Welcome back, gorgeous girls, glamorous gays, and the eight straight guys who watch this show for the HaWt [misspelling makes it sexier] pixellation. My fellow ANTManiacs, the wait is over. Megalomaniacal multi-tasking model Tyra Banks is back again (minus her crazy red wig, which I hear got its own spin-off show on VH1’s Celebreality) with a fifth cycle of AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL. This premiere is not only double the size, but double the drama of most reality shows. In two hours, ANTM brings you the thrills, spills, catfights, tears, girl-on-girl action, and fornicating Jehovah’s Witnesses other shows take a whole season to get to. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s not waste any more time.
Beverly Hills…That's Where They Want to Be! (Gimme Gimme)
Tyra certainly doesn’t waste any time; not a single minute passes before she sets in with the unabashed cross-promotion we’ve come to expect from her. Oh she thinks she’s being sly, sneaking herself into the audition tape montage, hamming it up as she pretends to be a model hopeful, donning a t-shirt bearing the logo for her talk show, but mama didn’t raise no fools: this is the same damn clip many of us saw on the Top Model reunion on The Tyra Banks Show earlier today. Let’s just hope this venture is more successful than “Shake Ya Body,” which shouldn’t be too hard, considering Waterloo was a more successful venture than “Shake Ya Body.”
At LAX, we get our first glimpse of the 36 semi-finalists. The first girl we meet is Cassandra (19, Houston, TX), a rather severe-looking brunette and a beauty pageant veteran who says, “My communications expert always tells me: don’t worry about the competition, you’re here for you.” Clearly, she’s lying and clearly she’s evil. The second girl is Bre, not spelled yet pronounced like the delicious soft cheese. Bre (20, Harlem, NY) seems very Dorothy from The Wiz, and not just because of her Donna Summer hair and bright red shoes, but because she is emotional over this being her very first time away from home. I like her already, although it could just be because her name reminds me of a food I love. If there was someone there named Prime Rib, she’d become an instant favorite too.
Nik (21, Atlanta, GA) sends out a Mercedes vibe with her cute curls and bright smile; she’s confident that the competition will be “all about me, baby!” Little Susanna (19, Carthage, NY) tries to get someone to help her with her luggage to no avail. Try asking nicely next time; there’s this cool, new phrase people are trying out—have you heard of it, called “Please”? She dismissively mentions that she doesn’t have many friends, “and I don’t really care actually.” With a warm attitude like that? You don’t say!
A van collects the arrivals and transports them to the famed Beverly Hilton, where the girls, in cocktail attire, meet on a terrace overlooking L.A. Ebony (18, Sylmar, CA) susses out her competition, and is “intimidated” by all the beautiful girls she’s up against. Then she throws out a little catchphrase of hers we’re going to hear ad nauseum, “Don’t get it twisted!” What? My knickers? Too damn late! I have ADD, it’s been 3 minutes now, where’s the drama? Wait for it…
Before long, our model wannabes start screaming and jumping, which can only signal that either a) their asses were all simultaneously set on fire, or b) it’s the first appearance of platinum-haired art director Jay Manuel. Thank God for them it’s the latter (though admit it: you’d have a good hearty laugh at the former). Mr. Jay is pretty in pink, wearing a jacket that makes him look like a gigantic, silver-tipped candy cane. Sweet-faced girl-next-door Kyle (19, Dexter, MI) is so excited, “I nearly peed myself.” Get on the phone with Depends, I smell a new sponsor! (Okay, poor, poor choice of verb.)
He gives everyone the “You must eat, breathe, sleep this business” spiel, and as the camera scans the crowd, I get a distinct feeling of déja vu. Many of the girls resemble past cycle participants—there’s a dead ringer for Shandi with glasses in the front, a Norelle twin here, a boobless Bethany there, a Keenyah clone, a Brita-like. Did Tyra steal past contestants’ DNA and attempt to create some kind of freaky genetic ANTM All Stars? I wouldn’t put it past her. Let me guess this year’s fashion destination: The Island of Dr. Moreau?
The next day brings the girls’ first challenge. Mr. Jay gathers them by the pool to work on posing. He explains that the photographer, client, or art director might give you a reference, and if you don’t get it, they might have llama-riding midgets beat you to near death with switches of black licorice. Oh I’m just kidding, (though admit it: you’d have a good hearty laugh if that was true). Point is, you gotta be able to get the references they throw at you.
Screams and apoplectic seizures abound when Miss J. Alexander, runway diva extraordinaire, strides out in trademark heels (and purse, and scarf, and sunglasses) to help oversee the posing. Two-by-two, the girls come up and give “sexy,” “edgy,” and “Linda Evangelista,” like some kind of Noah’s Ark of models. I sadly note that they don’t ask anyone to do the “Kate Moss” which would surely involve bending over to sniff a bubble-gum sized line of snow off another model’s thigh in the ladies room.
All the girls are then asked to give the “Tyra Banks pose,” and here to show them how it’s done is (gasp, what a surprise) La Ty Ty herself. She comes out looking better than she has in a long time, with a sleeker, more flattering, caramel-colored hairstyle, and a sleeker physique as well. She must have put down those pork chops in preparation for her own daily show. Predictably, the girls scream bloody murder, and everyone kisses Tyrass.
Tyra gives a motivational speech about how every winner has had “something extra special, and she’s looking for someone who’ll jump out and say, “Tyra here I am, I’m better than this bitch right next to me.” Doesn’t this completely contradict all the female empowerment hoo-ha she spews on her show or at her self-esteem camps for girls? Hypocrisy, thy name is Tyra. But damn, girl, you lookin’ good, okay? [snaps]
From the Funky Cheese Homophone to the Fornicating Jehovah’s Witness
Selection interviews with Tyra, J., and Jay start with Bre, the girl whose name is a homophone for delicious triple-cream cheese that is excellent paired with fruit and a nice pinot gris (and by “homophone” I’m referring to the pronunciation of her name, and not trying to imply that she won’t be getting along with Kim, wokka wokka). Bre’s big revelation during her interview is the fact that she’s “messy sometimes and doesn’t take baths” because she’s lazy. Miss J. comes over to take a sniff and with a wrinkled nose declares her “funky.” This Bre is ripe, apparently; she might have more in common with the cheese than we think!
Kyle, a wholesome-looking blonde from Small Town, Nowhere, works at a Dairy Queen and has a normal, happy family life. You’ll soon see that this sets her apart from the parade of weepy dysfunction to come. Kyle, who admits she grew up sheltered, marvels over the fact she just met her first lesbian; Tyra corrects her, saying she surely has, she just doesn’t know it. Hello, this is coming from a girl with a guy’s name!
Finally, in strides the lesbian herself, Kim (21, New York, NY), sporting a cute, preppy, soft-butch look, and not the mullet-headed, free-Dinah-Shore-Weekend-tee, and plaid-flannel-shirt-wearing look (not that there’s anything wrong with that). She reminds me of Terry from the 80s gender-bending teen comedy classic and cheesy cable staple, Just One of the Guys, as well as the confusing pre-teen crush I had on Joyce Hyser. Hey, I wasn’t alone, Sherilynn Fenn had one too! Kim is out and proud, but Tyra warns her about being a walking political statement. Speaking of walking, J. mocks her stevedore stride, and Jay her Hut-One-Hut-Two football pose.
The Norellesque Jayla (20, Tucson, Arizona) says that even though she still believes in the religion she was raised in, she is a “horrible example of what a Jehovah’s Witness is supposed to be like,” because she fornicates, swears, smokes, and doesn’t go to church. “So you’re on the Jehovah’s layaway plan,” Miss J. quips. Sorry when the Rapture comes you won’t be going to heaven with your family, Jayla. I hope it was worth it for that Pall Mall, babe.
b]The Girl Who Annoyed Me So Much She Gets Her Section[/b]
Don’t let Nicole’s innocent kewpie doll (or, according to Jay, Disney Dwarf) looks fool you (19, Grand Forks, ND); she is a bitter little biyotch who has problems not only with her mother, but unhealthily jealous feelings for her sister. She hasn’t been onscreen for a nanosecond before she complains about how badly fate has treated her (go talk to a Hurricane Katrina survivor, you spoiled little ingrate). The pièce de résistance is her whiny, narrow, floppy-assed self getting down on her knees to beg, saying “I’ll do anything” for a spot on the show. Miss J., sounding like an experienced sage who knows a thing or two about getting on his knees to advance a career, dispenses this advice, “Don’t ever, ever say you’ll do anything.” Young girls take heed: Tyra likewise warns of the perils of promising to do “everything” to get ahead, because next thing you know you’re waking up in a cheerleader outfit with a ball gag in your mouth next to a donkey. Fine, she doesn’t actually say this (but admit it, if she did, wouldn’t we all nod our heads solemnly in the recognition that we’ve all been there…No? Just me then).
After irritating me in her interview, Nicole cements her position on my “People I’d Like to Pimp Slap” list by causing a big stink at the grocery store, where several of the girls have gone to pick up some necessities. For some reason, Nicole has tremendous trouble finding Chapstick, so she enlists a bunch of other girls to help her find Chapstick, which leads to a tiff about the Chapstick, and if this is Chapstick’s way of getting product placement on the show, it’s backfired, because after hearing so much about the Chapstick, the only thing I want to do with Chapstick is shove it up Nicole’s floppy, little behind. Bre says that Nicole does nothing but complain (really, I didn’t notice), and adds "If Nicole keeps up her whining and makes it in the house, seriously, I am going to stuff her in the closet and leave her there." I don’t usually condone such harsh threats but—oh who am I kidding, I totally condone it!
Bikini-Munching Butt Cheeks and the Bush-Loving Beauty Queen
Remember, Nik, the girl I said reminded me bit of Mercedes? Well on interview day, she’s decided to morph, à la Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” video (which, hey, features a young Tyra) into another ex-ANTM contestant, reigning CoverGirl Naima. I’m not the only one distracted by this; the panel actually tells her to take down her faux-hawk because, as Tyra says, “I’m a getting a Naima kind of thing.” Nik comes out to walk with her hair down, and looks pretty cute in a brown bikini, but (or should I say “butt”) alas, as she walks away, her admittedly “cheap” swimsuit bottom is slowly but surely sucked into her tuchis. “Just all the way, in the crack,” Nik recalls with regret. There’s no hope that the panel didn’t notice, as Tyra hollers out, “Murphy in the booty!” like some kind of “Fire in hole!” type of warning.
Next up is big ol’ Boricua beauty Diane (23, Orlando, FL). This plus-sized Puerto Rican is a criminal defense investigator with great cheekbones who looks like she would have no trouble beating the crap out of Boo Boo on 36th street. She has no worries over competition here, because if anyone steps in her path, she warns, “You’re about to get runned over by Big D.” Little stick figure Susanna, clearly making a run for Miss Disease of Cycle 5, talks about how half of her “nub” was taken off due to breast cancer. Wow, really sad. But the girl can’t walk, which is my horribly insensitive segue to the goofy walk-off montage of the night, which consists of split screens of girls we will never see again.
Our Beauty Queen Cassandra reappears, this time in full perky robot mode, and mentions how proud she is she’s from Texas 85 million times. We see a picture of her in her crown, and there is cold, deadness in her perfectly posed gaze that makes me think she is Miss Teen USA’s version of Patrick Bateman. Tyra then administers a loyalty litmus test by asking her who the current Miss USA and Miss Universe are. Cassandra aces the pageant portion of the pop quiz. Asked to name three CoverGirls, Cassandra chokes. Booyakasha!
Ashley (22, Ft. Lauderdale, FL), whom Jay thinks is a mix of Sharon Stone and Charlize Theron, is a buyer for a boutique, but she wants to make the switch from behind the scenes to being on the fashion forefront as a model. She impresses me and the panel with her articulate knowledge of designers, but then undoes whatever good impression that made by bragging about how “We have what we call a ‘pretty gene’ in my family,” the milkiness of her own skin, and how she has “a lot of things going for me that make this the right thing for me to do.” Oh stop being so modest, Ashley [I say under my breath as I add “Darwin” to my “People I’d Like to Pimp Slap List].
Meanwhile, the rest of the girls are getting to know each other—and already getting on each others’ nerves. The girls are pretending to ask Cassandra a pageant question, and Big D blurts out, “How do you feel about George Bush being dumb and from Texas?” Cassandra says, “I don’t think he’s dumb,” which only confirms the evil in her that I already suspected. Then Cassandra goes on and on about Texan pride yet again. Hey, most of my family is Texan and I spent a good deal of time there growing up, but you don’t hear me blathering on about it. Or voting for idiots.
April (22, Las Vegas, NV) looks like she got makeup lessons from Nomi Malone in Showgirls. Yes, that’s one of my favorite all-time movies, but NO, that is not a compliment. What it means is she has TOO DAMN MUCH makeup on her face. Now I’m a girly-girl who loves to buy cosmetics and beauty products too, but the key is you don’t wear it all at the same time. They have her peel off her fake eyelashes, and these things are so huge that Jay is able to use one to create the perfect Hitler ‘stache on his upper lip, which is apropos since he can be rather a Nazi on photo shoots.
Lisa (24, Los Angeles, CA, Westsiiiide, represent!) comes in perky and sweet but then starts berating her “selfish” mother, who rudely “didn’t buy us things”—what is up with the mom-bashing, people?!! Lisa seems to have issues with being criticized by her mom (why do I feel like I’m a therapist making notes on a client), which makes the Tyra and crew nervous about how she’ll stand up to the harsh scrutiny of the business. Then the tears…oh the tears. Oh and hey did the pixellator guy fall asleep on the job last night, because I swear Lisa’s shirt says the “C” word that rhymes with “hunt.” Tyra loves her, and there’s something about Lisa’s sincerity and sensitivity that has its appeal; however, Lisa’s sensitivity could also be a huge problemo in the competition to come.
The girls sup on an elegant meal of top ramen, the kind in the Styrofoam cup that has sustained college students, sodium-loving Asians, and people who can’t cook for ages. I have been all of those things at one time or other, so I am familiar with this cuisine (quick ramen tips: throw in an egg and hot chili sauce, and enjoy—for the cup kind, don’t put in as much water as instructed). Nicole, Miss Constant Complainer, is apparently not so familiar: she moans repeatedly that “this ramen tastes like hay, like straw hay.” As opposed, I guess, to delicious noodle hay.
Turns out Nicole herself made it wrong, prompting one girl (who appears to be sitting on the lap of Kim, who looks to be one quick playa) to laugh, “I’m ghetto, I can cook my cup o’noodles real good.” Bre, with that frustrated/fatigued look of a mother about to smack her child in Kmart, finally says, “Nicole, you have been complaining the whole time. Just give me five minutes without it…please.” Nicole thinks everyone is mad at her because she doesn’t know how to make ramen noodles and not, oh, because she won’t shut her whiny, hay-eating ramen-hole for one second.
The whole thing disintegrates into a big, bitchy brawl of who’s complaining more and who ate the chips. Krystle (20, Long Beach, CA) is the accused chip-eater, and she gives Nicole a lengthy tongue-lashing for trying to drag her into an argument that had nothing to do with her. Nicole says that although all the other girls thinks she complains to much, she doesn’t think that’s the case. Of course she wouldn’t. Kim and her unidentified lap pal speculate that either someone’s on her period or about to get it. Here’s a thought: with 36 women in one room, they’re likely correct. What’s that noise? Why that’s the sound of the eight straight guys switching the channel.
Piggy and the Twisted Sister
The interviews continue with Sarah (18, Boonville, MO) who has broad shoulders and even bigger lips for which she was ridiculed throughout school. She says she’s worried she’ll “fall flat on her face” (bright, flashing, neon FORESHADOWING sign), but her good sense of humor and natural sweetness seem to win the judges (and even me) over. They discuss the fact that she paid thousands of dollars on a bogus “modeling convention” and Tyra does her PSA about how you should never pay to have someone to become a model, and if they ask you to, it’s probably a scam.
Whitney (18, Fairfield, CA) is a member or the Future Farmers of America, and she demonstrates her livestock-hawking skills by pretending to auction off Jay, who is playing a New Hampshire pig. Jay gets down on all fours like a PRO, which you know he is, and has no problems being prodded along by a long, stiff stick. Well there was a glimpse into Mr. Jay’s personal life that I didn’t really want to see! Or maybe I DID!!! In fact, I think I’ve seen this scenario before in an old German porn…aaand you now have a glimpse into my personal life that you didn’t really need to see!
Latricia (18, Trenton, CA), also known as “Bebe” or perhaps homophonously “Bay-Bay” to her friends, says she wants to make it as a model so she can get her hair and nails done. While it’s true she desperately needs them done, there has to be easier ways to get a manicure than go through ANTM. In contrast, Krystle, formely of ChipGate, tells Tyra and crew that she hopes to succeed in modeling so that she can give her money to the UN, help third world orphanages, and save the planet. She’s a regular Mother Theresa/Angelina Jolie! Tyra asks her what was the last community service she did, and like Cassandra before her, Krystle is victim of The Big Choke. In a Janice Dickinson-type move, Tyra flops her head down on the table in frustration.
Coryn (19 Minneapolis, MN) comes in very shyly, and admits she’s nervous and not used to talking about herself. In reality television, she’s going to have to get over that right quick. In fact, she does, and we learn that her dad was a deadbeat and her mom a drug addict. Tyra asks if Coryn thinks being a model will help her mom out, and when Coryn realistically says, “No,” Tyra says she likes her answer, because a lot of people think fame and fortune will sole everything, when in actuality, “Fame is not magic.” After that touching moment, they then proceed to make fun of her mahoosive, one-step-away-from-Frida Kahlo eyebrows, with Miss J. holding pens up to his face to simulate them.
Regina (19, San Mateo, CA) is a redhead was not allowed to dye her hair. She wanted to be blonde, which leads Jay to ask, “Oh about as natural as mine?” That’s not even blonde anymore; Mr. Jay is just body paint away from being one of those silver robot street performers at the pier. Regina admits she has had weight problems, and after she does her walk, Tyra declares her, “the white girl version of my booty.”
Ebony comes in displaying a lot of enthusiasm (i.e. crazed hyperactivity), talking a mile a minute, gesticulating wildly, saying she was “born to model” and sharing her motto with the panel. Say it with me, folks [snapping]: DON’T GET IT TWISTED. The only way she defines her motto is: “That’s how it is, it’s gonna come out like that, that’s how I want to serve it.” I still don’t understand what she’s talking about, a pretzel or a churro or something? Ebony wows everyone with her ability to recall nearly all the semi-finalists’ names and descriptions, and I’m starting wonder if this girl is crazy in a brilliant way, like some kinda Top Model Rain Man or something.
Her competitors have strong feelings about Ebony, with one girl accusing her of being fake, and Jayla voting her the girl she’d most like to punch, because her energy is “so over-the-top.” Ebony says it’s okay if people don’t like her just as long as they [yelled with “Wheel of Fortune” intensity] DON’T GET IT TWISTED!
The Show Must Go On
The homophonously named J. and Jay gather all the semi-finalists to inform them there will be a fashion show tonight, however, like most fashion shows, there are only spots for 20 models. The 20 to walk in the show will also be the 20 still in the running for ANTM, and to find out they are selected, they must go into the dressing room and find their picture at a station. And the 16 rejects? Insult to injury: they’ll have to sit in the audience to “support” the 20 going on. Yeah right. Evil eyes abound.
The girls rush to the dressing room to find their photos. Some girls, like Bre, cry tears of joy when they see they’ve been selected. Others cry tears of sorrow; like when Susanna says she’s always been a “failure” and anything she’s ever wanted to do, she could never “complete it.” Latricia is so despondent, she was on the floor sobbing, and many of the audience members sit in their seats with red eyes and wet cheeks.
Meanwhile, the 20 catwalkers frantically get dressed. “Pretty Gene” (a.k.a. Ashley) says with confidence that “she’s going to be the one with the contract.” Fire up the neon Foreshadowing sign again: Lips McGee (a.k.a. Sarah) is “scared of falling” because she has a “habit of tripping everywhere.” The show begins, and all the semi-semi-finalists do their thang, and sure enough, Sarah slips a little bit at the end of the runway. While there’s something endearing, not to mention hilarious, about a clumsy gorgeous girl, this is clearly going to be an occupational hazard.
Kim admits her “walk was a disaster” and redheaded Regina’s gut is a gaffe that Miss J. says, “she should have sucked in.” After the show, J. and Jay applaud them for a job well done, but also leave them with the reminder that there is still one more cut to make. Bre says one of the nicest things I have ever heard anyone on a reality show say, “Everyone has a special something about them, it makes it difficult to even think who might be leaving.”
Getting’ Jiggy with Tyra
But leave, someone must. (I’m sorry, I had a Yoda moment there.) The next day Tyra meets one-on-one with the girls to decide on just who those unlucky girls will be. “Pretty got you here, but pretty’s not going to get you to the next level,” Tyra warns, adding that today is all about personality. Then the beatings begin. I’m sorry, I should have said “meetings” (though admit it, you’d spring for pay-per-view to watch that).
It seems the strategy most of the girls are using in one-on-one is to cry their way into the competition. Regina tears up, Nicole sobs, Coryn chokes up. You know who’s not crying? Cassandra, the Stepford beauty queen. I don’t see you crying, Robot! Instead, her unique strategy is to diss one of her competitors, saying that when Regina was told to give a profile, it looked instead like she was going to vomit.
Kyle says that she doesn’t get as much enjoyment from Dairy Queen as she would from modeling. C’mon, what’s not to love about slinging hot dogs and Caramel Moolattes™ day after day? Lisa throws Tyra for a loop when she decides to ask what it was like to work with Will Smith. “You can ask me any question in the world about modeling, and you want to know about Will Smith?” Tyra hollers, aghast.
Sarah says she dreams of driving away from her small town some day, Nik says she’d “die” for the chance to be in ANTM, Bre says that walking down the runway is like art to her, and Miss Future Farmer of America says that since she sold livestock, she’d easily be able to sell CoverGirl. All the girls give their best sell, but Ebony’s fervid speech takes the cake. After babbling at breakneck speed about her fever for modeling that is not a “living room/dining room fire, but a forest fire,” I am left nervously wondering if, in addition to being insane, Ebony is also a pyromaniac. If Tyra’s house gets burnt down soon after her elimination [whispers and points at Ebony] you’ll know who’s responsible.
The Final Countdown
After Tyra and the J’s deliberate, it is time to reveal the girls’ fates. All the girls line up, nervous, except for Lisa who says, “I’m the jam, I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to butter their bread with me.” Great, now I’m hungry, and want a snack, but I still have another damn hour to recap. So quickly, here’s the 13 names Tyra calls out: Cassandra, Nik, Kyle, Ashley, Bre, Kim, Sarah, Jayla, Coryn, Nicole, Diane, and Lisa. Tension fills the air as Tyra hesitates to name the last finalist. She gives a speech about how she wasn’t convinced this person was right for ANTM until their one-on-one, before announcing, “Don’t get it twisted, Miss Ebony!” Looks like Tyra didn’t want her mansion going up in flames.
Click Here for Part 2