The Olympics were a bust. The Oscars were a flop. But can you believe that after all these years, Tyra still knows how to put on a fabu-frickin’-licious show? Sure the premiere of this sixth cycle of AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL is nothing but trash made up with a façade of glamour and dressed in fancy rags—which also pretty much describes the competition itself—but goddamn it, it sure is fun to watch. With two jam-packed hours of all new model-y goodness, let’s get straight to business.
Transamerica’s Next Top Model
Looks like the producers have finally wised up and decided to forgo the old, hackneyed, “True Hollywood Story” vanity-piece on Tyra and open instead by presenting their watchword for the season: Transformation. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. After the popularity of such recent films as Transamerica and Breakfast on Pluto, the producers have decided that this cycle they will select 13 pre-op transsexuals to compete for the title of Top Model. Challenges include: Mastering the Art of the Tuck, Hiding Those Manhands, and …a makeover episode like you’ve never seen before. Snip, snip, sweetheart.
Alas no, they don’t mean M-to-F transformation as much as nobodyfrompodunk-to-supermodel transformation. Over video of past contestants and winners, Tyra tells us that ANTM transforms girls into “working models that are working.” Redundancy Redundant City! Anyway, this year’s pool o’ pretties yielded thousands of applications, from which 32 were chosen to come to LaLaLand for a shot at becoming the next little caterpillar to enter the Tyra cocoon and hopefully emerge a beautiful butterfly.
Race Relations, Part 1
Time to go to LAX to pick up the girls. The first is fresh faced Sara (21, Davis, CA) who makes up for her lack of modeling experience with oodles of enthusiasm. Danielle (20, Little Rock, AR) is a little bit more hardcore, declaring she’ll stop at nothing to get in the house with an intensity that screams, “Does Danielle have to slap a bitch?” Next is Dani (18, Spring, TX), who says her life is a like a “dream” because “I cheerlead at football teams…I have so many friends.” Ohmigod, this girl’s dream is like totally my ultimate nightmare (and it gets worse). Kathy (20, Brevard, NC) has never been on a plane, and she marvels at how people look like “little ants” from up above. Wait till she gets a load of the running water at the model house! No more having to run out back to use the outhouse, yeehaw!
Kathy establishes herself as the sweet, wide-eyed hick, but Dani is another story. She comes a fully functional racist beeyatch right out of the box. Seriously, Dani can’t even get out of the airport shuttle without offending somebody. She mentions being shocked that the tryouts she went to were “95% black girls.” “I didn’t realize it was going to be like that,” she adds with a hint of disdain in her voice. The other people in the vehicle (some of whom are not of the Caucasian persuasion) bristle as she goes on and on about how there were “a lot of black girls” with astonishment as if she’d never seen so many in her life. To be fair, she probably really hasn’t ever seen so many in her little, homogenous, lily-white Texan suburban subdivision.
It’s one thing, however, to have never come into contact with people different from yourself before—but altogether another to hate without even knowing them. Let’s see what Dani has to say for herself, verbatim from her audition tape at the Houston tryouts: “I am the most Über-conservative, Republican, hardcore Baptist you could ever imagine in your whole life. I don’t like gay people. I don’t like muslims. I don’t like abortions. I don’t like anything liberal.” I am most troubled by her selection of the German prefix “Über” that has me wondering if she’s really into Nietzsche, which I somehow doubt, or if she has been hanging out with her local youth chapter of the KKK. The real punchline comes after her long diatribe, when Dani adds, “But other than that, I really like to get along with people.”
But what people are there left to get along with, after that long list which alienates a good portion of the world’s population? Forunda (24, Stuttgart, AR) is certainly not feeling very chummy towards Dani, not the least of which is due to her being a black girl herself. If looks could kill, Forunda’s eyes would be riddling Dani into a slice of swiss cheese, but Forunda, though frustrated, chooses to take the high road and not get into it with the bigot. “You are not going to make me the angry black woman,” Forunda says with determination.
Walk the Line
By the time the girls arrive at the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena (which has a rockin’ brunch, if I may say), they are a mix of emotions. Kyra Sedgwick lookalike Andrea (19, Geneva, OH) confesses she’s nervous, anxious and excited at the same time. Wendy (22, New Orleans, LA), who appears to me what Uma Thurman might look like if she was put on Ice Cube’s trading races show, “Black. White.” is still in shock that she’s even here. Jade (26, New York, NY), a distinctive-looking multiracial mama, fancies that she will be “very intimidating to a lot of these girls.”
Suddenly, Mr. Jay (mercury silver headed art director of photo shoots) and Miss J. (long legged runway expert extraordinaire) appear to roll out a massive red carpet for the girls. The carpet is not a mere welcome—it’s also part of their first challenge. The girls have 3 minutes to put together an outfit with their own clothes that best evokes one of three of types of walks, which are illustrated by clips of vintage Tyra on the runway: “sexy, sultry,” as seen in an Anne Kleine show from 1992; “sophisticated,” in Richard Tyler 1993; “virginal” in Anna Sui 1992. Pray tell, how does one walk virginally? I’m guessing, with a chastity belt?
Jay gives the green light, and the girls rush to get dressed. Kathy, in particular, is in such a rush that she drops trou right outside the hotel. Aw yeah, not even 10 minutes into this season and we’ve got lower body pixellation! Jay stops her immediately, saying, “I don’t need to see your butt here, go inside.” I’d like to see how long Jay would have let the stripping go if this was a male model competition.
After a flurry of girls in various states of dress and undress, the walking begins. Jade starts off the parade of Sultry Sexies with approval from both the J’s. Next we see a few Virgins sacrifice themselves on the altar of fashion; and this time the J’s are most impressed by Dr. Yvonne (27, Surfside, FL), who is, yes, a real doctor, and she is giving us 20 cc’s of fierce stomp STAT! The Sophisticate group comes last, including Sara who is totally unsure of what she is doing.
At the end of the walk off, Jay says it looks like they are going to need a lot of work, but a few girls “came close to Miss Banks.” The person who did the best, however, is Dr. Yvonne, who says while a lot of her fellow competitors are great, “it’s about what you bring to the table.” What are you bringing, Dr. Yvonne? A 15 scalpel?
Joanie (24 and from—try to snicker—Beaver Falls, PA) says she feels like a fat kid in 4th grade last picked for the dodgeball team. Somewhere, some fat kid in the 4th grade who was last picked for the dodgeball team is like, “Screw you, skinny bitch, you don’t know me!” before biting into a Mallomar.
The Hostess with the Mostest
At breakfast the next day, the J’s come in with bad news. Tyra can’t make it, they say, but she did record a welcome video. The girls are visibly disappointed, but what can they do. They watch Tyra’s “tape” in which she gives the girls a pep talk and rallies them with a shout. “I can’t hear you!” she says on the TV screen when the girls cry out their cheer. The girls yell a little bit louder. “I can’t hear you!” Tyra says walking onto the courtyard where they’re having breakfast.
Oh Tyra, we knew you were up to your old tricks. Busy as you are with your talk show and your fat suits and your undercover strip club exposés, we all knew your megalomaniacal ways would not keep you from your little wards of the House of Top Model. The girls explode into a hysterical frenzy at the sight of La TyTy. Tannika (23, Buffalo, NY) even sheds a tear.
Let’s face it, for all her Tyra-nnical ways, is their any reality show host more amiable and more hands-on than Tyra? As much as I love Project Runway, Heidi “Kommissar” Klum makes Tyra look like the Goddess Kwan Yin in comparison. Heidi is a heartless toaster! Tyra really does seem to care. Or maybe after six seasons, I’m starting to get the recapper’s version of Stolkholm Syndrome…
Tyra fields some questions from the crowd. She does a catwalk demonstration for the girls that she punctuates with a booty shake that has everyone love drunk off her humps. And you know with Tyra’s lady lumps, that means any lookers on are waaasted from all the junk inside her trunk (and since her retirement from modeling, there’s plenty more).
Is There a Doctor in the House?
Someone in production loves Sara, because the nubile blonde from the top of the show also kicks off the interviews (conducted by Ty and the J’s). A recent graduate of Georgetown, the 6’1” self-professed “Glamazon” was recruited for the show while shopping at a mall with her friend. She seems to do well with her audition, but when she leaves Jay wonders how many designers hire 6’1” models. Tyra points out that Oluchi Onweagba is a success but says he brings up a good point: that many people have a misperception that models are 6’ and up, when most working models are really in the range of 5’9” to 5’11”.
Forunda is next. I’m sorry, but every time I look at her name, all I can think of is “Fromunda Cheese.” And really, the expression she wears on her face a lot of the time looks like she’s just taken a whiff of “Fromunda Cheese.” The girl is damn funny though, like when she demonstrates the various personas she used in her old job as a phone sex operator (“Black and Beautiful, Valley Girl, Dominatrix, Big and Beautiful). Come on, UPN, if the modeling doesn’t work out, give the girl a show, this one’s a comedian. Or Comedy Central—she’s about a thousand times funnier than Carlos Mencia. If it were up to Jay, it would be the Discovery Channel; he describes her as resembling a “preying mantis” which is actually dead on (Cartoon Network, are you listening, she could be the new female Zorak!).
Kari (18, Brookings, SD) says she wants to be on the show to “get out of South Dakota.” When did this show turn into an outreach program for boondock refugees? They ask Kari to name five supermodels other than Tyra, and she answers Giselle and Adriana Lima. And that’s it. Come on, 13 year old boys can name more models than you can, and maybe even some outside the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Spring a little money and buy yourself a copy of W sometime, honey. Jay thinks she looks like a Bratz™ doll, I think she looks more like a RealDoll™, which is kind of like a Bratz™ doll with genitalia.
Then, the Doctor is In. Runway winner Yvonne talks about the pressures of working in an emergency room, and to demonstrate, she and Miss J. do a dramatic reenactment of a choking victim so intense, it could be a scene straight out of “ER,” or “House.” Until Miss J. coughs an entire Kleenex out his mouth, then it’s more like a scene out of a GOB Bluth magic act.
Our Uma with more melanin, Wendy, comes in and talks about being from New Orleans. All joking aside, her experience after Hurricane Katrina has clearly been one of heartbreaking difficulty. Tyra asks if she can handle this competition, and Wendy says while she is excited to be here, it’s hard to put aside all her worries about family and survival. In fact, she still hasn’t been able to locate her father since the hurricane. Tyra comforts the weeping Wendy with a warm embrace. (Meanwhile, Andrea from Ohio knows where her family is, but she’s crying anyway since she’s never been apart from them before.)
Race Relations, Part 2
Jade struts in with an abundance of confidence that takes Tyra by surprise (or should I say über-abundance?). Tyra says she looks like a low key hippy chick, but then busts out talking about how beautiful she is and people turn to look at her on the street. She is right about one thing: once you look at her face, which is uniquely beautiful, it’s impossible to forget; only thing is her personality is also hard to ignore, and not necessarily in a good way.
Gina (21, Tampa, FL) begins by saying she thinks Asians are underrepresented and she could break down barriers. Right on, I think; however, this is the first and last time she will ever give a good answer about anything. When Tyra asks Gina about her self-proclaimed “wild” tendencies, Gina says she will strip down naked to be America’s Next Top Model, then says never mind, she wouldn’t. Then she says, she’s more into “American culture” than her parents’. Then she says she’s not into Asian guys. Huh? It just gets even more confusing and contradictory, and to make it even more annoying, she has a voice that sounds like she needs to blow her nose.
The Politically Incorrect Train keeps on full speed ahead when Tanika (23, Buffalo, NY), a biracial person, says she suffered prejudice in her predominately black neighborhood. While it’s understandable that people of mixed ethnicities (I am one myself) do get marginalized not only by society at large, but by the groups whose heritage they share, Tannika seems think she was persecuted by jealous girls “who didn’t have such good hair.” NOT the answer we were looking for, you arrogant Halle Berry wannabe!
Call Andrea a wahbulance, but this girl is crying again over her parents back at the farm. Were they washed away by a gigantic storm that devastated your hometown? I don’t think so, suck it up, you baby! Miss J. seems suspicious of Andrea’s physique, muttering, “She needs to eat something other…than grapes.” Of course she eats more than grapes, there was that paper she ate for breakfast.
Leah (19, Boca Raton, FL) is simply annoying and she never be of consequence ever again except to start off a bad dancing montage with her “go go dancer” techniques (although to me, she is more of an “ohno dancer” not as in the the Olympic gold medalist but as in “Oh no, she did not just pull that tired hoochie move!”). We see a whole lot girls making fools of themselves, but the worst is the glimpse of Andrea’s bare grape squashing feet. Sasquatch in need of a pedicure! I am not in the mood for wine after looking at her blistered up hooves.
Joanie talks about being the son of a preacher man, and how she rebelled against her strict upbringing by…becoming an amateur night performer at strip clubs and a cage dancer (welcome to thunderdome, bitch!). Sounds to me like she’s not so much a rebel as she is just a ho!
Leslie (18, AZ) comes from a place that’s just fun to say: Higley. Higley higley higley! Saying it makes me giggly! She says her family, which is Hispanic, would go in a panic if she ever brought a black guy home. Tyra asks what would happen if she brought home Miss J. and Leslie answers “They don’t have anything against black women—“ sending the panel into hysterical laughter. She also shows off her tattoo on her lower midriff, a replica of the one tattooed on Angelina Jolie: “what nourishes me destroys me” (profound philosophical meditation on the nature of self-destruction or a handy Leonard Shelby-like reminder for anorexic girls not to eat—you decide). Of course, Angie’s in the Latin: “quod me nutrit me destruit,” the same way my tattoo is: “quod me nutrit est Cheetos.”
Danielle, who has little commas for eyebrows, approaches the competition with the sort of focus and determination Bode Miller could’ve used this year. The way she talks, you know she is in this to win this. She breaks down a little bit when she talks about how her mother has rheumatoid arthritis, and the struggles they’ve gone through together. They have a loving relationship, and her mom sounds like a great lady. It’s a refreshing change from past seasons when everyone hated her parents.
Race Relations, Part 3
Everyone goes out to dinner to get to know each other better. In some cases, a little better than we’d like. “I’m used to Spring Texas [where] everything in my life is perfect, and then I come here…” Dani says. Well, hell, bitch if your life is so perfect in your hermetically sealed red bubble, then go ahead back, no one will miss you! She make pleasant dinner time conversation about how “affirmative action is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Then she gets into an argument with Danielle that upsets the whole table, that starts when Danielle talks about her experiences working at Abercrombie & Fitch. Dani asks why black people would even go there (um, for the same reason anyone else would, to buy clothes?). You get the feeling Dani misses the good old days when there were separate water fountains and “coloreds” got on the back of the bus.
Dani says that she won’t apologize for her views because she’s not sorry if she offends anyone. She also contends that she’s not racist. Ahahahaha! Well, I would laugh, if I wasn’t so busy crying for the state of our nation. Danielle says it will be “long road if she’s in this house with me.” I pray not! Really Dani’s going to have to stay in her perfect little community of Spring anyway, because if she moves anywhere else she is in for a rude awakening. Or a severe beating with baseball bats.
The South is Gonna Rise Again
The interviews continue with Kathy, the “happy hillbilly.” She looks like a chicken fried version of Michelle Pfeiffer, and her sweet, wide-eyed innocence is rather disarming, as is her humble nature. “I might not be the tallest, or the most tan, or the one with the biggest boobs, or the one with the clearest skin,” she declares, “but I feel it…I’m in there with ‘em.” She is nice counterpoint to Dani, proving that growing up sheltered doesn’t mean you have to be such a hateful bitch.
In contrast to Kathy’s aw shucks hyperness, Nnenna (24, Houston TX by way of Nigeria) and exhibits calm, cool nobility. Tyra sums her up as an “American citizen with a Nigerian flavor.” Nnenna’s story is also one of adversity; in the 12 years she spent in Nigeria, her father’s family did not like her mother because she was unable to bear male children. After a 4th daughter, doctors warned her not to have any more children, but her father pressured Nnenna’s mother into trying again, and her mother died after birthing her younger sister. When Nnenna’s father had trouble raising them, he shipped Nnenna and one of her sisters off to her aunt’s in America. Her regal features remind Tyra of Iman.
Mollie Sue (25, Tampa, FL) talks about her sucky boyfriend who didn’t want her to model. Luckily she dropped his ass, and is now on ANTM. Speaking of boyfriends, self-proclaimed “ghetto black Barbie” Shkita (24, Watts, CA) comes in and calls Jay her boyfriend. She is so barking up the wrong homosexual tree. She says she bets looks as good in a Wonderbra as Tyra (she will not make the final 12—coincidence?).
Brooke (21, Corpus Christi, TX) says she is a hippy, i.e. doesn’t wear makeup, doesn’t brush her hair and goes around barefoot. You know what, a little grooming might do her some good, because to me she looks like she has a cold. I’m not even sure what I mean by that, but that;s the only way I can describe it. The panel seems to like her though.
Oh boy, next is Dani, or as I like to call her, Brunette Bigot Barbie. Looks like Dani’s reputation precedes her, as Tyra asks her about the confrontations she’s had with other girls. Dani feels like she’s been “attacked” by all the other girls, so ironic from someone who has attacked almost every ethnic and religious group outside her own so vehemently.
Not surprisingly, they question her about her statements in her audition video, particularly how she doesn’t like gay people. Jay, J. and Ty all point out that she is seeking entrée into an industry where, hellooo McFly, damn near everyone, from the hairstylist to the photographer to the designer is likely to be [circular snap] gay! She says she’s used to gay people because “I’m a cheerleader” (hey wasn’t that a movie?) but still she has a “moral obligation” to her church to condemn the sinful sodomites because the rapture is coming or whatever. “I just don’t agree with your lifestyle,” she says smugly.
Tyra questions whether Dani really knows what she’s getting into because, “The fashion industry stands for every single thing you are against.” Then Dani has the nerve to say she wishes they were more “openminded” about where she came from because you can’t help how you are raised. Look, I have a ton of relatives and friends in Texas, some of them even Republican, and they are not half as hateful and inflammatory as you are. But don’t listen to me, I’m a heathen blue state liberal.
Kiss (Off) and Makeup
The time has come to narrow the field to 20, which they reveal by setting up 20 stations with makeup kits within which lie the photos of the girls remaining in the competition. Everyone makes a mad dash to search for their photos, and while it’s tears for some of the girls, the lucky ones are: Nnenna, Gina, Mollie Sue, Dani, Danielle, Joanie, Kathy, Yvonne, Wendy, Brooke, Alexius, Rebecca, Angela, Cheran, Furonda, Kari, Leslie, Andrea, Sara, and Jade.
There’s little time to celebrate, because tonight is their first photo shoot. They have 10 minutes to make up their own faces, with the cosmetics in their kit, for a close up beauty shot that will determine who will get in the house.
Jay Lawrence Goldman is there to do their shoot, which will consist of only 10 frames, and they will not be directed, they must pose themselves. The shoot goes by at breakneck speed and before long, it’s all over and Tyra and the J’s must get through the hard work deciding who makes the final 13.
Here’s the rundown: they think Andrea is gorgeous but suspect an eating disorder; Sara is pretty but needs a “fashion injection”; Nnenna is “Eddie Murphy and Iman’s baby” but Tyra says the industry is in love with girls that look like her right now; Joanie shocked Tyra by rocking the shoot; Danielle is “fierce” in a Beverly Johnson way, but J. says he wants to “shave her upper lip”; Mollie is “fierce” but “robotic”; Kari is “adorable” in a “commercial” way; Tanika “needs a makeover”; Dani’s picture is a “graduation photo”; Brooke has “a face that is difficult for the public to understand” but that the fashion industry will love; Leslie “needs a little work” but has a bootylicious walk that says “come follow me, boys”; Jade is arrogant but does produce good pictures; Rebecca is pretty, but they’re not sure if she’s a model; Jay thinks Furonda could walk major runway shows; Gina is “plain” but could look amazing with the proper hair and makeup; Yvonne, who did so well with her runway walk, is just a disaster on film; Jay thinks Wendy “has no bottom lashes” but J. loves her; Kathy is “European looking.”
The Sixth Cycle
Tyra calls the girls in for the big announcement, saying that even though it’s the sixth time she’s done this, she still feels feels nervous for her girls. Tyra keeps them in suspense no longer and calls out the names of the lucky finalists: Jade, Sara, Mollie Sue, Leslie, Joanie, Nnenna, Kari, Brooke, Danielle, Katherine, Forunda, Gina (who strangely yells “I love Asian men!” upon learning she got into the house), and Wendy.
Tyra pep talks the teary eyed girls who must now head for home, among them Dani. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for not subjecting us to this girl for any longer than one episode. Dani says she’s sad of course that she doesn’t “get to see the world” and compete, but really, would she even be able to appreciate the rest of the world when she’s guaranteed to hate a good 90% of it for some or other reason anyway?
Part 2’s coming up! Kill some time by emailing me what your Latin tattoo would say at snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com