone?
Another episode emerges from the womb-like, hormone-glutted chamber of the Red Tulip Building, where everyone’s favorite two roommates, Camille and Catie, are involved in a meeting of the minds, so to speak, over such weighty topics as Camille’s lack of vulnerability and Catie’s hair length, neither of which could possibly interest me less. It barely seems to interest Camille, who robotically folds clothes as she perfunctorily answers Catie’s questions, leading me to wonder a) if she is an android and b) how her batteries didn’t short out during last week’s underwater shoot. Catie pouts and whines over her hair, and about “changing myself just to get the judges to like me”. Here’s an idea to help up your likeability, Catie: why not, say, STOP POUTING AND WHINING OVER YOURSELF FOR JUST ONE SINGLE, CONSARNED MOMENT.
The girls all have dinner and drinks (only those over 21, presumably) at the 2nd Ave. Deli. After dinner, Mercedes lifts her shirt to proudly show off her bloated belly. Sara pulls up hers, claiming “Mine’s bigger,” but both girls are trumped by April, who slings out a paunch that would give Homer Simpson a run for his money, and pats it like a pregnant woman, sending Sara and Mercedes into hysterics. While I mull over the comforting fact that even models get gigantic guts after pigging out, Catie grimaces in the corner and cries out “Ewww,” at the sight of Camille putting ketchup on her pickles. Yoanna scolds Catie for her table manners, basically telling her it’s rude to act like that when others are eating. Catie gets defensive, pouting and whining about she was just joking. Mercedes, in a direct-to-camera interview, says that “Catie’s just getting to sensitive for me,” then, acting histrionic, Mercedes shrieks “Shut up, shut up, shut up!”
Puff the Model Dragon
The next morning, TyraMail informs them that they will be doing a black and white photo shoot, which pleases girls like Yoanna and Shandi. One person who is not as enthused is Camille, who wakes up with her mouth feeling extremely swollen and painful. She complains to April and Mercedes about the swelling and tightness in her lips, both of whom appear thrilled to hear about her ailment in detail as they eat their breakfasts. They speculate that it is an allergic reaction to something, and Mercedes imagines that Camille must “feeling self-conscious” about it.
Jay Manuel meets them at the studio where they will be doing the black and white “beauty shots” which he deems “a challenge” because the camera will be close-up on the face alone, and “it’s all about emoting with your eyes”. Bill Heuberger, today’s photographer, tells the girls, “It’s what’s inside that’s going to make you pretty.” I snicker, imagining Camille’s allergic reaction to be a message from the cosmos, all her ugliness inside finally manifested on the outside. Jay allows her to go last in order to give her time for the swelling to go down.
It is a pretty basic shoot, with the girls posing for their headshots in front of a basic, dark backdrop, with bare shoulders. The focus is really just the face and, according to Jay, “If you’re not confident, it will definitely read in the final photographs.” First up is Shandi, then Yoanna, followed by Sara, and Mercedes (who says that the photographer’s clicking noises distracted her from being “serious and sensual”).
Before her turn, April expresses to Mercedes and Sara her concerns over “convey[ing] a tone…especially ‘cause I need all the opportunities to convey some kind of personality that I can.” April admits that her feelings were really hurt by the comments she received from the judges at the last elimination, who basically said that her pictures rock but her personality sucks, and starts to tear up in front of Mercedes, who attempts to console her. Of April, Mercedes says, “I love her but she’s going to die of a heart attack before she hits 27 because she puts so much stress on the little things and doesn’t listen to the positive things.”
When it’s Catie’s turn, she goes up wearing very little make-up and with her hair barely styled. She tells us that “I’m going to look best when I feel comfortable with who I’m being. So I’m going to go exactly back to my Plain Jane look…They can criticize me every week if they want to, but at least I’ll be comfortable.” Meanwhile, Camille is inspecting her face in the mirror, fretting over her puffed-up lips. Jay tells her it’s not that bad, and also remarks that models have to show up and no matter what the conditions are, must be “ready to go”. He instructs Camille, “Give it to me in your eyes, and give it to me in your energy.” I know there are a few FORT viewers out there who only heard the hunky Jay Manuel saying, “Give it to me…Give it to me.” But I digress. Camille poses for the camera with not just puffy lips, but visible bags under her eyes, and despite Jay’s coaching, he doesn’t feel she’s giving that “100 percent” he wants to see from a model.
After the shoot, Camille wonders what the rest of the day’s schedule is, so she can either go see a doctor or go get medicine for her mouth. Some people might argue that the best medicine for Camille’s mouth would be a good, hard punch to shut it up, but she decides to go to a drugstore instead. They receive a surprise visit from Kyle Hagler, a manager from IMG (Tyra and the future winner’s agency) who informs them that in this ever-changing field, more and more actresses are getting magazine covers than models, so in order to compete they must be able to “project” and are therefore going to be sent to acting classes.
While Camille heads off to the drugstore, the rest of the girls go to The Cutting Room, where Tyra introduces them to Tasha Smith-Arquese, one of Tyra’s “very best friends” and their acting coach. You can tell Tasha is a real drama queen, in the literal sense, because the second she opens her mouth to speak, the simplest sentence comes out in the centurian bellows of someone who’s used to projecting in a theater. “You need something going on on the inside in order to look in that camera and make people want you to sell their product,” Tasha says, gesturing in a ridiculously affected manner. Tyra goes on to reflect on past sessions where Tasha got her “crying and screaming” and says, with laughable seriousness, “that only makes me a better model and a better actress”. I wonder if Tasha is the Strasberg who coached Tyra through such fine cinematic turns as Love Stinks with venerable co-stars like French Stewart and Bridgette Sampras-Wilson.
Once Tyra makes her exit, Tasha gives the girls some typical method-acting hoo-ha about how acting is about emotions, and today they work on being “open and honest”. She hands them all blank sheets of paper, and says that this exercise deals with “rejection”. She asks the girls to imagine that the paper is a “Dear John” letter from whomever it is they feel rejected by (i.e. boyfriend, deadbeat dad, etc.). Staring at the blank pieces of paper, the girls start to react emotionally, one-by-one, with most of them breaking out into tears. April is one of the most visibly upset, sobbing openly with a tomato red face and a huge vein threatening to pop on her forehead. It should surprise no one that a few tears slip down Catie’s cheek, but Sara, Shandi, and Mercedes also appear deeply effected. Tasha then instructs them to rip up the letter but remember the emotion; they’re going to use it later.
Talk about timing, Camille finally pops in just as the exercise is concluding, with a big old fake smile on her face. She looks around, confused, at all the other girls who are either crying or looking sad and troubled. “I’m just like OH…MY…GOD,” Camille remarks later. The next exercise has the girls go on stage in pairs. They are to pretend their partner is the person who rejected them, and let out their feelings on how they’ve been hurt, while the other girl quietly repeats everything they say. Sara works out her father issues with Mercedes, Shandi bemoans her family, and April and Catie cry and scream at each other. Everyone is basically reduced to a quivering, crying mass of emotional jelly. In one bravura shot, a long string of snot slides and dangles pendulously from Shandi’s nose as she bawls open-mouthed--until she sniffs and it sucks it back up into her nostril.
Sara observes that while everyone is letting all their emotions and personal issues out, the only person who remains unaffected by it all is Camille, who sits watching them with cool detachment. When she goes up to do the exercise with her old best friend Yoanna, being Camille, she just ignores the instructions completely and gives a fake speech about how she loves her mom. Tasha gets annoyed with Camille, and stops her, saying, “I want you to deal with the things that are not so easy.” She asks Camille if she’s angry at anyone, and Camille just shakes her head no. Yoanna is getting frustrated, so Camille admits that she has a problem with Yoanna. Tasha tries to use that, saying “Obviously you did something to her too…so we may as well get it all out right now.” Tasha urges Camille to be honest, but when Camille still holds back and gives fake nicey-nice answers, Tasha yells, “Come on, you’re sucking right now!” Tasha stops the exercise, telling Camille, “I just feel like you’re still on the surface. There’s stuff inside your heart that you just refuse to let out…You just want to have this perfect mask on. God bless you in your career, but you’re just boring.” Amen, sister!
Before leaving The Cutting Room, the girls are given their assignment for the next day. They must take the script for a scene, memorize it, and work on making it their own, drawing from the emotions they were effected by in class. “The only one yu were probably not effected by was Camille,” Tasha says pointedly. Camille worries that this assignment may be “her downfall”.
Back at the apartment, the girls work on learning their lines. Sara reads out loud that the stage directions call for “a passionate kiss,” to which Mercedes quips, “I hope I go first so I don’t have taste any of you other ho’s.” Yoanna mimics a passionate air kiss, gyrating her hips obscenely. Shandi says the script “doesn’t make any sense” and Yoanna deems it “cheesy”. Catie says the script is like a “soap opera” and mockingly performs melodramatic gestures—this is rich from the girl who acted like her haircut was a tragedy tantamount to the bombing of Hiroshima. Unlike the other girls, who goof off and make fun of the script, April takes it and studies it carefully. Mercedes says, “When she sees something, she does it perfectly, she’s like a machine.” (Poll idea: Which model on ANTM is secretly a robot? April or Camille?) April is determined to showcase her personality and emotion this time.
The next day, they report to The Lamb’s Theater in Manhattan, where Tasha informs them that she will be picking a winner who will get a shopping spree at “one of New York’s finest jewelers”. She also tells them that their co-star today will be Mark Collier, an actor from the soap opera “As the World Turns”, which seems to increase Shandi’s enthusiasm.
They proceed to perform with Mark, playing a woman whose military husband is declared dead, so she moves on, but in this scene she discovers he’s come back. A montage sequence splicing all the girls’ performances follows. April’s performance is the one that really stands out, however. Mark himself comments, “April’s doing a great job. I believed in her eyes that she was being truthful to the situation.” He also compliments Shandi for her “openness”, saying that there was “a connection in her eyes that a lot of other people didn’t have.” About Catie, Mark says, “She’s showing you everything but not feeling anything, which makes her not very believable.” In her scene, there’s even a moment where he appears to be laughing at her for a moment. Catie admits she’s “half-assing” it, adding that she’s “not feeling” the scene or the guy.
It was my understanding that this was supposed to be a dramatic scene, however, some of the heartiest laughs I gotten all season come from Camille’s unintentionally comic rendition of the scene. Mark explains, “Camille took it upon herself to change some of the lines which…” he pauses, perhaps to find a polite way of expressing himself, “Just shouldn’t happen.” Camille takes artistic liberties with the script not just one, two, or three, but many, many times—each time yielding a look of alarm from Tasha, who’s sitting in the audience, flipping through the script to follow along. Camille reasons that she wanted to be herself (“unique”) but this is a big no-no in the theater, not to mention terribly inconsiderate to the fellow actor who must bumble along to the improvised dialogue.
Finally, at the end of the scene comes the passionate kiss. Cue bass-heavy porno music, and up comes a montage sequence of April, Shandi, Mercedes, and Yoanna going for it, big-time. “To me, passionate is tongue, so there you go,” Shandi says, simply. Yoanna, who appears to be climbing on top of or mounting Mark, explains, “We’ve been stuck with 12 girls, it’s time for some testosterone.” Catie looks like she’s going to puke as she kisses Mark, then backs off, saying “I have a boyfriend.” Camille, still improvising her own lines, moves in on Mark, but then only gives him a hug, while shooting a look at Tasha. Tasha, for her part, looks mad as a snake. Tasha says before she evaluates Camille, she’ll give Mark an opportunity to say his piece. “You do something for David Mamet or somebody like that, you change their words, you won’t have that job anymore, I promise you that.” Camille just adopts that impertinent expression she gets whenever she is being criticized. Tasha tells Camille she was “horrible” but the Queen of Denial believes she did “well”. “She’s clueless,” Tasha says later. Amen, sister!
After all the scenes are over, the girls are gathered for notes. Tasha and Mark agree that Shandi and April were the two best performances, but since only one girl can win, they select April. April’s eyes widen with surprise and joy—she’s ecstatic to finally get some positive feedback, and of course to go on a shopping spree for jewelry. She picks Catie to accompany her, I have no idea why, although she says that because Catie is only 18 years old, when she’s around her, April feels 18 too.
When they return to the apartment, Camille gets on the phone to her father and spins today’s events. Catie comes in and interrupts Camille’s call; she gets on the phone with Camille’s dad and asks why he never cried in front of his daughter and now she’s very emotionally detached. He just laughs, and Camille plasters on a weird half-smile. Mercedes asks Camille some questions to try and get insight on how she feels, but Camille just gets defensive. Mercedes posits that being hard, tough, and dominant is Camille’s coping mechanism for criticism, concluding, “She wants that control 24/7, and she feels that if she loses that control, she won’t be able to win.”
April and Camille head to tony jewelry store H. Stern., where April “feels like a kid in a candy store” who can pick whatever she wants. “Pinch me, pinch me,” she cries out in disbelief at her good fortune not only to be on a jewelry shopping spree, but also for winning the day’s challenge. She and Catie stroll through the store, looking at things in their cases, and April tries on various bling before settling on a few select pieces.
TyraMail tells them that they will see “who will fight the best fight to be ‘America’s Next Top Model.’” Confused, Yoanna asks, “Are we gonna box?” “I don’t want to have to kick Tyra’s butt,” Mercedes jokes. They all go to bed to rest up for tomorrow’s 6am call time.
The next morning, the girls wake up and get ready. Catie screws up her face again like a colicky baby and whines when she doesn’t like the taste of the “healthy oatmeal” she is eating. Sara tastes it for her, and says it’s good. Catie grimaces and flutters her hands like she’s eating worms on “Fear Factor”. I am filled with the urge to hit her in her scrunched up little baby face with a cast iron pan.
Jay meets the girls at the De La Rois theater where they are introduced to director James Gay. James will be directing them in a television commercial for Rollitos chips. The catch? This is the home of De La Guarda, a troupe of wire work performers, and the girls will be engaged in a Matrix-type fight, suspended in mid-air by wires. Well, they never explicitly mention the Matrix, of course, whether it’s due to trademark infringement or some sort of copyright issue, I don’t know, but the girls are all decked out in Trinity-type, body-conscious black regalia and futuristic shades, while Matrix-type music plays over the whole sequence. Jay says that they must fight each other to be America’s Next Top Model as if there was only one bag of Rollitos chips left.
Catie is peeved to once again be subjected to aerial suspension, especially after the difficulties she had at the shoot three weeks ago (due to fear of falling to her death, blah blah--how could we forget?). “Set me on fire,” Catie says, “Just don’t put me up in the air.” Oh how I wish I could take her up on her offer. Sara, fed up, says Catie needs to shut up because she herself is afraid of heights, but is hanging in there like a champ. Sara has had three knee operations, and is scared of falling and re-injuring herself, but you don’t see her crying. It’s déjà vu as Jay pep talks Catie into doing the stunt—except this time she’s outside smoking a cigarette. Sure, she’s afraid to fall her to death, but is perfectly happy with slowly killing herself through nicotine.
The girls get dressed up in latex & leather, trussed up in the wire gear, then set onto each other for their midair catfight. It does look very, very cool. April and Camille both get kudos for their performances. James and Jay each remark that April is “perfect”. James stuns all of America by saying that, in the fight sequence at least, Camille “takes direction very well.” Catie and Sara hold hands as they’re lifted into the air; but ultimately, Jay says he’s not even sure if got a decent shot of Catie in the air. “Y’all are trying to give me a nervous breakdown,” Catie says. That’s right, Catie, the producers planned this expressly to mess with you psychologically because everything in your solipsistic little world revolves around you.
After the fight sequences, the girls are asked to read a few lines of dialogue to the camera. April walks up and does a nice job saying, “In the end, there will only be one America’s Next Top Model.” Camille does her reading, but a curious thing happens when she does her rendition of the very same line: Camille gets all Madonna-fied, affecting a ridiculous, pretentious British accent! The director says, “Camille needs to work on her diction. Accent was a little bit of an issue.” The next take has Camille talking and shaking her head with a Cuban-sounding accent. “I thought she was Jamaican,” Mercedes cracks, “Where the hell did the Cuban come from? I’m more Cuban than her, Honey, and I’m not even Latin!” Camille bounces off the set, pleased with herself, telling everyone, “Who said I couldn’t act, huh?” Well, you can act, all right…act a plum fool.
I’ll Give You Something to Cry About
The girls assemble in the elimination room for yet another judgment day before Tyra, Janice, Eric, Nigel, and this week’s guest judge, Kyle Hagler, the manager from IMG. Tyra tells them that this week they will be evaluated based on what they learned about acting, in addition to their black and white photos. Tyra kicks off the proceeding with a viewing of the final edit of the commercial they shot. The result of their (and James Gay’s) hard work is a slick, futuristic Matrix take-off (my favorite moment is Mercedes coquettishly saying “Uno, baby!”). At the end of the commercial, the girls cheer and high-five each other, pleased with their work.
Tasha Smith-Arqese reappears before the individual evaluations to administer one final acting test. In order to see how well they take direction, Tasha will give them one line to say ("I've never wanted anything more than this, and if I don't get it I am going to die") and they must perform it in different ways, the first way being sexy. We get to watch all the girls perform in rapid succession. April goes first, and Tasha says, gesturing to the judge panel, “I want you to make all of them want you sexually.” Good luck with Eric! April does a sufficient job, delivering the line in your basic streetwalker stance, but she is followed shortly after by Sara, who licks her lips and clutches at her shirt in a way that even makes me want her sexually and causes Janice’s mouth to drop open. After Catie delivers the line, Kyle says “I didn’t get it.” Camille strokes her hair and , oddly, rubs her belly as she speaks, making her line reading look as if she’s addressing it to a pot roast. She does a little runway walk at the end, which Kyle says is “like a drag queen runway in Harlem”.
When Shandi goes up, Tasha instructs her to deliver the line comically. Shandi (wearing a t-shirt that says “Evil Shandai”) gesticulates wildly, looking more spastic than comic. Tyra merely sneers in disdain. “You almost made me cry instead of laugh,” Nigel says. Everybody loves Sara’s funny interpretation of the line which involves tearing her hair out and rushing the judge’s table. Mercedes is cute, but they don’t show much of her performance, and the judges’ consensus on Catie’s acting is that it sucks. Yoanna is sort of middling, causing Janice to beg, “Convince me that you’re funny, just once,” so Yoanna flips her skirt up and moons Janice. All the judges applaud her.
Next, it’s photo time. They like Yoanna’s, but find Shandi’s “bland” and “blank”. Janice coaxes Tyra into showing Shandi how to turn on intensity, and sure enough Tyra sits for one second with an empty “I-just-took-three-doses-of-thorazine” expression then suddenly, miraculously shifts into a Zoolander worthy, Blue Steel look. The judges are loving April this week, noticing her relaxed, smiling expression. She says she enjoys the acting, and Tyra mentions that the commercial director told the judging panel that she “gave a good line reading” ans is “very athletic, beautiful, and composed”. The judges like her photo, as well, noting that it’s “androgynous” which, according to Tyra, is a good thing in modeling because it makes her more versatile.
Mercedes shot is beautiful, drawing high praise form Janice, “So pretty…I’m crazy about the fullness of your mouth, the dignified length of your neck…” Kyle compliments Mercedes by saying that, in her picture, “I feel like you’re looking at me and only me.” Camille (wearing a shirt with the words “Win It” printed on it—gag) is told that the director commented on her putting on a British accent when she wasn’t instructed to, which garners only a light scoff from Miss Thing. Her picture, which freaks me out with her big ol’ buggin’ out eyes, is met with some displeasure on the part of the judges, who dismiss it as looking like an actor’s headshot, without enough neck. Tyra and crew explain that a long, elegant neck is what distinguishes models from the rest of us mere mortals (who knew?). They’re likewise not hot on Sara’s, with Nigel and Kyle both telling her that she is prettier in person than in the photograph, but it’s the photos that sell models. Janice says Sara’s photo looks like she has bad wisdom tooth. Eric says that in her photo, Catie looks like a “scared guppy,” Nigel says she looks like “Peter Pan,” and Janice said she looks like a “child prostitute”—this is not the kind of androgyny they’re looking for, apparently.
Deliberations ensue. Judges’ thoughts on April: “Damn that bitch is pretty,” Tyra says. Nigel finds her “astounding”. On Sara: Janice was blown away by her acting, but Eric is underwhelmed by her photo. On Shandi: Tyra feels she’s the only one who might be able to do real high fashion, but Janice deems “Evil Shandai” to be a “Paris Hilton wannabe”. Poor Yoanna, again Nigel makes a negative comment on her body, saying he “wouldn’t want to see her in a bathing suit.” On Mercedes: they love her personality, and Janice snipes, “She’s not having meltdowns, like someone else we know.” Segue to Catie: the judges have a little Catie bashing session, about how she’s a little too common. On Camille: they’re just not into her attitude at all, Nigel calling her “rude” and “aggressive”; Kyle, however, defends Camille by saying that her drive could take her far. Tyra says that the industry loves either sweet, sweet girls or divas, but nothing in between.
Finally, it’s time for the passing out of the photos. This time only six will return. Everyone is invited back except for Camille and Catie. Tyra says that the judges feel that Catie might not be “emotionally ready to handle the dog eat dog world of modeling”. Camille is scolded for not opening up emotionally, and is told that “nobody wants a cold-ass model on the set”. The bad news: Camille is invited back. But the good news: Catie is at long last ousted from the house. And, oh yeah, she cries as she walks out of the room. Plus, she continues pouting, whining, and complaining as she packs to leave, complaining about getting kicked off, getting her hair cut, chipping her nail…Catie Crybaby till the very end.
What’s my motivation? Direct all questions, comments, and stage notes to snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com