Please…someone…[coughs dramatically]…call 911. I fear I’m suffering from a severe, possibly fatal overdose of Tyra Banks, and I may need to have my brain pumped out. First, I tuned into UPN a little earlier than usual, and was just in time to catch Tyra putting all her thespian training to use in her special appearance as a tranny on “All of Us”. Then, this week’s eppie of America’s Next Top Model revolves around the making of the video for Tyra’s musical debut, “Shake Ya Body”. And just when I thought I had all the Tyra I could take, they broadcast the world premiere of said video, which of course features, most prominently, La Ty Ty. Oh no, now there is a spot for the 10 o’ clock news that’s teasing a feature on, yes, Miss Tyrant Banks! [Sputters and limply reaches out with a trembling hand] Dear God, why have you forsaken me?
The Passion for Fashion
It’s down to six finalists, and with the competition starting to narrow, the girls fret over the increasing pressure. Even the flowering narcissus Camille cops to having “insecurity,” particularly after her near-elimination last week. Yoanna says that the elimination of Catie (they show a shot of her at the runway competition that she won early on) was evidence that “the tables can turn at any time.” Camille, for her part, tells us that she’s “changed” and has “made an effort not to talk over people”. As suspicious as it seems, I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt. And someone has bridge they’d like to sell me in New York.
We watch Shandi in the confession room as she calls her boyfriend of two years, Eric. Upon telling him that she’s wearing the dress he gave her, he emits a high-pitched cheer like that of a little girl, or Howard Dean. In any case, it’s clear from their conversation that they are a loving couple. Shandi says that he is her “best friend”.
Next, we see a shot of Yoanna walking to a bakery where, we learn, she is buying a cake for Sara’s birthday. “I think it’s sad being away from your own home and not having a cake, “Yoanna says, “And plus I wanted some cake too.” Spoken like a true ex-fat girl. But seriously, it is a sweet gesture, and back at home we watch as a radiant Sara blows out the candles and declares this “the best birthday ever.” Sara gets even more introspective, ruminating on how her whole life she’s always taken the “easy way out” or the “safe route” (e.g. jobs that didn’t challenge her) but now she is proud of herself for having the strength to be in this competition. “I don’t think anyone wants this more badly than I do,” she says.
The next morning, we see Mercedes making the bed, April and Sara on the floor exercising, and Yoanna at the kitchen table with Shandi. For some reason, Yoanna is whispering, like it’s top secret information, “My dream is to be in indie European magazines, working with designers, working with people in fashion. And it’s been my dream since I was a child.” Yoanna talks about how this industry has been her passion, even since she was little girl, when all she cared about was what her Barbie was wearing. Aside: if modeling doesn’t work out for her, I think Yoanna should definitely work in fashion regardless, since she does seem to have an eye for style, and her bio mentioned she worked as an assistant to a designer.
It seems as if now that the competition is getting stiff, the girls are starting to question each other’s commitment and devotion. Yoanna corners April in the car and asks her if she could choose between modeling and acting right now, which would she choose? April bats her response from one hand to another, like a kitten with a ball of yarn. “Well, I view modeling as acting; I view modeling as the base of acting. I’ve never been in either situation, so really it’s too early for me to say.” With circumlocution like that, I’d hire this girl to be my lawyer. Yoanna, for whom fashion seems a way of life, appears unsatisfied with the answer, and indeed later admits “Personally for me if April were to win the competition, I would be devastated,” since Yoanna feels that April is merely out to achieve a goal, and is not truly passionate about fashion.
Revenge of the Nerd
TyraMail has warned the girls that the next activity will require a lot of energy, and when they arrive at their destination for the day, they find it’s a dance studio. Mercedes is psyched, and hopes they’re going to learn Latin dance, but Shandi is reportedly reticent. They are met by choreographer Tony Michaels, who’s worked with J. Lo, Celine Dion, and Prince to name a few. He says that today he will be teaching them all about movement. “Dancers and models,” he says, “have so much in common. Our bodies are our instruments.” Kind of like strippers and porn stars!
Shandi, despite seeming unsure and admitting she’s never taken any dance lessons ever, says that she is going to just go with it and have fun. I notice that April is wearing her Ty necklace again—she seems to be one of the only models I’ve seen regularly wearing the thing. My God, she must really, really want this bad. Sara is worried about the physical aspect of this challenge, because she has had several surgeries on one of her knees, which still causes her trouble.
Tony asks the girls to come out one by one and dance “sexy” for him. Sara starts off with some smoking hot undulations that make me want to give her all my folded up singles. Tony is not impressed, however, because he said she looked down at the floor the whole time, “All of this,” he says, copying her movements, “It was nothing without you looking up.” During Camille’s turn, she busts out some movements that are straight-out bizarre. Tony instructs her to try and keep her movements together, but still she gets on the floor, rather ungracefully, and proceeds to execute some movements that look more like she’s an overly aggressive aerobics instructor than a sexy dancer. “I don’t know what she was trying to do, but it was interesting,” Yoanna remarks. Well the same can be said of Yoanna, except for the “interesting” part. She gets up and does some quick, jerky movements with no rhythm whatsoever, like a bad extra in a prom scene from an old, 1980s John Hugh’s film. Tony yells at her to take her time and “catch the beat,” but alas the beat runs away from her, never to be found. Mercedes says, in her kind, euphemistic way that “Yoanna’s dancing fits her personality…Kooky.”
Shandi proves to be the big surprise, moving with a natural, effortless fluidity—not like she’s trying to hard, or trying to be anything at all, but is just grooving to the music. As Tony says, “You don’t look at her and think ‘top model’ off the bat, but by the second glance you see, wow, she’s got it.” Yoanna says that she was surprised to see Shandi move so well, and says, “She’s breaking out of her shell.”
“Don’t try to dance sexy,” Tony tells all the girls before their next exercise, “BE sexy.” Next the girls are to dance around him as if he was a male model. They must essentially use him as a prop. As April begins, Shandi comments that April’s “drive” is scary. Mercedes mostly leans against him like a tired hooker resting against a lamppost. When Shandi goes, she dips and bends in front of Tony like she is an energetic hooker that just got some work. “She’s the first person that did levels,” Tony declares, adding, “Shandi is passing everything today.” Mercedes says, “Shandi is like that dork, nerdy type of girl, but Shandi is doing the best.” Nerds everywhere rise up from their D & D games and give a cheer.
Tony ends the session by giving them some advice: touch yourself, pose, talk with your eyes. “I ain’t seen nobody talk. Tyra talks with her eyes all the time.” And as proof, they run a shot of Tyra traipsing down the runway, and indeed her eyes are giving you fierce, ruling diva. Tony says that tomorrow he will be testing them on their ability to move.
The girls head back home. “No, I don’t think of myself as sexy,” Shandi confesses, “I was told repeatedly, ‘You’re never gonna get married, you’re just gonna be this old spinster with a bunch of cats. How could I think that I’m sexy?!!” Shandi discovers that there is a package for her. The special delivery is from her boyfriend, and Shandi says it’s like receiving “a piece of home, a piece of my boyfriend.” It is incredibly thoughtful. Inside, he has packed a ton of photographs for her, many of them of cats, oddly enough, though some are of him. Shandi shows a picture of him with his “model face” which Mercedes deems “very Zoolander.” Shandi says that she felt very loved, and reads out a selection from his enclosed letter, “Are you gonna be on a show that’s called who wants to hook up with a Walgreen’s employee?” I’m sure John will be starting a forum for that any day now.
Meanwhile, Sara is on the phone with her mom, talking about how her knee went out on her. She hasn’t asked to see a doctor because she wants to try dealing with it on her own, but is using a heat pack (PSA to readers, if you are suffering an injury like Sara or your own SFG, it’s “Ice for acute, heat for chronic!”—not that kind of chronic, silly stoners).
Back to Shandi, in her room taping photos from her boyfriend up to the wall. She is sad that she can’t share her experience with him, and decides to give him a call. He tells her that he is going to go see a movie with a girl whose husband works at the movie theater so they can get in free. Sounds innocent to me, and my God he’s telling her up front. But within seconds, Shandi transforms into Psycho Girlfriend, making snide remarks, and sarcastically saying, “Oh that’s great.” Eric tries to laugh it off, saying, “Honey, she has a kid and a husband!” Shandi spits back, “Oh, so people never cheat on their husbands?” What happened to sweet, cool Shandi? Where did this jealous monster come from? It’s like the emotional equivalent of a Mogwai being fed after midnight. She starts crying, and says, under her breath, “I hate you.” And then she pulls a classic irrational female argument in response to the poor guy saying he didn’t know he couldn’t go to the movies with other people: “I shouldn’t have to say that!” Shandi explains, “Going to the movies, that’s like our secret thing that we shared, and it really hurt when he said that.” My God, if going to the movies with another person is a sin, then I am the biggest cinematic slut in history (if not, then the title still belongs to Sharon Stone).
Shandi then declares that while she’s in New York, and says she’s going to have “a good time” no matter what. She goes out to drink and dance at a club with Sara, Camille, and Mercedes, where she is approached by a guy who remarks that she and her friends are “the hottest girls in here.” Shandi is flattered and spends the evening chatting with him. He attempts to get her number several times (without success, apparently). Shandi says she doesn’t know what to think. Poor thing, has she never been out of the house before? It’s as if a man has never hit on her before in her entire life. On the ride home, Shandi says, “If my boyfriend, when he finds all of this stuff out, if he has a doubt in his mind, then something’s wrong with him in the relationship.” She’s saying this after she ripped his head off for going to a movie with some wife & mother whose husband is probably at the theater where he can monitor their activity anyway? It has got to be the beer talking.
The girls return to the dance studio. Tony basically tells April that her performance from the other day was forgettable, and that’s something she needs to keep in mind to improve today. She looks crestfallen, and says the remark was like “taking a hot knife and jamming it into my soul.” And they say this girl’s not emotional. He tells them that he will teach them a portion of choreography, which is what they will be tested on. The best dancer wins a dinner date with a couple of “huge” music celebrities. Pavarotti and Ruben Studdard? Cheap joke, I know. Don’t like it? I’ll give you your money back.
He teaches them their hoochie mama choreography, during which Sara’s knee starts to hurt badly. He is a tough coach, but plays no favorites. Then the dance-off starts, with the girls shakin’ what they mamas gave them in a line. When Tony taps their shoulder, they’re out. April says that she wanted to “be electric” for Tony this time around. Tony complains that Sara “oozes” sexy—but the wrong kind, “more like a swimsuit or calendar type of model.” He calls her out. “I’m sick of losing,” Sara gripes, “I don’t want to lose anymore.” She is followed by Shandi, who Tony says let the stress of competition get to her. Shandi comments on the “complete turnaround” from the day before, “the best from the day before did just like mediocre.” Mercedes is out, followed by Yoanna, leaving competition mainstays April and Camille out on the floor dancing their keisters off. Although Tony admits that Camille really stepped up her game, he calls her out because “April executed the routine amazingly.” April, thrilled, gives him a big hug. Camille, who really has tried to change, is the only one to applaud April for winning. Yoanna just narrows her eyes angrily, and Mercedes sounds surprisingly snide when she remarks, “Surprise, surprise, April won the challenge. She’s most definitely a threat.” April, who is allowed to choose two girls to accompany her to her special dinner, selects Sara and Shandi. Tony tells them that their “big” music star chaperones will be ODB and Rizza from the Wu Tang Clan.
Back at home, Yoanna does her impression of April, which consists of looking very serious and stiff. Mercedes bursts out laughing. “It’s the truth,” Yoanna says, “She looks constipated.” Mercedes says she is annoyed that April “over-analyzes” everything. Yoanna and Mercedes have their own skit comedy group, with Yo acting like April spouting “over-analytical” gobbledy-gook and Mer pretending to smack he rin the face. Bring these girls a bowl of milk, because this is some catty crap right here.
Shandi, meantime, tells her boyfriend that she danced with another guy. “Did he touch your butt?” Eric asks. No but he touched her hip. “This is just dripping with hypocrisy,” he hollers. She threatens to call the guy, and when she confesses that she didn’t tell the guy she had a boyfriend, he just hangs up. Ah, young love.
Next thing you know, the Wu Tang Clan is in da hizzouse: Old Dirty Bastard and Rizza as promised, accompanied by 23-year-old rapper Kinetic. They greet the girls with kisses and handshakes and, promising them a night on the town “Wu Tang Style,” they leave with April, Sara, and Shandi in a huge, enormous, GIMUNGOUS Hummer limousine. Shandi says that she loves to meet new people and knows she is going to have “the greatest time” but she doesn’t know how her boyfriend will take it—I hope Wu Tang isn’t taking them to the movies!
Instead, they arrive at a chic French restaurant, where boys goof off in the private room: they take a plate with one small bite of haute cuisine, and call it “the models’ special,” ODB is up loudly singing and dancing, and is even more mush-mouthed and harder to understand than the girls’ boxing trainer Martin Snow. If you ask me, in the reaction shots, the girls don’t appear particularly amused—Sara, in particular, has a look on her face like WTF? April looks as if she’s trying to sit as far away from ODB as possible.
If body language is to be believed, the two having the best time at dinner are Shandi and Kinetic, who are deep in conversation, leaning towards each other with interest; it’s even noticeable enough for April and Sara to notice. Later, in the Hummer, Kinetic and Shandi are looking awfully cozy—he has his arm around her, and she’s smiling with her head on his chest, cuddling together to “keep warm” (what did their plane crash in the Himalayas?). Sorry, Orgy-Expectant ANTM fans, but snuggling is the most intimate action you get in this episode.
Tripping the Lights Fantastic
The next day, TyraMail tells them to get ready to “SHAKE YA BODY.” Jay greets them, and in a poorly dubbed voiceover, tells them in what line of clothing they’ll be dressed, and also that today they will be dancing in Tyra’s first video ever. The girls are shocked (and possibly appalled), but act totally enthused for Tyra, who comes bounding out dancing, excited about her first foray into the realm of “recording artist”. The director, Kennedy, greets the girls and asks them if they’re ready for a “long day, a real day of work, a real film shoot, moving images, nowhere to hide.” What a condescending prick.
Everyone preps for the shoot while they film Tyra’s beauty shots. Sara, beaming from ear to ear, declares, “I’m jazzed. Whatever happens, I was in Tyra’s video.” Then the entire next segment is a television infomercial for Tyra’s musical career. I was surprised there was no 800 number scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Shandi declares Tyra Banks a “Superwoman…she sings, she acts, she models, she dances.” She slices, she dices, she’s a car, she’s a robot, but wait there’s more! She’s admittedly sexy as all get out, and also lip-syncs like a pro—watch out Britney!
The first segment the girls film is a catwalk scene, with all of them dressed in black cocktail dresses. April comes out first, followed by Yoanna, and for the first time April lets a little bit of her inner diva out when, walking back from the end of the runway, she appears to walk into Yoanna. Although it looks to me like April just misjudged the runway and was accidentally walking into Yoanna, according to Jay, “April tried to knock Yoanna off the runway, and Yoanna’s just serving up like a true top model.” “I’m pissed,” Yoanna shrieks, “She should never touch me.” Everyone looks really good walking down the runway though, showing that their lessons from J. Alexander must have paid off.
More Tyra promotion: she reveals that she has been working on her music for six years “on the downlow.” And, um, “Shake Ya Body” is the culmination of a half a dozen year’s hard work?!! They show shots of Tyra in the studio with her producer, Rodney Jerkins. Tyra imparts some of her indispensable wisdom (it’s actually good advice for Paris Hilton): “If you’re not ready to show the world what you’re doing, then don’t say nothing. But now I’m ready!”
They move on to shoot the house party dance segments. We see shots of Tyra busting a move with real dancers, and the girls in the background, then it’s the critical solo-dance portion. Shandi comes out first, and does a great job, while Tyra cheers her on. Sara comes next, looking super-sexilicious, but messes up on the choreography a couple of times. The director is “impressed” by Camille’s “presence” but Yoanna’s? Not so much. When she’s up dancing, she flops unsteadily like a fish out of water. Tyra tries to encourage her by saying, “Find the beat, girl!” Alas, the beat eludes Yoanna, but even worse, upon walking back, Yoanna trips and manages to fall flat on her ass. Ah, it’s a shot so nice, the show it twice, once in slow motion. Shandi recalls the fall, laughing her own ass off. Mercedes admittedly screws up the choreography, but just goes on and does her own dance moves, looking fine to me. April executes the choreography with great precision, but looks like she’s holding back. Even Tyra yells at her to loosen up. April says that for the first time, she’s starting to feel like “the competition is not just about winning…it’s honestly something that my heart really desires.” Despite the pressure of performing, it seems like overall the girls had a great experience. Shandi says, “I had so much fun. This does not feel like a job to me at all.”
She’s Too Sexy for the Show, Too Sexy for the Show…
Anxious over the next elimination, the girls all express fear over being cut. April, on the phone with her boyfriend, breaks down into tears, blubbering how this is now her “dream” and her “passion” and it would hurt to get so close only to lose it. Shandi thinks that April is making herself sick worrying over every little detail (and they think this girl is not emotional).
They gather before the judges’ panel, this week comprised of Tyra, Janice, Eric, Nigel, and guest judge Tony Michaels, Ty’s choreographer. The girls are called up for individual evaluations, starting with Shandi. They show each girls’ solo dance segment. Tyra says, “I don’t think anybody would guess that Shandi has this much soul, Shandi that works at Walgreen’s.” (Next thing you know, ANTM will add Walgreen’s to their list of sponsors, alongside Kmart.) Nigel, no doubt making April jealous, tells Shandi that right now is “the sexiest I’ve found you.” Tyra and Janice feel like Camille was “holding back” and not giving up “heat” in her performance. The judges are not overly impressed with Sara’s performance. Janice deems it a cross “between a bad music video backup dancer and a bellydancer at a Greek restaurant.” She is visibly upset at their comments.
Mercedes gets some points off for doing her own groove thing; she explains that she messed up but just wanted to keep going. Tony, being a choreographer, says that even if she messes up, she needs to find her way back to the choreography—I guess Mercedes’ dance was the equivalent of Camille’s improv, disrespectful to the creator of the steps or lines. April is lambasted by most of the judges; Janice says her moves look like she has “an upset stomach” and Nigel says she lacks “soul” and is “too clinical”. Tony, however, appreciates her technician’s precision, defending her by saying “That was strong, you remembered all the choreography.” Referring to Yoanna’s dance, Janice says, “What the hell was that?” and says she looks like a 1920’s flapper. Tony chides her for not taking her time to find the rhythm, as he repeatedly instructed her. Nigel want her to “ooze a little bit more” sex appeal. Tyra just caps her for being off-beat.
Deliberations begin. The judges still love Mercedes, and have a good laugh over Yoanna falling on her butt. There is some controversy over Sara’s sexiness. Despite Tyra saying that she feels Sara “is the only girl here who has that super top model look” and could hold her own next to her and Heidi in a Victoria’s Secret ad right now, Janice says she’s feeling Sara is coming across as a “stripper” and Eric feels she’s going “way down-market” to “beer commercials”—I think that’s more Bethany’s territory. Tony loves April, remarking that she is the one who wants it the most and has the most drive. He gets into an argument with Nigel, who is still deeming her too clinical. “I want to see more sex appeal from her,” he says, in a comment sure to garner more snickers from the Yellow Fever conspiracy theorists. Janice says, “I want to see an Asian girl win this…because she is commercial, she is exotic.” They are impressed with Camille this week, noting her change in attitude. “Is that an act?” Janice questions, wondering if Camille has a Jekyll and Hyde multiple personality disorder. Shandi gets high marks, with Nigel saying she has “a face for now and a face for the future.” Tony likes that she isn’t trying too hard, is just doing it. “You go girl, she’s in,” Janice intones.
It’s photo time. Tyra invites back everyone except Yoanna and Sara. Tyra tells Yoanna that you only get one chance when the director calls action (actually, as anyone on a film set knows, that is so not true—that’s why they shoot multiple takes, hello!) and Yoanna may have blown it. Yoanna cries. Tyra tells Sara that she is “the sexiest girl here” but her sexuality may be the kind that only appeals to men’s magazines. A top fashion model must appeal to men and women.
Before the announcement, Tyra pauses to take a moment to talk about…herself. She says this is the hardest week for her because she herself is trying something new and, breaking into tears, “Who am I to stand her and tell you that you all have to leave…when the whole world is going to be criticizing me?” It would be touching, if it didn’t come off as so ravingly egomaniacal.
Tyra hands the picture back to…Yoanna. Sara begins to sob, and all the girls (except Camille, who stands back) surround her for a warm group hug. Everyone’s bawling (except, again, Camille), even Tyra, who comes up to embrace Sara, who now has black streaks of mascara rolling down her cheeks. Back the apartment, she packs and mourns her dream, but still says she is proud of herself and this will not stop her from pursuing her dream. Oh man, what’s going to happen when she gets home to Daddy?
After the show, they show Tyra’s world premiere of “Shake Ya Body”. What do you want me to tell you, it looks like every other pop/hip-hop/dance video these days, only because Tyra’s in it, it also resembles a Victoria’s Secret commercial. There is a cute segment with Jay, Tyra, and the girls fighting it out diva-style in front of the mirror, there are shots of the girls on the runway, and doing their solo dance, and of course LOTS AND LOTS OF SHOTS OF TYRA looking sultry. And she licks a microphone suggestively. Okay, that’s it, that’s all the Tyra I can deal with for the week. [Lifts had up] I’M SPENT!
I’m too busy shaking my body like Tyra told me to (either that, or I’m still having convulsions from my Tyra overdose), but email me at snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com anyway, if you’ve got any comments or questions.