Perhaps more than any other series, yes, even “Fear Factor,” AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL is the Fear Dot Com of reality shows. The producers have a preternaturally diabolical knack for zeroing in on their fledgling Tyra Wanna Be’s (Tyrannabees?) worst fears and making them come to life, often amounting to a disastrous effect. Naturally, there is often a challenge each cycle that requires the girls to work intimately with vile, dirty, nasty, creepy, crawly creatures. This week, it’s cockroaches instead of snakes, spiders, or the Wild Boyz (Oh Tyra, what will you think of next? A swimsuit shoot with leeches?). And unlike other shows, where there’s no real threat of danger, participants really get hurt on this show. Shudder to think of the liability waivers these girls have to sign.
Single Asian Female
This show opens with a bunch of the girls sitting around the house, enjoying their favorite, relaxing pastime: bitching about Jade. Many of them were not surprised to find the Biracial Butterfly in the bottom two; in fact, they are so visibly gleeful about it that it seems like they willed her into the bottom two through sheer collective mind power.
Everyone loves talking about Jade, but none more than Jade herself. Batik shawl draped over head to make her appear like some perverted version of the Virgin Mary, she is also talking about her narrow escape from elimination and how she needs to step up her “gizame,” then even tries to commiserate with Furonda, who’s probably thinking, That’s what you get for insulting my broke ass crown, you bitch ass clown.
Meanwhile, Danielle and Gina are scrubbing up in the kitchen. Gina complains in her inimitably nasal way about how messy everyone is. When Danielle gives her an encouraging speech to thicken that thin little skin of hers, Gina gets a worshipful look on her face, like someone in the audience of the Dalai Lama. Then, we see an edited collage of Gina at different times talking about how “strong” Danielle is, and how she’s a good person and a source of comfort—yes, these are on different occasions, that is, unless Gina changes her shirt in between questions in the confessional interviews.
What could have been a touching moment of female bonding turns creepy when Gina informs Danielle that she wants to follow her. Multiple times. Danielle even makes a point of saying, “You make me nervous.” Gina then asks if she can watch Danielle when she’s in the shower, laughingly. Like she’s joking. But kind of not. Someone needs to Google erotomania, stat! She’s total stalkerazzi, full “love knife” material, à la Tenacious D/Lee or Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Danielle has started to regret helping out Miss Dependent, who has latched on like a parasite to a host body. Is Gina the new spokesmodel for Obsession? No, not the Calvin Klein fragrance…An exhausted Danielle can’t even get in bed without Gina flopping down on the mattress with her. Oh now I see why she doesn’t like Asian guys—she is into the chocolate taco!
Danielle’s not having it; she gets up and walks out of the room, Gina trailing behind like an attention-starved puppy. Danielle politely says she’ll still give Gina advice from time to time but “don’t be all up in my zone,” the undertone of which is, if you get in her zone, you’ll be promptly relocated to the Danger Zone. And trust me, you do not want Danielle to get Kenny Loggins on your ass.
TyraMail warns that “Trains may collide. Who will have a leg up?” As usual, everyone tries to decrypt TyraMail author’s secret message. Well, you don’t need Neal Stephenson to figure this one out, it’s clearly got something to do with walking, and therefore runway. Or trains. Maybe they’ll tie them to the train tracks in beautiful ball gowns while Miss J. twiddles a villain’s moustache. Think about it, Kevin Mok, and call me if you need me to consult for next cycle.
Sure enough, the next day, all the girls gather round the runway for a for a training sesh with the fabulous Miss J. Alexander, whose big entrance this season is in a tasteful, floor length black skirt and jacket (he later changes into a comfy-looking “America’s Next Top Model” stretch turtleneck dress). He says he wants to girls to “slinky ink” or else they might “stinky stink.” Ah Miss J., the Dr. Seuss of runway trainers.
Let the walking begin! J. does his usual job of mercilessly mocking all the girls’ missteps—with absolutely accuracy. He captures Furonda’s crazy, broken-second-hand-on-a-stopwatch arm, Mollie’s stomp, Leslie’s protruding butt, Sara;s march, and Gina’s skip to a tee. Overall, his main directive for all the girls is to be stronger, or show “more fire.” Sidenote: Jade still seems to be covering hair every chance she gets, and for her walk, she has a scarf wrapped around her head looking like a recessive, mutant babushka.
Oops, forgot there is one girl left. Kari says she is nervous about being critiqued by Miss J. for the first time? Where has she been all these weeks? Isn’t she critiqued by Miss J. all the time? The girl who does look eerily like a Bratz doll unfortunately stumbles her first time out. J. seems to feel the stumble isn’t as bad as the just-sucked-a-sour-lemon look on her face.
When everyone changes into ginormous ballgowns for round two, it’s Kari’s chance to compensate. What does she do? Trips before she even gets three steps on the runway. “Kari, that was scary,” Miss J. rhymes, revealing that under his questionable wardrobe choices beats the heart of a poet. Or a greeting card writer.
Miss J. finds Jade’s walk “too safe,” adding that he feels that the judges’ comments have “broken her spirit.” It’s unclear whether he means that in a good or bad way. Jade, in her typically dramatic way, talks about how “I was in a shell, I need to open up again,” with a strange little interpretative dance gestures that look like they would have been at home on the Oscars telecast.
Mollie Sue is concerned that she hasn’t done enough to impress the judges; J. concurs, adding that she could work on being more “intense.” Honestly, J. doesn’t much seem impressed with anyone today; after a while, he goes from frustrated to looking like he wants to pass out from fatigue. He is woken up by Danielle, who stumbles on the train of her evening gown, and looks about to take a nasty tumble. She steadies herself quickly, though is frozen for a moment in an awkward pose, like a puppy trying to walk across a wet kitchen floor.
Back at home, Danielle considers her trip on the runway to be a “wake up call.” Anybody can have a bad day, but here on ANTM, you can’t afford them. Danielle lounges in the living room with Kari and Joanie (after apparently having had a Gina-ectomy), and talks about the arthritis her mother’s suffered all her life without complaint. Having this strong woman as a role model her whole life, Danielle knows she’s got to suck it up and move on.
Kari, whose hair without professional supervision is a gigantic puffball of tangles (kids, don’t try this hairstyle at home!), gets on the horn with her family at home. She misses their support. She ends up crying on the phone in a conference call with her parents, though I have no idea why as their conversation is unintelligible and the reality show subtitler seems to have fallen asleep on his job. Wake up, Reality Show Subtitler! What do we pay you for, you lazy dog? You don’t see TyraMail Author slacking!
Speaking of which, Tyramail arrives, stating simply, “Two words: Gromphodorina Portentosa.” The girls think this means they’re going to Spain, and celebrate! Way to go, Sherlock Homegirls! And people think models are dumb…Of course you know that I know that you know that ANTM is never that simple, and the girls finally do suspect this, so they try running the words through Jade’s Speak ‘n’ Spell or translator/electronic dictionary thingy (apparently no access to Google in the model house) only to encounter more confusing definitions. Gravy train? Fortune? Is that the translator they use for Kung Fu films?
The next day Miss J. greets them at Smashbox Studios, home of LA Fashion week, and introduces them to “Jared Gold of the Jared Gold Collection.” How cool is it to have an introduction like that? It sounds so important, like Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews band, or Ben Folds of Ben Folds Five, or SnowflakeGirl of the SnowflakeGirl Recap Experience.
Jared Gold looks like an effete Jack Black with the facial hair of a 19th century pugilist and the clothing of a 1970’s prom date. He describes the “Glinka” collection the girls will be modeling today as “psychedelic, babushka, acid witch” before his retinue of “fashion advisers” files in to join him in judging. This is basically what happens when Club Kids grow up and get a little too old to still look cute in their costumes.
The girls have less than an hour to get made up into their new look of black, black eyes, scarlet rouge, and crazy ratted hair, “like an old hooker from…old hooker times,” Kari offers. Ah yes, remember those? Ye Olde Hooker Tymes. You want to just pat her on the head and say, “Nice try, honey.” I’d guess they look like crazy opium-addicted Victorian prosties myself.
Gina, who knows she hasn’t been doing all that well, feels this runway show could be her chance to “shine.” Famous. Last. Words. The girls, all dressed and spooky looking like they’re about to work the night shift at Knott’s Scary Farm, line up before Jared, who feels they need an accessory. A living, antennaed, six-legged accessory: GIANT MADAGASCAN HISSING COCKROACHES, a.k.a. Gromphodorina Portentosa.
Now these are some big ass buggers, larger than your garden variety insect, but smaller than your average FRICKIN’ FERRET—Good God, they aren’t kidding about the “Giant” part. These roaches, however, are not your average house cucarachas. These babies are decked out in glistering crystal embellishments and attached with brilliant, rhinestone leashes to ornate brooches. As much as bugs give me the oogly-booglies, I must admit these are the most glamorous cockroaches I have ever seen.
Jared starts clipping on the cockroaches. A lot of the girls have a natural, initial reaction of ick which gradually recedes. The only one clearly frightened out of her gourd is Gina, who has a pinched look of terror on her face that, trust me, is not pretty. In fact, she looks more like the spooky spirit lady from The Grudge than a model here.
The show begins. Danielle, who wants to redeem herself after her near-spill the day before, is the first to go. Jared and crew think she’s great. Furonda has problems with her arm again, this time sticking it out stiffly in an odd manner (as the panel later says, “like she is walking an invisible dog”). Brooke’s too fast; Sara has “no intensity”; Nnenna, who looks like Blacula 2000, is told to “step it up.”
Backstage, Jade, like a schoolyard bully, is terrorizing Gina with her cockroach by shoving it in her face and telling her to kiss it. This is not helping Gina get more comfortable with the cockroaches at all. Jade, in contrast, seems a little too cozy with her cockroach, to the point of where she seems to be loving it as one would a little pet. I guess living in New York City all those years might have helped her become more familiar with the little guys.
Leslie’s walk just looks weird, like she has a load in her diaper, and Jared yells at her to stand straight and walk upright; I personally think Mollie Sue looks great, but Jared complains that her roach is on her back (can she help where the thing crawls?); Kari walks too slow. When it’s Jade’s turn, Jared is impressed that she takes her roach right in her hand. She strides down the runway with total confidence, and at the end, grabs her cockroach and plants a big smooch on its exoskeleton. The judges go ape over it, they love it; even Jared tells her she’s “awesome.”
Finally, Gina gets her bug clipped on and just goes completely mental. She is hysterical screaming, like a B-movie horror victim, and it’s hideous. She might be scaring the poor roach more than he scares her. Gina is so far gone that she doesn’t seem to hear Jared’s repeated directions to get out on the stage; in fact, he must physically push her out onto the runway, where she proceeds to clumsily stumble. We also get to see that when Gina screws up she has a weird nervous habit of smiling. Joanie, who goes last and works her cockroach beautifully, says the “freak out award” goes to Gina. The producers missed out on a great tie-in, “Freak Out of the Week” brought to you by Orkin.
After giving out their critiques, Jared and his geriatric club kid panel decide to give the victory to Jade. It was the cockroach kiss that clinched it. Now, I heard of kissing ass to win, but who knew it would be a roach’s? Gina looks terribly displeased, and between her pursed lips and the teeny geisha lip makeup job they’ve given her, her mouth looks like a little anal sphincter (I’m sorry to be graphic, but it totally does).
Jade gets to pick four friends to join in her prize, “total V.I.P. treatment” at the Sheri Bodell show at Mercedes Benz fashion week. Nnenna, Danielle, Mollie and Leslie accompany Jade, who does an obnoxious happy dance accompanied by a cry of “We the V.I.P, we the V.I.P.” Put a verb in there somewhere at least. Jade is inspired by the show, and reiterates her dream of wanting to fulfill her supermodel destiny, although with a notable decreasing amount of cocky entitlement. “I just want people to see my talent,” she says.
Humbling Jade through criticism might have helped her, like the way they break wild horses, as she appears to be slightly more human. Back home and on the phone with her sweet sounding Dad, Jade even cries before telling him she appreciates everything he says. Awww!
Meanwhile, in the bedroom sitting on the bed, whiny Gina whines to Danielle, like that one friend everyone has that is constantly in crisis and has such a non-stop monologue of their own problems that they can’t even tell when you’ve totally tuned them out and started to think of what you might want to eat for dinner or did you pay the phone bill yet. Everyone secretly hates this person, but is too polite to shut them up or drop them since they’re so, well, needy. I won’t even transcribe anything Gina says, because it’s the same old blah blah about needing tougher skin and being insecure.
I-I-I Kee-eep On Faaalling
TyraMail sayeth: “Once upon a time there was a Top Model, and she lived happily ever after.” Now this one is obvious enough for even our girls to figure out: FAIRY TALE TIME! The next day the girls meet Jay Manuel at a studio. He tells them that in their career they might trip and accidentally fall on the runway. It doesn’t have to be a big tragedy, the trick is to know how to look graceful and remain pretty even while falling down. So today’s challenge involves having photos taken as they fall down sideways (off a platform and onto a cushioned stunt mat).
Jay introduces photographer Tracy Bayne, who has a faint PE coach vibe about her, but takes fabulous photos. She tells the girls that their actions need to be coordinated: “As you’re doing the fall, you need to think of the face.” They will be styled as characters from classic fairy tales: Furonda will be Rapunzel; Leslie, the Big Bad Wolf; Jade, Little Red Riding Hood; Danielle, “the first black Snow White”; Gina, Sleeping Beauty; Brooke, the Emperor from “The Emperor’s New Clothes”; Kari, Goldilocks; Nnenna, the princess who kisses the frog; Joanie, Cinderella; and Sara, Gretel, from Hansel & Gretel fame.
Little Red Riding Hood is up first, and Jade is determined to prove to Jay that she can rock a shoot. She continues her successful streak by doing a stellar job that sets the bar high for the rest of our fairytale femmes. Joanie, who I’m really starting to like, looks truly gorgeous as Cinderella; she says the shoot was much more physically demanding than she though. The girl from Beaver Falls, also nearly exposes her beaver when she falls. Yuk yuk. Cheap joke, but what I mean is that her skirt has a way of flying up each time she falls.
Furonda struggles as Rapunzel. “Right now you look like you’re kinda clunking on a mat,” Jay bemoans. To me, Sara’s Gretel resembles St. Pauli Girl’s sister more than Hansel’s; to Jay, it looks more like a blow up doll. Kari knows her walk blows, but the photo’s the thing at the end of the day; she does her best to give Goldilocks her all, but for Jay maybe it’s a little overdone.
Mollie Sue is a super cute Little Boy Blue (I want that bodice!); she is, however, aware of the criticism she’s been getting to show more personality. Still, to Jay it looks like she’s not trying hard enough; to demonstrate he tries to get her to scream at the top of her lungs. True, she’s no Kahlen from Cycle 4, but I think she is trying so hard that it’s holding her back. I get a little choked up at the sight of a teary-eyed Mollie Sue saying, “I know I’m trying, I’m just coming up short.”
Leslie does well as the sexy Big Bad Wolf; Brooke, in a bejeweled nude-coloured body suit and crown also does a good job as the Emperor; Nnenna, unrecognizable in a long wig, is off her game but recovers at the end. Danielle, who has been re-dubbed “Snow Black,” really shines as her characters, showing terrific physical control. She says that she can definitely feel the impact of all that falling, and I myself wonder if the next day will reveal bruises and welts on the right side of everyone’s bodies.
Gina compliments Danielle’s facial expressions (hello, Love Knife!), then it’s her turn at bat. Gina’s Sleeping Beauty is the most alert, wide-eyed Sleeping Beauty I have ever seen. Jay says it’s because her face anticipates the fall on the mat. Gina is also thrown by Jade, who is making faces and cracking jokes on the sidelines. The result is a very vacant looking Gina, who lands on the mat time after time looking like a girl who just took a large dose of rohypnol “Forget Me Now” pills and is being thrown around at a frat party. The photographer is so frustrated, she actually sits down with her head in her hands.
After a long day, the girls at last go home, were the usual TyraMail awaits them. Its foreboding message that “only ten will go on with the hope of becoming America’s Next Top Model” causes the usual strife and guessing. Mollie Sue is worried about not looking like she’s trying hard enough. Kari feels the shoot didn’t go that well, but is hoping that the judges will again say they are “pleasantly surprised” with the resulting photo.
Cut to a shot of Gina braiding a bored-looking Kari’s hair, while a voice over from another interview has Kari talking about how everyone’s thinking Gina will get sent home. “I wouldn’t even mind seeing Gina go home,” Kari says, making the image of Gina braiding her blonde locks look a little sad and pathetic. I’m starting feel sorry for little Gina, as all signs do seem to point towards elimination for her this week.
Crappily Ever After
The elimination ceremony opens with the requisite shot of Tyra, who shows she has a sense of humor by posing as the “Little Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe.” As Tyra does her prize schpiel and introduces the judges (joined this time by Jared Gold), a strand of her sideswept bangs keeps falling in between her eyes and driving me nuts, mostly because I just got my hair cut in this style and I am still trying to figure out to keep the infernal bangs in place.
The challenge this week involves walking in killer platform shoes à la the Vivienne Westwoods that “one of the most famous models in the world wore [before falling] to her booty on the runway.” Tyra curiously doesn’t mention which model it was in that famous incident—[cough]Naomi Campbell[/cough]. These are not your standard high heels, these are some ankle-twisting, back-breaking, 7 ½ inch bastards. If they can kick Naomi’s ass, then these shoes can be the death of anyone (a long time ago I actually saved up money to buy a pair of Vivienne Westwoods, but being chronically clumsy, I haven’t worn them in years for mortal fear of my life).
Kari is first and enters the room unsteadily. “Whenever you’re ready,” Tyra says, as a hush falls over the room. Kari very slowly starts to walk down the runway, but despite her caution, her ankles start to bend at horrifyingly unnatural angles as she falls over, not just once but twice. “Slow down,” Tyra warns, looking truly concerned. I myself am so worried for her, I can feel my heart thump with each step she takes. Who knew watching a girl walk in platform shoes would be such riveting television? Twiggy can hardly even bear to watch. Kari makes it to the end of the stage, and even all the way back, but just before she exits, her ankle twists again, then as she climbs up the steps, another time.
Sara, perhaps thanks to her athleticism, gets through her walk without incident; as does Brooke (though she leaves a black skid mark on the floor with her heel during her turn). Jade takes a tiny totter but, as Miss J. observes, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” Leslie’s weird, butt-sticking-out walk looks even odder on high platforms, but she makes it through with only a slight ankle twist. Nnenna takes her time and only falters on her way back up the steps. Gina doesn’t fall; Mollie Sue does okay until her last few steps; Furonda has just a little difficulty; Joanie rocks it, and even punctuates her walk by turning around to the give the judges one last look of Yes, that’s right, I own you before leaving the room.
Finally, Danielle is up. She starts out well enough, but at the end of the runway, right in front of the judges, she takes a very nasty looking spill. There are stumbles and falls, but this one is a bit of both, with some sliding action for extra effect. Danielle smiles and goes on with the show, but on her way back, just when she’s nearly out of sight, she falls and literally must crawl backstage behind the sheer white curtain.
Everyone on the panel either winces or puts their head down in horror; Miss J. fans himself like a Victorian lady about to pass out. Tyra says this is “the most nerve-wracking Top Model judging test we have ever done.” Meanwhile, Danielle complains of both her feet throbbing, and is literally carried into the waiting room by a whole crew of men. Poor Danielle is seen by medical people, and apparently her pinky toe got sprained.
When the girls re-enter the judging room, Danielle comes in on crutches. Evaluations begin with Jade, who is praised for being able to recover from her stumble during her walk, and is applauded for winning the week’s challenge; her Red Riding Hood photo also gets top marks for her ability to model from head to toe. Nigel thinks Sara did well on her walk because she’s “used to the altitude”; unfortunately, her photo is great from afar, but the closeup less impressive. Nnenna’s face “lacked control” during her Westwood walk, but her picture gets mixed reviews similar to Sara’s: wide shot good, close up not so good.
Leslie walks like a “buffalo in ballet shoes” but is sexy evil as the Big Bad Wolf. Danielle hobbles up for her eval, and Nigel commends her on the way she got up and smiled after her awful catwalk spill. Her Snow White picture is amazing as well, with the whole panel wowed by her ability to work her face and control her body even in the midst of falling. Brooke is dismissed as a “closet drag queen” by Jared; her Emperor pic fails to impress. Gina had good balance with her walk but nothing on her face for her test; Jared of course rats her out for causing “endless problems” at his fashion show. Then her picture is too damned wide awake to be Sleeping Beauty—unless she’s supposed to be Sleeping Beauty on crystal meth.
Miss J. makes Kari cry when he says he knew she would be the one to fall during the judging test. With her big, round features, the crying only makes her look like a bigger baby. Not sure exactly how the judges feel about her picture, because all they say is “Apple Pie.” Do they mean she needs to stay away from it? Nigel tells her she should tone up, “nothing drastic” but just enough to help her look and bring out the bones in her face. Furonda’s walk is rickety; unlike Kari, Furonda is almost too slim, and in her photo needed to something like widen the angle of her legs to improve it.
The judges love the last look Joanie gave them before she exited; and her Cinderella picture is exquisite, or as J. pronounces it, “eckshquizhite.” The judges laugh at Mollie’s speedy tiptoe exit during her walk; Nigel says he’d like to see more of “twinkle” in her eye in her photos, adding “You need to be you, not just your beautiful shell.” Tyra’s highly trained fashion eye sees all the tension in Mollie’s nose, and mimics Mollie’s tense nostril flare.
Deliberations follow along the same lines of the evals. The judges are extremely impressed with the way Danielle smiled and laughed through her pain during the judging challenge, particularly as it displays her capacity for “acting” which is “what a model’s supposed to do.” They are less impressed with girls like Furonda, Gina, and Kari.
Finally, the girls report back to find out what the judges have decided. Tyra is really into enunciating this week, saying, “I have ten pho-T-os this week…” The first nine go to: Jade, Danielle, Brooke, Joanie, Mollie, Sara, Furonda, Leslie, and Nnenna.
This leaves Kari and Gina as the bottom two. Gina smiles like it’s funny, and nudges Kari, who looks sad but also a little relieved that she is joined by the girl most everyone thinks is most likely to leave. Yes, Kari thinks Gina’s going to leave, all the girls think Gina’s going to leave, I think Gina’s going to leave, you think Gina’s going to leave—even Gina thinks she’s going to leave.
So what happens? Tyra gives her big speech to each of the girls. Kari had two strong pictures, but the third one was not as good; Tyra says a girl like her (not as tall, un-modelly proportions) has to be perfect. Also there’s the stumble factor. Tyra then addresses Gina, who has a silly, stupid grin on her face. Even Tyra asks, “Why are you smiling so much?” Gina says she’s trying to stay positive, but it just looks psycho. Tyra goes on to say that her pictures make everyone wonder “What is she doing here?”
It’s the moment of truth. Tyra hands the photo back to…Gina. Kari’s kewpie doll face deflates in sorrow. And Gina? She looks shocked as shiznit, as do all the other girls. I mean, Gina truly looks just as confused as everyone else that she was the one picked to stay—oh wait, I’m sorry, Gina just always looks confused.
Still, it’s a shocker. You have to wonder what these judges are up to. Kari’s gone after 2 strong photos, and one that was not horrible but merely meh? Kari warns Gina not to let Jade walk all over her; then says that as hard as it is to leave the competition, she does get to go home. Kari’s fairy tale, alas, did not have a happy ending, at least not on ANTM. Maybe it will back at home.
Psychedelic, babushka, acid witch: snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com