Three at last, three at last. Thank God Almighty, they are three at last! Actually, it’s kind of hard to believe that it’s finale time again. Can it really be that we are about to crown another Top Model? The sixth one? From the sixth cycle? In the sixth year of the new millennium? Is this some kind of Omen? Gah, Damien! Coincidence? I think not…Probably a promotional “Ty”-in with FOX. Ah, crass commercialism, perhaps the greatest evil of all. On to the 50 minute commercial for CoverGirl, with just a little bit o’ finale mixed in!
Beauties and the Beast
Over the past weeks and months, we’ve watched intently as the thirteen finalists of the competition have been whittled down to these three contenders:
Danielle – officially: “the southern belle with the fierce walk and the fun personality”; unofficially: good-natured, gap-toothed gal from the neighborhood who’s nice to her Mama, reads the bible, and does her best to avoid drama. Strengths: good walk, consistently good photos, strong work ethic that makes her rip an IV out and jeopardize her health just to get up on an elephant’s back. Weaknesses: might possibly be even more accident prone than I am (not a good thing), occasionally sounds like she trying to talk while eating a mouthful of marshmallow Peeps and drinking a carbonated beverage at the same time.
Joanie – officially: “a preacher’s daughter with a rebellious side”; unofficially: beloved amateur stripper turned pride of Beaver Falls who’s ‘snagged’ the hearts of America with her wit and wicked good looks. Strengths: natural beauty, strong portfolio, ability to transform dramatically and evoke personality in photos. Weaknesses: That crazy ass Snaggletooth you could hang a framed portrait off of! But now that that’s gone, is having trouble getting used to the new chompers in her grill. In the past few episodes, she hit another snag: suddenly unkind editing that makes you go Hmmm.
Jade – officially: “self-proclaimed undiscovered supermodel” of New York; unofficially: everyone’s favorite love-to-hate biracial butterfly who served as this season’s biggest drama catalyst (a.k.a. dookie stirrer). Strengths: distinctively exotic features, can definitely deliver the “fierce,” confident (a little too much, maybe). Weaknesses: Old and busted, arrogant, bitchy as hell, defensive, needs remedial English classes.
Of these three, as Tyra Banks herself would say, WHO will be America’s Next Top Model? It’s a question the girls themselves can’t help but ponder over in their (much emptier) Bangkok suite. At the dining table, Jade says, “Whoever wins, I’m going to be happy for them no matter what.” Joanie looks like she wants to puke up her dinner all over Jade, who’s clearly gunning for a kinder edit. Instead of barfing, Joanie simply says, “Who knows.” Danielle says she just hates the uncertainty; her nerves are especially shaken by having been in the bottom two for the first time due to her accent.
With everyone wound up tight, Jade says she feels that something’s going to happen, then gets up from the table and screams and jumps as if she sees someone outside. Danielle freaks out, and gets up too, but they soon realize that it’s a big fat fake out. Psyyyyche! “Jade, stop doing that!” Danielle scolds, angrily, as if this is something Jade has done more than once. Jade laughs wickedly, amused with her little prank. Oh that’s mature. Put a trucker hat on her head, and she’s Ashton Kutcher. “Please send Jade home,” Joanie says in confessional. A standing ovation is heard around the world.
TyraMaaail! (Anybody else do this out loud when you go check your Post Office Box? All right, just me then.) “People think modeling is easy, but that’s not always true. If you win this competition, your life will be easy, breezy, and beautiful.” Please tell me you figured this one out; and if you didn’t, you should go get your pulse checked. Yup, it’s time for a word from our sponsors: CoverGirl! Jade sees this as a chance to “redeem” herself for her last @#$% commercial (rated R for mature language and immature behavior).
Jay Manuel visits the suite to confirm that, yes, tomorrow is the CoverGirl commercial and photo shoot. No way anyone can copy this time. He waves three envelopes in the air—this time they will each be doing a different ad. They pick their scripts randomly, and before leaving, Jay emphasizes how important it is for them to memorize their lines. “I’m not going home because I have an accent,” Danielle declares, “that’s not gonna happen. She spends the night practicing her speech in front of the mirror, with Joanie by her side.
Jay meets the girls the next morning in a beautiful location. Jade, who’s having memorization problems, asks if they’re allowed to improvise. Jay shuts her down with a single, firm, “No,” (and a silent, unspoken, you ignorant slut). He warns them that the ad they shoot today is the actual commercial that will kick off their career, so they need to “feel pretty and sell it.” The beauty shot will be photographed by ANTM staple Jim De Yonker, whose work we’ve seen many times before on the show (the grey background Tyra pictures) and who can often be found lurking around as shoot producer. Since they’ll be shilling CoverGirl Lash Exact Mascara, Jim warns them that “eyelashes are hard to shoot” and they’ll need to convey fun and spirit through their eyes or die trying.
Each girl has their handicap: Jade’s having trouble memorizing her lines, Danielle’s still wrangling with her accent, and Joanie is not yet comfortable with her new smile (also I wonder why someone on the panel hasn’t brought up that the veneers sometimes make her sound kind of weird and slobbery). Joanie gets the first crack at bat; unfortunately her first attempt is a little over-emphatic. “That’s a caricature of Joanie,” Jay says, although Jade must be rubbing off on him, because he pronounces it with an extra syllable, like “caricurature.” She does much better the second time, earning applause from Jay and the crew.
Jade is next (curiously dressed like a waitress for some Pan-Asian restaurant, while the other two girls are in party dresses), and despite being told explicitly to memorize the lines and refrain from improvising, the first line out of her mouth is a crazy riff off the actual line. Instead of just saying “Want a more casual mascara look,” Jade launches on a long, rambling tangent, addressing all the “ladies” in a ridiculously affected faux-sophisticate style and punctuated with excessive hand movements. Every day Jade is resembling the aged, crumbling Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard more and more…(the turbans, the madness, the sad unwillingness to let go of the heyday of her youth).
She can’t seem to get a single line right, and after this continues for a good long while, Mr. Jay Manuel finally grows so frustrated he’s forced to pull out cue cards for her. Even the cue cards don’t help, which makes me wonder if Jade has some Fantasia Barrino illiteracy thing going on. Jay yells cut so many times, it sounds like he’s working for a drive through bris service. She finally gets a good take after what seems like a million takes, and when she returns to where the rest of the girls are, she says her commercial worked out “perfectly.”
Before Danielle goes out, Jay comes back to talk to her. They have a laugh over the way she says “patent pending” (with her southern twang) but says they’re not making fun of her, nor do they want to take the real Danielle completely “out of the picture”; he just wants her to clean up her speech a little bit more. When Danielle gets in front of the camera, she chokes on her first take. Jay says even if she makes a mistake, she should keep going. She proceeds to blank out on her lines again. “What is wrong with me?!!” she exclaims. “If I cannot do CoverGirl, then I cannot do this competition,” she says later, with distress. The finally do a take where she is able to get the lines out, and Jay (who says he was holding his breath) can finally exhale.
Danielle feels she needs to step her game up to make up for the difficult commercial shoot, so she really turns it on for the beauty shot. She says that her strategy was to think of her mom, because whenever she does, it puts a smile on her face—awww!!! She looks appropriately sweet, fresh, and accessible as befits a CoverGirl.
Joanie’s challenge is that “I’ve always hidden my real smile.” You can even see her tendency pull her lips over and suck on her teeth when she’s nervous. After the first couple of shots Jim tries to get her to personality to spark, because it doesn’t look like she’s having fun. After encouraging her not to be too shy to smile, Joanie warms up and they get their shot.
“Please hire me, CoverGirl,” Jade says as she steps in front of the camera. There are some strange disparities between what Jade says in interviews and what we see on video. She feels she has leg up because “modeling comes very naturally to me,” but when she starts voguing in front of Jim, he warns her that this shoot is “not diva.” She say that she needed very little direction, but in the clips we see, Jim is constantly telling her not to do certain things—like when she puts her hand on her throat, he says it looks like she’s choking herself. See, even Jade’s own damn hand wants to throttle her to death.
Ding Dong, The Bitch is Gone
It’s not long before it’s time for the penultimate elimination. Lady TyTy greets them in an explosion of rose lace (somewhere, someone’s grandmother’s kitchen curtains are missing) accompanied by the prestigious, and by now very familiar, panel consisting of Nigel Barker, J. Alexander (still trying to rock those number shirts that didn’t quite catch on—didn’t he learn from last cycle’s corsage?), and Twiggy, joined this time by relatively short-named Thai designer Roj Singhakul and his translator. Tyra says they are here to determine who will be the final two to walk in a fashion show for Roj’s clothing company, Issue. Gesundheit!
Jade is up for evaluation first, and they start with a look at her beauty shot. Nigel says it’s a beautiful shot of her, but doesn’t strike him as 100% CoverGirl. Miss J. there’s “something hidden behind that expression.” Whether that thing is good or evil, he never elaborates. I like to think Jade has killer laser beams in there that can shoot through metal and make the noise pyow pyow pyow! Tyra likes it, saying Jade looks pretty and soft. They check out her commercial, and Tyra says there was a whole lotta neck rolling, (“I felt like I was in India for a second, not Thailand), but she loves the way Jade’s hand movement punctuated “CoverGirl.com.” Roj starts mumbling something to his translator, who reports that Roj’s opinion is, “You have a really beautiful smile…but he doesn’t want to buy your mascara.” PWN3D! Jade starts babbling about how it’s her first commercial and she’s never had an acting coach and blah blah blah—another attack of verbal diarrhea. When she’s done, the judges can’t believe she’s making excuses again. “You’ve got to learn to zip it at certain times,” Twiggy says, channeling her inner Janice.
Joanie’s shot it “pretty” but “tight in the mouth,” according to Miss J. (they curiously selected one of the shots where she doesn’t smile with an open mouth). Twiggy really loves it, and declares it “classic, which I think CoverGirl would love.” Tyra compliments the way Joanie is able to play with her eyes. Miss J. thinks she looked “gorgeous” and Twiggy says she looked just like Grace Kelly. “She was a dancer, right?” Joanie says. Yes, you are the spitting image of Gene Kelly! The panel informs her that Grace Kelly was a huge film star and a princess…from the time of dinosaurs. Tyra said she took her breath away, except she feels Joanie threw the last line in the commercial away. Roj hands out another of his poo-wrapped-in-chocolate-type compliments, when he again starts by saying, “you have a very beautiful smile,” but adding that she “looked stiff.” Joanie pulls her lips and makes her lemon-sucking face again.
Now, I wonder if Roj makes a habit of saying “You have a very beautiful smile, but…you look like someone hit you in the face with a bag of hot nickels,” or “You have a very beautiful smile, but…when Michael Jackson looks at you he goes, ‘What’s wrong with your face?’” or “You have a very beautiful smile, but…you look like you not only tumbled out of the ugly tree, but you hiked through the whole damn ugly forest and got smacked by every branch on the way out.” Or maybe that’s just how he starts every sentence. I imagine him trying pick up lines at a bar, “You have a very beautiful smile that’s becoming on your face…but then if I was on your face, I’d—“ [SLAP!]
Finally, it’s Danielle’s turn. Her beauty shot makes Nigel “want to melt”; Tyra found her entire film “absolutely beautiful” (though Tyra says to squint the eyes a bit when you want a hint of “friendliness and connection”—advice taken, from now on, all my pictures will look like I forgot to wear my glasses). They like her commercial (although I’m distracted by the way she keeps looking off to one side, as if they pulled out the cue cards for her too), which Nigel deems “the most personable” and Twiggy is glad she can finally understand what she’s saying. Contrarian that she is, Tyra didn’t like it at all, and scolds Danielle yet again for her accent.
The judges deliberate and return to reveal the fates of our girls. The first girl to definitely secure a place in the final catwalk showdown is…Joanie. This leaves Danielle and Jade in the doghouse. But only a bitch belongs there, so they hand Danielle the picture and finally, at long last, subjectificate Jade to her inevitabmentible releasement—and much of it has to with her bad behavior. “See the way you fidgeted, just now? You’re still talking,” Tyra says sternly, like an angry school teacher.
Jade leaves, still feeling the judges were the ones who made the mistake. She makes a point of turning around before exiting the elimination room, and striking a dramatic pose, before bowing like a thespian. She says they overlooked her abilities and confused her confidence for arrogance. “My look is in a different realm, people don’t know how to handle it,” Jade says, now blaming the whole entire population for her inability to succeed in modeling. Oh great, now it’s our fault too? “Jade will be hard to forget,” she says ominously into the camera, scarf and hood over her head making her now look like some deranged Top Model version of the Unabomber.
Then, mistaking this pace for Russell Simmons’ “Def Poetry Jam,” Jade rattles off one of the most bizarre farewell speeches I’ve ever heard on ANTM: “Leftover lady, let alone the strongest to be subdued, if I only had the magic key that would unlock the realms to the plateau of the highest me, even though I’ve been badly bruised, living in a house to become a popular muse.” Look into her eyes, she’s clearly deranged and heading for a meltdown. She giggles madly as she drags her luggage down the hall of the Plaza Athenee, and I foresee a future of her sitting on a street corner back home in NYC years from now, in the exact same get up, leaning up against the same rollaway suitcase, still babbling madly to herself about magic keys and butterflies and how the undiscovered supermodel of the universe never was found. And with a snap of her fingers, she’s gone.
With fireworks in the air, Joanie and Danielle celebrate being in the final two with dinner on the roof. “I can’t believe we made it!” Joanie exclaims. “Ebony and ivory, sucka!” Danielle declares. They share a high five. Joanie oh so casually mentions that she’s been getting called first a lot, then coyly asks if that’s good—nice passive aggressive way to get Danielle to say you’re doing better than her, Joanie! “I just hope I win, sorry,” Joanie says laughing. In that laughing-like-I’m-joking but I-actually-really-mean-it kind of way. Danielle then playfully makes as if she’s going to stab Joanie in the jugular with her spoon. In that pretending-to-be-playful but really-deeply-serious-beneath-the-surface kind of way.
The two girls handle their (almost) final TyraMail by singing with angelic reverence. It reads: “Your body is your temple. Work it. And make me proud.” Temples in Thailand are called wats, and the next day, they go to meet Jay at the site of the ultimate runway challenge: the Ancient City, a beautiful outdoor location where they have recreated a city of floating wats above a lake of water, connected with many bridges. “Holy Cow, it’s so big,” Joanie exclaims (in the now infamous Chip & Pepper shirt) as Jay walks them around the loooong, circuitous runway. “It’s bigger than anything else I’ve ever seen,” she adds (that’s what Jay said on his last date!).
Someone fabulous this way comes, and it’s Miss J. Alexander, showing the girls how it’s done. He tells them that for this challenge, the Issue fashion show, they will be walking at audience level, and not on a platform, so they will see all of you, from top to toe. Miss J. says they will be able to see the sweat rolling off your back, and considering it’s 99 degrees out there and they will be doing an afternoon show, he’s not speaking figuratively.
Now is the calm before the storm. Joanie stands alone on a bridge, struck by storm of conflicting emotions. She wants to do her family proud, especially her father, the preacher. She’d love for him to be able to say “my daughter is the best in the nation right now.” Danielle is also thinking about her family, in particular, her beloved mother, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis at home. As she sits on a seat looking over the beautiful water, Danielle tears up as she thinks about how badly she wants to win. Finally, the two, who were friends after all, come together and share one last moment of reflection together.
Preparations are a flurry. Backstage, Roj oversees as tribal and religious-inspired makeup and accessories are put on all the models, not just our girls, but a diverse mix of coed pros. A load of audience members file in and take their seats along the immense runway, including our judges, like Miss J., replete with gold headpiece and long, pointed gold nails (in the manner of traditional Thai fon lep dancers—not, uh, fun lap dancers). Tyra goes back to give her girls a pre-show pep talk. She warns them that it is a “long, long runway,” even longer than the Victoria’s Secret runway! Nevertheless, they cannot show that they are tired, or hot, or anything but flawless.
They prepare the runway by sprinkling a generous amount of flowers onto it. A beautiful sight to behold, but treacherous to the accident prone (watch out, Danielle!). With hearts racing and emotions running high, the girls get ready for their final challenge. And the show begins with the beautiful professionals tromping out onto the elaborate runway, snaking their way around twists and turns and around traditional Thai dancers. Then it’s time for our girls.
Danielle comes out first, holding a drum, and finely feathered. She makes her way out, “relaxed and natural” according to Nigel, and bows to Buddha before continuing on. Danielle has a few moments where her feet slip, but she recovers nicely, and it’s hardly noticeable. She stops in front of the judges’ panel and winks while Tyra hoots and hollers. She looks great but according to Jay is going too slow and is holding up the other models. Joanie comes out for her first pass, in a brightly patterned ensemble carrying a matching bag. She looks beautiful, but with her satchel, occasionally looks like she’s just a girl walking to her first period class.
Last pass. Danielle comes out confidently in a white dress with dark accents. She says she forgot about all her slips and mistakes and regarded this as “My time,” as she gives the judges her “fiercest walk.” Joanie’s in a gigantic feathered headpiece and a short tunic that nicely accentuates her legs, “a gorgeous outfit for her,” Nigel comments. She says that as she stopped in front of the judges, Joanie was thinking, “Who do you want, me or her?”
As all the models come out for the finale, the judges start to gesticulate wildly. I find it interesting that Tyra’s arms are waaay above her head in the way that signifies arrogance in Thai culture, Nigel appears to be directing air traffic, Twiggy has no clue what she’s doing, and only Miss J. appears to be keeping his hands at eye line and doing things that might remotely resemble Thai dance. But hey, they’re just proud for their girls (Tyra even got a little teary), both of whom are pleased with their performance today, and both of whom are confident they will be named America’s Next Top Model by the end of the day.
The Final Tooth—I Mean, Two
Danielle and Joanie, looking radiant in their grand finale Issue ensembles (well, okay, it kind of looks like Danielle’s got a turkey on her neck, and Joanie’s wearing a bistro tablecloth), stand before the judges one last time. Tyra, resplendent in turquoise and gold, reminds them of what is at stake: the contract with Ford modeling; the spread in Elle magazine shot by the man whose name is so much fun to say, Gilles Bensimon; the $100,000 contract with CoverGirl.
They look at each of the girls’ runway walk tapes. During Danielle’s tape, Tyra remarks that she was doing Miss J.’s walk. “I was looking at myself in drag,” Miss J. says proudly. Nigel remarks that her wink worked in this instance; Twiggy almost had “a little tear” in her eye. Tyra thinks she sometimes looked “a little bored” but Danielle assures her she was just concentrating on not slipping. “You are the girl that’s accident-prone,” Miss J. points out.
As they watch Joanie’s segment, in particular the last pass, Miss J. says he loves it; Tyra says it took her breath away—however, the earlier walk looked “like you were walking in a mall.” Ha, that’s rich; maybe Joanie’s copying Sara now! Twiggy finds the walk “fantastic” but Nigel’s photographer’s perspective does not like that she looks down so much, because when you snap a pic, “all you see is shut eyes.”
They then move on to a side-by-side review of their portfolio highlights. They both rocked the bald shoot and connected with the camera in ways that were outstanding for beginners; in the falling fairy tales, they both maintained facial control in the midst of movement (though Nigel brings up a concern about lack of variety from Danielle); the puppet/doll shoot makes Miss J. coo, “I looove the busted broken down doll look!”; the crying b&w shoot are two different kinds of sadness, but still beautiful; the elephant shoot shows them in opposite but equally stunning poses; the OP swimwear photos show Danielle’s sexy side and Joanie’s younger side; the final beauty shots “are both CoverGirl ads” in even Tyra Bank’s critical eyes.
Tyra gives the girls the opportunity to share a few last words. Danielle thanks them for not giving up on her, and she says she knows her speech isn’t perfect, but she’s willing to work on it. Joanie thanks them for giving her “a beautiful smile” and boosting her confidence. How much do you want to bet the judges knew they had to throw Jade off before she was given a chance to make some final statement of her own, probably thinking she could filibuster the judges into giving her the Top Model title.
Now comes the hard part: deciding which of these girls will win. The judges consider each girl carefully. Danielle is the “beautiful, Amazonian…tall, great on the runway.” They compare that to Joanie, who is not as strong when it comes to walking, but “photographs like a dream” with the uncanny chameleon-like ability to transform from picture to picture. Danielle looks beautiful, but often looks the same, although that could also be considered “a signature look.”
Nigel is concerned that Danielle’s “My Life as a CoverGirl” would be Mumbles McGee, but they all agree it’s something she could work on. Okay, get voice lessons to help you enunciate more clearly if you must, but am I the only around here who has no problem with the Danielle’s accent, and actually finds it part of her charm? I can’t be the only one—all those people who voted for her on UPN.com already thought she was a CoverGirl the way she was. Besides, with Eva’s hyper “Sqeeeees!” and Naima’s sleep-inducing golf commentator tone and, well, everything about Nicole, it’s not like the “My Life as a CoverGirl” segments have been such gripping televisual masterpieces so far. And need I remind anyone of professional CoverGirl Elsa Benitez’s makeup spots with Mr. Jay? Eet smells like Tyra eez a beeg hypocreete!
But I digress; back in Deliberationland, Miss J. feels that Danielle’s presence is stronger in person, but based on book alone, Twiggy would go for Joanie. The general consensus is that they are running neck and neck, and Tyra agrees with Nigel when he says he doesn’t believe the portfolios have ever looked as good at this point in the competition (pissing off every final two that’s ever participated in ANTM).
Our toothsome two are summoned before the almighty panel one last time. Tyra puts on her ultra-serious face and pulls out the clichéd reality TV speech containing words like “journey” and “spirit” before she gets down to business. “There can only be one,” Tyra intones deeply, which never fails to make me think of Highlander (I always expect Tyra to unsheathe a long sword and take off one of the girls’ heads).
After a suspense-filled pause, the girls look up at the monitor to see the CoverGirl beauty shot of…DANIELLE on the screen. Danielle doubles over with joy, she can’t barely believe it, crying, “That’s me in that picture,” as she wells up with tears. Joanie takes the news gracefully, and the girl once too shy to show her teeth smiles widely for her friend. As she hugs everyone goodbye, she admits she’s disappointed, but will be okay because “the best girl won.”
“I am the winner of America’s Next Top Model,” Danielle declares, “My life has officially changed!” Now comes the part when the winner screams deliriously with joy and hugs the judges. “We gonna get you some voice lessons, girl,” Tyra says, choosing to flip her homegirl voice on. Geez, Tyra, couldn’t you just let her enjoy this for one moment? Danielle thinks about her mom at home, and how proud she’ll be, especially since life hasn’t always been easy or breezy—but through it all, she remained beautiful from the inside out. “I’m a CoverGirl, Mommy, I’m a CoverGirl,” Danielle says, wiping the tears from her eyes. I can’t think of any victory speech more eloquent than that.
Sad that it’s over? There, there…If you get withdrawals, you can always email me at snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com. Until next cycle, word out!