What better way is there to celebrate the holidays, my beloved ANTM aficionados? Tonight, let’s snuggle up in front of the electronic hearth of the television for one last time to watch the finale of the third cycle of America’s Next Top Model. And what, I ask you rhetorically, is a celebration without singing carols? Join with me, friends! “On the twelfth week of America’s Next Top Model, Miss Tyra gave to me: 12 weeks of drama, 11 weeks of crying, 10 weeks of fighting, 9 weeks of bitching, 8 million spots for 7 million products, 6 umeboshi, 5 scary clown shoots, 4 girls in a hot tub, a 3-way Pink Triangle, 2 former strippers and a finale to announce the winner!”
The Power of Three
The competition has dwindled to three girls, all of whom, per strict reality television rules, have their own distinct strengths and weaknesses. I mean, wouldn’t you, just once, like to see judges pick between finalists of identical skill, mien, and merit? Now that would be a nail-biting battle—you know, like when you and a friend both play Ivy against each other in Soul Caliber? [SnowflakeGirl laughs snortingly, and pushes glasses up bridge of nose.]
Anyhooker, back to our three remaining contenders, all of whom (no matter how you feel about them personally) have performed consistently well throughout the cycle and have made strong impressions in both the judges’ and audience’s minds. Will it be Amanda, the stunningly icy-eyed, 25 year old, legally blind mother—(Shut yo mouth! But I’m just talkin’ ‘bout Amanda!); 19 year old Eva Diva, whose bad-azz, hard candy shell protects the milk chocolate-y sweetness and insecurity on the inside (this analogy sponsored by M&M™); or Yaya, the carbuncular, 21 year old, Ivy League grad, who just won’t let you forget how much smarter she is than everyone on the face of this entire planet (oh, and by the way, she also writes really well)?
Each one of these beauties has their own Achilles’ heel: for Amanda, she must work on appearing as much a model in person as on paper; Eva, the shortest of the bunch, has to prove she can be high fashion; and Yaya needs to dial her pride back a couple of notches from “God’s gift” to “likeable.” With precious little time remaining, can they each step up their respective games?
Back at the old Japanese homestay, the girls are still spinning from the last elimination. They mostly marvel over their good luck, but there’s one who’s stinging from a conspicuous snub from her best friend. They replay last week’s heart-rending cold-shoulder from Ann (including Eva’s quiet, final plea to her “Banana”—this is why it’s not wise to rely on fruit for companionship, things are always bound to go bad), and show Eva returning to her room in tears, crushed. Amanda’s opinion is that “Eva had been treating Ann like poo for a long time.” On the other hand, Eva says that she has learned from her experience in ANTM that “being offensive and defensive is not showing strength,” and has been trying to be a better person, but with their minds made up, no one is seeing the changes she’s made. In point of fact, Yaya says with her typical warm charm, “If there were anything that Amanda and I could do to make Eva feel more included or comfortable, I don’t think we would.” Oh yeah, her likeability is gonna go through the roof with that one.
Easy, Breezy, Blah Blah Blah, CoverGirl
TyraMail arrives, voicing La TyTy’s opinion on the recent spate actresses-cum-models: “Actresses have recently been gracing the covers of all the top magazines, but it’s time for them to step aside and make room for a real CoverGirl.” How about we call a moratorium on models who want to act in movies or appear on TV, hmmm? [pause] Yuhum, I didn’t think so. That’s right, I’m talkin’ to you, Miss Coyote Ugly and Bad Ass Biker Girls!!! Oopsy, that last movie actually features Tyra Spanks—my bad! [carefully places BABG lovingly back in personal video collection]
Speaking of money shots, the girls finally get to do what we’ve all been waiting for: somethin’ purty, an ad for Covergirl™ Wet Slicks® [a brainwashed Snowy moans like zombie: “Must buy Wet Slicks, moisturizes like lip balm, eeet smells like cupcakes”], from which the winning model’s photo will really be used in the company’s upcoming national campaign. “The lip is the hero today!” Jay commands them.
A princess pink Amanda is the first to appear before Ryu Tamagawa, the photographer. An assistant demonstrates how they are supposed to lie on their stomachs atop the “zen” stones in a shallow pool of water, like beautiful sea otters basking in the ocean. Sexy yet approachable sea otters in Covergirl™ Wet Slicks®, that is. This is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen Amanda, and I’m blown away by her 500 watt smile, of which she says, “I was really trying to utilize my inner joy…my appreciation for bunny rabbits and France.” <--Actual quote!!! Honeychild, whatever you’ve been on these past few weeks, I want a hit, because it sounds like some feelgood shiznit. [Snowy PSA time: I joke a lot, but kids, JUST SAY NO to Drugs, especially the “Reefer”, a weed with roots in HELL!!! I’m sure Amanda’s just high on life.] “I was servin’ up a pipin’ hot plate of smile,” says she, the beaming blonde who is now blinding us with her glowy gorgeousity (oh the irony!). When Jay says that out of 40 frames, Amanda has 36 usable shots, I’m thinking, could she possibly be the one to win it all…?
Eva is next, in comely coral colors. She gets out on that rock and gives it her Eva Diva best, an explosion of golden radiance and sunny smiles to melt the hardest heart (although, girl, watch that catcher’s mitt hand you’re giving). “I have no room for mess-ups. I can’t twitch wrong, move wrong, nothing,” Eva worries aloud, however, in front of the camera she makes the warm, friendly beauty look effortless. She even puts a smile on Cranky Jay’s face, who remarks that through the course of the competition, he’s noticed that Eva has slowly let down the “tough girl” wall she’s built around herself. Could Eva possibly be the one to win it all…?
In makeup, Yaya is reading a book as the makeup artist beats her face, trying to think how to portray a “tee-ha-ha [fake laugh] kind of person”. I guess by “tee-ha-ha” she means the accessible, girly-girl that Covergirl’s looking for. I can only guess because I’m not as smart as Yaya, and all her fancypants college talkin’ goes over muh head. Yaya comes out looking lovely in lavender and tries hard to smile and look sweet, by “reciting poetry or seeing little ways in which my education’s keeping me posi—“ Oh shut up, Yaya, we get it, you’re smart and beautiful. However, “smart, beautiful” is Maybelline’s motto, and won’t win you any favor here. Still, she seems to please Mr. Jay, who gushes,“On Yaya’s face, Matthew did a beautiful job today. She looks fresh, natural, and beautiful without even re-touching,” although it’s really more a compliment to the makeup artist than Yaya herself, don’t you think? Nonetheless, she does a great job. Could Yaya possibly be the one to win it all…?
After the photoshoot, the girls are conscripted into a go-see for famed contemporary Japanese designer, Noriko Fukushima, a 20 year veteran of top-quality prêt-à-porter. At her studio, the girls try on the outfits that they might possibly wear, if they are the two selected to be in the final runway showdown which will determine who is America’s Next Top Model. Eva is excited as pie to discover new fashion. Yaya, as usual, knows better than even the designer, commenting on how the sheer skirt of her ensemble “could look very hoochie.” You know, it’s occurred to me that it’s not always what Yaya says that I find very abrasive, it’s the self-affected way in which she says it. [Snowy says, self-affectedly] Amanda dons a lacy catsuit with accompanying veil and shawl that is not her “cup of tea” but remains polite, telling Noriko the outfit is “a showstopper.” Everybody bows to Noriko then it’s home for the night to sleep (if any of them can) before another elimination tomorrow.
They meet Noriko again the next day when she appears as guest judge with the rest of our regular judging panel, Tyra, Janice, Nigel, and Nolé. Amanda (or “Japanda” as Janice calls her—have these two been hanging out, smoking in the back or what? Smoking, um…life, kids. JUST SAY NO!) is the first to be evaluated. As her CoverGirl ad comes up on the big screen, there is collective gasp from the panel. They are, as I am, awestruck by her consummate cuteness. “Scrumptious” and “amazing” are all words uttered by the panel. Tyra breaks up the love fest by asking what designer would possibly let her walk runway with her glasses, adding “It’s just not realistic, for a go-see and a real fashion show; Tyra then mimes taking off glasses and tucking them away (methinks someone wants to add another slash—model/actress/reality tv producer/talk show host/mime?). Amanda whips them off in shame.
Next is Yaya, who also garners comments of surprise and delight from the panel. “You guys are doing a great job,” Nolé says; Janice takes the Lord’s name in vain (in a positive way); Tyra likes her bone structure and everyone agrees that she looks “really sweet” and “approachable” (i.e. not your normal, uppity, bitchy self). In pondering what was behind her smile, Yaya claims to have been thinking about how much she loves her brother (in a regular sibling kind of way, or an Angelina Jolie kind of way?). Nigel wonders if thinking about winning the contract is what really got her grinning. “That too,” Yaya admits, with a disingenuous “tee-ha-ha” kind of laugh.
Finally, Eva’s picture comes up. “My goodness me, you’re making our jobs difficult,” Nigel says warmly. “Can we have three winners tonight?” Janice begs Tyra. Eva discloses, “I was the one thinking about the contract while shooting. That’s what kept me motivated, kept me smiling!” Tyra finds her skin “amazing…so even and so smooth”; Janice likens it to honey. Noriko, via translator, tell Eva, “It really looks like the smile comes from within and looking at this picture makes me feel happier.”
Before Tyra dismisses them for judges’ deliberations, she takes some time to congratulate the final three, pointing out that they were the three shortest girls in the competition (sing it with me, folks: in yo tall bitches’ face!) and taking back her earlier comment that none of them seemed to be ready to be America’s Next Top Model. “Those pictures proved us very wrong,” Tyra says, before letting them ouff into the holding room.
Deliberations are difficult indeed. Noriko seems to love Amanda’s “translucent” skin tone; Nolé says, “the ice queen has completely melted away and a beautiful woman came out.” Nigel still feels there is dissonance between the awesome Amanda in pictures and the awkward Amanda in person; Janice vehemently disagrees, and says Amanda “nailed it, hands down, bar none.” Nigel seems shocked that the “tomboy” Eva was able to “pull out” such a warm, beautiful picture. Nolé retorts that the CoverGirl Eva “is the girl that every girl in America wants to know and be. She’s universal.” Janice admits that Eva has grown a lot throughout the competition, but she doesn’t yet feel that she can give “chic.” Yaya’s bone structure is praised highly; Nigel deems her “one of the most beautiful girls I think we’ve had” but still perceives her as “slightly arrogant, snobbish thing.” Janice fights Nigel on this point, defending Yaya’s regal air, saying, “I think Yaya’s got the CoverGirl look.”
Finally, the girls are brought back in, and Tyra does her spiel on having three lovely ladies but only two photos, etc. Brass tacks: she shocks the hell out everybody, including Yaya herself, when she calls Yaya back first. This leaves Eva and Amanda in the bottom two…After a torturous, suspense-stretching speech about how each girl has what the other one needs (Amanda’s edgy and high-fashion, Eva’s approachable and relatable) and a top model needs both, Tyra finally gives the photo to…Eva!
Amanda leaves the judging room with sadness in her now-famous, icy blue eyes, and the judges are clearly torn up inside to see her go (Janice even hollers out “love you”). She hugs Yaya and Eva, then returns to the homestay where the tears finally come. She had thought, as I certainly did, that she would at least make the final two, and is most upset that she didn’t win the $100,000 contract that she could have put to great use on her house and family back home. Ever positive, Amanda says that she hopes to inspire people with disabilities or other shortcomings to “work through it and find joy in everything.” We hope she knows that all of us have found joy in her story and her struggles just as much as we delighted in her singularly stunning beauty.
Meanwhile, a funny thing’s happening between Yaya and Eva. Well, first of all they’re talking—not fighting or sniping or talking about studying psychology, but actually having a civil conversation with each other. “Either the tomboy or the Afro-centric one is gonna be America’s Next Top Model,” Eva ponders aloud, “Never in a million years did we think we would be the last two…It just blows me that it’s only two black girls right here.” Yaya acknowledges they have not gotten along like gangbusters before, but, “Now it’s just her and me. We just let our guards down.” Yaya even cops to insecurity about her own shortcomings, calling herself a “Nestlé Crunch Bar” (and damn it, now I’m hungry). Maybe there’s a human in there after all, even Eva sees it: “she has her defenses up but there’s a sweet person underneath that.” Yaya expresses happiness that, no matter what, the winner “is going to be a black woman, who has flaws, whose head is on her shoulders, and who is a positive person.”
In the morning, the girls have their last one-on-one convos with Tyra before the final challenge. Eva still can’t believe that her dream of being a model is now within reach. She also expresses disbelief that the last two left in the competition are black people, and Tyra is quick to explain, “It’s not about us thinking, oh a black girl needs to win this year…it’s just, the two best were black girls.” Eva asks Tyra what she sees when she looks at her; Tyra answers: “a girl that is very troubled but is dealing with that and trying to be better, so it’s not about perfection, it’s about striving to improve ourselves.” Tyra’s patented Cry-o-Matic™ technology gets Eva’s waterworks going, and the Diva concludes by saying, “There’s never a testimony without a test.” Tyra gives her a big, warm, comforting hug.
Yaya joins Tyra, and talks about her being “Afro-centric” and how it’s “natural” for her to want to express that and to be “proud” and not conform. Tyra says, “Yeah I wear a hair weave, but I’m still a black woman, and I’m still representing beauty to people that never really thought black women were beautiful.” Tyra wants Yaya to hold on to her authentic self, but also try to be accessible to many different kids of people, and represent. Another round of hugs, then it’s off to the final fashion show.
Zen and the Art of Runway Modelling
The girls are driven to the location of the Fukushima fashion show. Eva knows she can walk, so is confident that today she will “kill it.” Yaya manages to squeeze in one more reference to her Ivy League education by saying she has the same butterflies in her stomach that she felt when she “walked across the stage and got [her] diploma.” Alright already, we know you’re a bloody genius! Jay greets them in a long black gown that makes him look like the high priest of queer, and informs them that “this is not a show for you two, this is a real show for Noriko.” The real kicker is the non-linear runway (squarish, with people seated in the center), and a “very somber, very slow” walk that Jay says will be perfect for the “very Japanese, Zen-style show.” Eva panics, since she was prepared to “serve it” in typical Eva Diva fashion.
Yaya and Eva go join the other models backstage, where they are made up in Faux-riental hair and makeup, and dressed in Noriko’s avante-garde-meets-traditional designs. We watch the crowd file in, including Janice, Nigel, Nolé and fabulously kimono’d Miss J. Tyra gives the girls one last pep talk backstage, saying that with other real models around, they have to “step up” and “serve it right back.” Taiko drummers open the show with a frenetic beat, then out come the girls. Yaya seems to do a good job with the slow and somber walk, though her eyes look a little reindeer-in-headlights to me (and was that Janice who actually yelled out “faster” in the audience?). Eva talks about having difficulty tamping down her usual sashay, but she looks fantastic, and we see Janice murmur “perfect” to Nigel. Eva and Yaya then have a near-collision at Zamboni speed on the square runway, as the person who comes next must cross over for the person onstage to exit.
Both girls are exhilarated post-show, and are confident about their chances for winning. Jay, whom I suspect is a softy underneath his cranky art director exterior, goes backstage to tell them that must now immediately go to judging. Eva, though Yaya’s competitor, in Yaya’s words, “collapsed into my bosom.” The two are probably just relieved to have completed their final challenge. All that’s left to do now is wait to hear the final decision.
That’ll Do Pigford, That’ll Do
The girls walk into their final judging looking glamorous to the nth degree in elegant evening gowns. Nolé looks a little choked up, like he’s the mother-of-the-bride at a wedding. Tyra talks about how each of the girls has transformed into “world-class models.” Tyra reiterates the prize package: a modeling contract with Ford, the spread in Elle, the $100,000 contract with CoverGirl, et al. There are no guest judges because Tyra, Janice, Nigel and Nolé are the ones who know them best. After this judgement, one girl will at long last be named America’s Next Top Model.
They start the runway evaluations with Yaya: Nigel finds her “beautiful”, Nolé deems her “technical” but lacking in personality, Janice thinks she fit in but her face was “zombie, glacial.” Finally, Tyra informs us that her mom was checking out Yaya’s ass. Then it’s Eva’s turn: Nigel likes that she “had the Zen” but with “a little Eva swagger to it,” Tyra points out Eva’s little neck bob that Janice says resembles “a little egret.”
Finally, they do some side-by-side comparisons of photos (incidentally, NONE of them the clown ones!): bikini shoot, the first beauty shot, alter ego, tarantula, kimono, and finally the CoverGirl shoot. The judges parse out the good and the bad of both, concluding with Tyra praising both girls on embodying the CoverGirl motto of “good girl with a wink,” and saying they both could be CoverGirls. Alas, as with the Highlander, there can be only one, so the judges dismiss the girls to deliberate one last time.
Right off the bat, Nigel feels that Eva’s look is more “right now” while Yaya’s is “old-fashioned.” Tyra thinks that Yaya instinctually moves “like a pro.” Nolé seems bowled over by how Eva looked in panel tonight, “She looked like a superstar.” Janice prefers Yaya’s refinement. They debate passionately for some time—Yaargh, why prolong the torture? Let’s fast-forward to what we all really want to hear.
Tyra calls the girls back in. Yaya says she’s “trying to stay on my feet,” and Eva starts crying “because regardless if I win or lose, this feeling is overwhelming.” Tyra talks about how hard the judges’ decision was, and how different the two of them are. She commends Yaya for having finally “picked that chip up off her shoulder” and become “likeable.” She likewise praises Eva for having overcome her defensive hateration, then pauses before the final reveal.
“America’s Next Top Model is…” Miss EVA MARCELLE PIGFORD. When Eva sees her own visage flash up on the monitor, she goes hysterical with disbelief and happiness. Yaya gives Eva a goodbye hug, and leaves as one would expect, proudly, with her head held high, and never conceding defeat. “In comparison to other people in this competition, I definitely felt I deserved to be recognized, and I will, but they wanted something a little bit more bubbly and they found it,” Yaya says.
The judges all congratulate an ecstatic Eva (including Janice, who literally leaps on top of her). “I am a CoverGirl!” Eva says, choked up. Over a montage of photos from her past, Eva talks about she was a “a little tomboy from L.A.” who was never considered “beautiful” and here in the competition was “the shortest” and most insecure—yet now she is America’s Next Top Model. “I get to represent all those little girls that felt the way I felt,” Eva says, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Tyra Banks just told me, I’m about to be a star! Watch out world, here comes Eva!”
Congratulations, Eva Diva, on becoming the third winner of America’s Next Top Model. Now, join with me everybody, just one last time: [dancing] In yo tall bitches face! Uh huh!
Thanks for spending the past few months with me and my kibitzing. I wish you Happy Holidays and hope that in the New Year all your dreams come true! Send your emails to snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com.