The weeks are flying by for our fair finalists on AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL, and the competition is killing them…literally! Well, not literally (hello wrongful death lawsuit!), more like virtually, as the Top Model wannabe’s pretend to be corpses for a morbid photo shoot that hits a little too close to home for one girl. Blood, gore, ninjas, and schizos—Is this Reality TV or a horror movie? Never has “eliminating the competition” been so scary! If you’re not faint of heart, stick around to find out who’s psycho, who’s dead meat, and who gets a second chance at life.
Model Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde
Guys might bond over beers and ballgames, but few activities bring girls closer together than doing your nails. Whitney and Diana, dressed in sweats and t-shirts, vent about the pressures of panel while hunching over to polish their toenails. Hate to disappoint heterosexual men and the producers of late-night programming on Cinemax, but this is more the sort of thing most women do when they’re alone together and not, as the aforementioned seem to believe, bounce around like naughty nymphets in silky lingerie who just love pillow fights, play-wrestling or taking photos of each other nude. Or we do act like that all the time and I’m lying now to trick you—you’ll never know!
Whitney mentions that she left Dartmouth to participate in this competition, and being that she’s not on financial aid, will owe her father $9000, adding, “So if you think I don’t look or act like a model, I’m gonna make you know that I’m a model.” Putting ANTM as a priority before education, is this really the type of message we should be sending our youth? Now that’s really scary!
TyraMail arrives says, “Strike a pose, as if there’s nothing to it…” Wow, just one subordinating conjunction away from being sued by Madonna there, isn’t that cutting things a bit close? Meanwhile, Felicia decides that teaching a Jael a dance might help to take Jael’s mind off the loss of her friend. It’s sweet of Felicia, and Jael really appreciates the friendship and support.
While other girls are bonding, Renee—bitter, bitchy, belligerent Renee—sits all alone, smoking as always (I don’t usually approve of the habit, but I will personally buy Renee a carton a week of her favorite premium brand if it means she will be off the face of this beautiful earth that much faster) and complaining as always. This time, she is crabbing about how she’s misunderstood by the others who “are looking for ways to be offended by me, I don’t understand why…I feel like they just don’t like me.” Wow, the power of self-delusion is strong in this one!
A new day dawns and Renee makes a stunning declaration, “I woke up and I thought, you know what Renee you’ve been getting into it with all the girls quite a lot. I want to win this, I’m not going to win it with a bitchy attitude, so I’ve got to stop being mean. So I’m making a change.” Trying so drastic a change, literally overnight? Well, if she really means it then kudos to her. Unfortunately, the only thing more disturbing than an angry, mean Renee is a kinder, gentler Renee!
So what is Renee’s idea of being a better person? Not exactly Mother Theresa here, she starts by giving Jael a picture she drew of Jael, that depicts her as a cute manga-ish figure…wearing a straitjacket “but it’s not tied,” Renee says, adding that she doesn’t mean it “offensively.” Um…thanks? For this amateurish drawing that vaguely hints that I’m insane? That’s rich coming from you, you crazy effin’ wench? Aw, but of course Jael is far too naturally nice to say such things, and she gives Renee a warm hug, calling it “the coolest picture ever, I thought that was so awesome of her.” Call me cynical, but this sweet gesture, however, strikes me as suspicious.
Strictly for My Ninjas
Field trip! The girls drive out to a location where a lithe young man dressed as in a traffic cop uniform executes a variety of sinewy, slinky, dance-like moves. Natasha says she’s “scared” to see a “police officer” next to their limo. Nyet, ees no need for to being nervous, Natasha; he ees not from the immigration. Renee wonders if they’re all getting “arrested.”
He directs the girls to all step out from the vehicle, at which time he takes off his hat and shade, throws a hip out to the side and an arm up in the air like he’s doing a Bob Fosse number, and reveals, “I’m not actually a traffic cop. My name is Benny Ninja, and I am going to be your pose coach for today.” Yeah, no shiznit! No cop looks like this, believe me, or ninja.
“I am the father of the House of Ninja and we have perfected voguing.” Benny schools the girls on the origins of voguing from 1970s Harlem. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not something Madonna invented—no, rather it’s yet another cultural tradition she has appropriated from marginalized minorities and exploited for her own profit. Woops, didn’t mean to get bell hooks on you.
In short, Music + Posing = Voguing. Benny shows them how to do it, and explains how it can be applied to modeling, as a way to give your photographer a different pose every time, thus avoiding wasting film. As an exercise, Benny has the girls face off in a posing battle, beginning with Sarah and Felicia. As they executed several face poses, Felicia is the clear winner. Benny thinks Felicia is “amazing” and believes she is a “natural” at posing. “I kicked her ass,” Felicia giggles playfully afterwards. Speaking of kicking, Renee and Diana kick up their heels for the “shoe pose” battle. Brittany and Natasha show off their best “handbag poses”; Jaslene and Dionne work their “on the floor poses.” When Whitney and Jael do “facial expressions,” Benny is impressed with Whitney’s ability to move from one pose to another, adding, “She gave me everything I was looking for.” Except for a man, eh, Benny? The way Benny giggles like a little schoolgirl tells me I’m right!
At home, TyraMail says, “The best way to commit this crime is to look good doing it.” They know they’re going have to vogue their little hearts out, so Whitney and Felicia practice their fiercest faces in the mirror. When Whitney asks Felicia for advice on what a fierce face is, Felicia says, squinting in the mirror, “This is too much,” then “This is just enough,” doing the exact same face but with her eyelids open a millimeter more. OMG that is so La TyTy. Now I really see why they call her Baby Tyra! Whitney is fond of Felicia, and thinks Tyra’s Mini-Me will go far in the competition.
Outside, Renee is braiding Brittany’s hair. Yes, that’s right. Renee, who once waged a massive campaign to convince the world how fake and awful Brittany is, is now braiding and tying back Brittany’s hair in a kerchief like a humble handmaiden. The new and improved, nicey-nice Renee? It’s unnatural and creepy and cannot be trusted. Brittany is “happy as long as she’s nice to me,” but acknowledges the two sides of Renee, “She can be a lot of fun and she can be really nice, but she kind of has this bitchy undertone to things.” Watch your back! Especially around those flames in the backyard, I swear they’re not safe.
Now that Renee and Brittany are the best of friends, Diana decides to go behind her old bitching buddy’s back and complain about…Renee. Oh the cycle of fake bitchiness, it is a snake swallowing it’s tail, no? Diana thinks Renee is “manipulative” and tends to zero in on one girl victim to control. Of Renee’s new attitude, Diana says, “I don’t buy it,” using her angry white girl voice. And wow, is it me or do the girls this cycle smoke way too much? Is the new sponsor Marlboro around here?
In the morning, a frazzled Jael manages to give herself a big burn on the left side of her face with a curling iron. It’s a long, diagonal stripe that follows her cheekbone, so unfortunately it’s quite obvious, like a grill mark on a hot dog. Without a lot of hair, she’s not sure what she’s going to do to hide it.
The girls head to a business building downtown Los Angeles, and into what looks like the lobby from the big shootout scene in the first Matrix that I always use to test my surround sound system. Benny Ninja, who is so wrong for that bright yellow leotard with tiny black briefs worn over the tights, slips out from behind a vault door (his agility, dare I say, is almost ninja-like, though the wardrobe-is not) to announce that they have entered the “House of La Banks where Tyra keeps her most bankable posing secrets locked up.”
The girls’ mission, should they choose to accept it, is to infiltrate the Bankable Bank Vault, by “slinking through a crazy maze of lasers.” All the while, the girls must be ever mindful to display “catlike agility and fabulous poses.” The best girl will win a $40,000 diamond bracelet from Angara. So that’s what they were saving the money for when they gave out that crappy trophy at the prom challenge! Renee’s eyes light up at the mention of $40,000; she says she and her husband are “really broke right now” so she has to win this because it could mean a “fresh start” for her family. Oh yeah, eBay here we come!
The girls change into leotards that emphasize every panty line and seam in their underwear. Just not attractive. Plus to see so many people in bright silver leotards at one time makes them look like a marauding gang of Venice boardwalk street performers, like those metallic robot dancers that give me the creeps.
Benny dramatically shows off the maze of so-called “laser” lights, which in actuality are just holes in the walls with green light beams shining through. A little cheesy, but I guess it will do the trick since they don’t exactly have a Mission Impossible budget here. Benny Ninja shows them how it’s done, because first of all, he truly is one of the slinkiest, most graceful creatures I’ve ever seen; secondly, he probably knows his way around a hole in the wall.
There are some rules to this challenge: each girl gets 2 minutes to make it through the entire maze; if you touch a laser, a buzzer will sound and they will have to back to the start of the maze; anyone who gets through the maze gets a key to a box that may contain the diamond prize; however, the winner is determined by Benny, who will select who gets the bracelet based on “poise and grace.”
Dionne begins. “What the hell, me?” she says she thought as she heard her name called out first, “How the hell am I supposed to get through here and pose at the same time?” To get under the first beam of light she does the splits. It looks good but Benny hits the buzzer; the back of her head touches the beam was she’s about to pass under. She gets buzzed again. And again. And again. Dionne decides to forget about posing and just get through by any means necessary, which in this case means just rolling through in order to get a key. Despite her problems, she’s the first girl to get a key.
Brittany is next. She has fierce game face on but forgets to pose. Benny reminds her and she makes it through the maze relatively unscathed. In contrast, Whitney never forgets that above all, this is a posing competition. She keeps in mind to “pose your tail off” and it pays off. Benny says, “Whitney blew my mind. Her poses were phenomenal. She kept eye contact with me the whole entire time.” She also gets a key.
Jaslene does her thing and gets a key, as does Felicia (who feels it was easy for her with her dance background), Natasha, Sarah, Diana, and Jael (who wins the award for “Most Likely to Become a Performance Artist”). Only one key, and one girl, left. Renee starts out strong, with Benny complimenting her use of body movement. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. “That’s not how you’re gonna get that bracelet!” Benny says as he buzzes her multiple times. He notes that she looks like she really wants that bracelet, “But you won’t get it that way.” She runs out of time, and becomes the only girl to not get a key.
It’s not long before the Renee we know so well returns. She ends up, of course, crying and moaning about how she can’t believe every other girl got a bracelet except for herself, and she wanted the bracelet to pay off “all the bills we’re swimming in” and “I feel like I failed my family.” Oh please, stop pawning off your problems on your family, Renee, you’re just a sore loser in general! It’s not like it takes much to set your waterworks going.
The girls line up with their keys along a table with metal lock boxes before them—every girl except Renee, that is. Before letting them open their boxes, Benny reminds them that he selected the winner based on who he felt had the best posing and movement. Everyone opens their boxes; the last to get hers open is Whitney, because she appears to be looking around in disbelief that no one else has gotten the prize yet. When she opens her box, she looks as stunned as she is delighted that the diamond bracelet is in there for her. She says that although she owes her father $9000, she will still keep the bracelet for its sentimental value. Aw, sorry eBay, not this time!
The girls go home to a TyraMail that says, “Don’t kill yourself with over-thinking the comptition—“ (Okay, because obviously you didn’t kill yourself to get your spelling correct on national television) “—but kill me with your drop-dead gorgeous looks.” Everyone is relaxing, happy and laughing, even Jael who only recently heard that a close friend had died, and Natasha who seemed early on like she would be the big troublemaker. Well, not everyone…
Renee is back to her old self. Moping, smoking, crying, sitting alone and giving everyone the evil eye—sing it with me: These are a few of her favorite things! She claims that this competition has “broken” her spirit. I don’t know about her spirit, but her sanity must have been broken long before ANTM ever started. She goes to phone her husband and whines, “You want to come pick me up? I don’t want to be here anymore. I just don’t want to be here, it’s stupid that I’m here, I should be with my family. I shouldn’t be here with all these stupid girls.” Gah! Stop trying to make your meltdowns about your family. Clearly, she’s just jealous and a sore loser. If she truly just missed her family, there’d be no reason to call everyone else “stupid,” I mean why is that necessary?
Not only is Renee talking about everyone now behind their backs, she is also inconsiderately hogging the phone. Felicia and Natasha go to check on Renee, who is full on sobbing. Renee simply waves them away, quite rudely, despite Felicia politely asking if she’s okay, and then gently indicating that other people are waiting to use the phone. Renee just shrugs, doesn’t even bother to apologize or anything, then goes back to moan to her husband, “I cannot stand these girls, Jason, I [bleeping] swear to God I’m going to [bleeping] beat all [bleeping] down.” If I may interject, can someone please tell me when Renee became the big martyr that everyone else was terrorizing, because I must have missed all that? I have only seen her being the major instigator (i.e. the nicest way I can think of to say that C-word women hate so much).
Felicia comes out and tells everyone what happened. In confessional, she talks about Renee’s “lashing out” and “attitude’s been flaring”; she also describes Renee’s troubling schizophrenic mood swings, citing how she can “switch on you” and “You never know which one you’re gonna get on which days with her, so you have to be careful.” I would sleep with one eye open, because Renee is officially the girl most likely to snap!
Roll Over, Play Dead
The next day the girls are brought to the Alexandria hotel which, in case you didn’t know, is one of the nastiest places in downtown Los Angeles. Mr. Jay Manuel greets them by saying, “Sometimes you have bring a little life to a dead pose.” For the shoot today, all the girls are going to be crime scene victims. “The twist is, you’ve all killed each other,” Mr. Jay says, as the camera flashes on Renee’s psychotic smile. Oh you naughty editors. “I want to see some life even though you’re dead!” Mr. Jay commands. Felicia points out how this seems oxymoronic, but what about ANTM isn’t? The photographer is Mike Rosenthal, who also did ANTM7’s circus freak shoot.
Hair and make up looks like a workshop with Tom Savini. There’s tons of blood and wounds. Mr. Jay notices that Jael has a wound of her own, and kids “I can’t believe with that little hair you managed to burn your skin; you should be the burn victim today.” She admits she’s been frazzled but promises to “bring it” today.
Renee is up first, and in her picture she is “poisoned by a model.” Still cranky over not getting a key yesterday, she is lucky that this shoot takes advantage of her mopey, depressed expression. “How eerie is that,” Jay says, who is impressed with how great a job she’s doing. He coos over how “high fashion” and editorial” her shoot is, saying it’s supermodel-quality work. I don’t know that I agree with Renee being supermodel-caliber, but I must say I do prefer her dead to alive.
Renee decides not to tell the other girls how well she did. Sneaky little bitch, who’s fake now? But Mr. Jay breaks the news, telling the girls “Renee was so good,” and telling Jaslene, “Cha Cha, she’s coming for you!” Every shot, according to Jay, was perfect. When Renee finds out what Jay said to the girls, she exclaims, “Oh! They already hate me enough as it is.” When Jay asks why, Renee whispers (and with her pale greenish face and psycho expression it comes out a especially chilling), “I’m a bitch.” Well, she’s right about one thing.
Jaslene was “pushed off rooftop by a model” and when Jay tells her to find the “pretty way to fall” she delivers. Mr. Jay likes the way her ankle looks broken. I start to realize how truly sadistic the fashion world is. Yes it took me this long! Renee acknowledges how good Jaslene is cites her as big competition. Jaslene is not fazed by the other girls watching, saying, “Cha Cha Diva sure is out!”
Brittany is “electrocuted by a model.” When she finds out she must lie in a bathtub, she suggests that she pose as if she fell out of the tub, so that there is more of her body to work with. Jay and Mike think this is a great idea, and so Brittany lies on a really gross looking bathroom floor, in a pool of water that Jay pours over her. Ewww!!! Jay says, “Good job, Brit, you always commit…Someone get this girl a towel and a tetanus shot.”
The shoots get gorier and gorier. Diana has had her “organs stolen by a model” (and if the old urban legend is to be believed then the number one suspect would be the Ruskie!) so they have applied huge, oozing wounds to her chest and belly. She must lie down in a tiny hallway, but does her best. Jay deems her gorgeous…or should that be “GORE-geous”?
Mr. Jay tells Mike that Sarah is a photographer herself, and is warned not to over-think the shoot. She has been “pushed down the stairs by a model” and so is covered in bruises and dribbling blood from her mouth. Jay tries to beat that over-thinking brain out of her, and it apparently works because Sarah does a good job.
Jael lies in bed “strangled by a model.” It’s not until she’s lying there that I realize how frickin’ awful this must be for her. Jael, who is usually so fun, has a hard time. The photographer says she’s too “posey” and Jay says it’s “not working.” You can see in her eyes that she is filled with sorrow. Jay even asks her what she’s thinking about, and she admits that her friend died from an overdose last week. Everyone seems truly sorry, but Jay warns her about using emotions that might overwhelm you. Jael holds her tears back, and after getting a hug from Diana, apologizes, “I can’t be fun all the time.” Jael, who usually keeps her smily face on, confesses that the shoot was “traumatic” and she barely remembers anything other than trying to keep from crying the whole time.
Felicia, “decapitated by a model,” has a gnarly purple wound on her neck. Jay tells her she looks “like a corpse” which she takes as a compliment. It’s not. She thinks a blank stare is all she needs to look dead, but Mike thinks she looks like she’s “taking a nap.” I don’t know who takes a nap with their eyes open but whatever, Mike.
Whitney is “stabbed by a model” and luckily gets a couch to lie on, which is far cushier than the metal stairs, cold concrete, or icky bathroom floors the other girls have had. But she’s not resting on pretty, she’s determined to “bring it as much as possible today” and gives some real model poses.
Natasha screams as they douse her with water on the roof. Jay argues, “This is not as cold as Russia!” I’ll let Natasha describe the experience in her inimitable English: “They pouring the water on me, it feeling like needles going through my body through my skin.” Poor dear, she has been such a sport lately though, and as the girl who’s “drowned by a model,” she does a decent Laura Palmer impression lying on the ground, enshrouded in a plastic bag. Despite her teeth chattering, she does good enough to earn praise from Mr. Jay, who says, “I don’t know what happened with some of you girls. You went from non-model to model in two shoots!”
For Dionne’s shoot, she is “shot by a model.” Dionne thinks, “I look like a dead ass rich woman for real!” Mike notes that it took Dionne a long time to warm up and “she really didn’t take much initiative to improvise,” requiring a lot of direction from Mike and Mr. Jay. But Mr. Jay thinks everyone did well this week, which he expects will make the judges’ job harder to do. “Every girl has delivered in a way that I never expected,” Jay says, pleased.
The girls go home to find the dreaded TyraMail announcing the upcoming elimination. Felicia says all she wants is a good review, and then shows everyone the happy dance they can expect to see if she gets it. “I ain’t going hom, I ain’t going home,” Felicia sings. Dionne looks at her and says, “You’re a big kid.” Felicia jumps on the bed, saying, “I know, right?” She is feeling confident. “I think my photo shoot kicked ass,” she says, “I am almost positive that I got a good shot for panel.” Unlike Felicia, Jael is worried because she knows she didn’t do her best: “I think I might be going home. It’s very upsetting to me.”
Unwanted: Dead or Alive
Tyra’s pic of the week does not show her as the victim in a crime scene photo. No, she gets to be the investigator, dressed as an olde-fashioned detective from the Scotland Yard. No shiznit, Sherlock! In the judging room, Tyra’s rocking the headbands again! It’s like she’s bringing Axl Rose back. Tyra does her prize schpiel and introduces the judges: Nigel Barker, J. Alexander, Twiggy, and Mike Rosenthal in the guest chair. Then it’s time to examine the corpses, CSI: ANTM style!
They begin with Renee. Each girl has a little story to share about their murderous photo shoot. Renee says that she told Felicia she didn’t think she looked at all like Tyra, so Felicia poisoned her. Everyone oohs and aahs over Renee’s poisoned photo, her “heart shaped jaw” and calling her “beautiful,” “incredible,” and the “full package.” It’s fine, but I don’t think it’s that great! It just looks like Sharon Stone after a prescription drug bender!
When Dionne comes up, Tyra thinks she still looks like she’s just auditioning and not like it’s the 5th week. They don’t like her pink “mall top” and her too-perfect bangs. Dionne’s story is that “Sarah’s so jealous of my mind-blowing looks, she blew my mind.” They love the blood spattered picture, and Miss J. thinks the “broken down leg [is] absolute genius,” but Tyra interjects how Mr. Jay’s notes mentioned that he had to position her. “A lot of why this shot works amazingly well is the position of your body,” Nigel says.
They curiously skip over the backstory of Natasha’s murder—perhaps because the greater crime is her murder of the English language? But they love her moody, deep blue drowning photo, calling it “powerful.” Tyra points out the similarity between her past two photos, which have been her best: she’s posed upside down. Tyra says that when Natasha is standing normally, she tends to squint and push her lips out; upside it forces her eyes to open and relaxes her mouth. She needs to figure out how to get that same face even when she’s not upside. OR become a full-time upside-down model (my suggestion). Mike does praise her for doing a great job despite being freezing cold. Finally Natasha gets praise that’s not just an insult she thinks is a compliment!
Diana’s organ theft photo is, according to Miss J., quintessential “broken down busted doll.” And they love it. Mike gives her props for executing the idea well, especially working in such a small space. Right, they give the plus size girl the tiniest location, what’s up with that? Twiggy and Miss J. seem slightly disturbed by Diana’s toothy, gummy smile in person.
Tyra acknowledged that this week’s shoot could not have been easy for Jael. Jael gulps hard, but acts strong. For her picture, she says “Whitney’s always taking those pictures with no neck so she tried to steal mine,” while Whitney laughs in the background. Her strangled shot is “remarkable” and shows how well she can manage in the midst of diversity. Mike says that in the end she came up with a “great shot.”
Jaslene, who has a headband of her own from the Minnie Mouse collection, struts up, chin up, and Cha Cha Diva torpedoes set to high. She says that for her picture, “I had such a fierce dress on that Renee just pushed me off the building.” Nigel thinks it’s a “great shot”; Miss J. likes the eye contact; Mike commends her ability to take direction well.
Sarah’s stairwell photo is another “great photo.” Nigel thinks her face is “extraordinary…and dead.” Mike says she still put a little too much thought in her poses, but the facial expressions were good.
Brittany delivers yet another good photo with her electrocution photo. “I loooove the leg!” Miss J. says, with real feeling. Brittany and Mike mention the way Brittany came up with the idea of where to pose on her own. Tyra commends her for speaking up and getting a shot that’s “one of the best of the bunch.”
Felicia unfortunately doesn’t kick as much ass in her decapitation photo as she thought. Nigel says that while everyone else seemed to manage a “spark” even in the midst of their “morbid situation” she unfortunately just looks as if she’s actually dead. Miss J. thinks it’s because she’s “so used to moving.” Nigel thinks she “just gave up” and didn’t really try anything. Tyra wonders why Felicia was so stuck when she used to be the girl who gave the most variation.
Whitney comes up and subtly shows off her new bling; Tyra tells everyone how she won it through the challenge. For her photo, Whitney says everyone was so jealous of her chest, they decided to chop it up to see if they were real. Yes they’re real, and they’re fabulous! Miss J. love it, especially the extension in the neck. Twiggy says it’s the first photo where she thinks Whitney actually looks like a fashion model. Nigel quibbles slightly that she looks dying, not dead, but it’s a minor crime.
The judges deliberate, then call the girls back to find out who “gets the axe.” Harharhar, oh Tyra, you are slaying me with the puns! Who wrote the banter this week, the Cryptkeeper? Tyra calls out the girls in the following order: Renee (!), Natasha, Brittany, Whitney, Jaslene, Jael, Diana, and Sarah. This leaves Felicia and Dionne in the bottom two.
Tyra explains that because almost everyone had a good picture this week, the judges look to other things, and in Dionne’s case, they don’t see a model when she walks before them. Felicia’s photo shoots started strong, then started to get progressively weaker, leading the judges to wonder if she’s “falling apart” and can “handle the competition.” The picture goes to Dionne in the end, along with a warning that she needs to think more about her appearance beyond the photo shoots.
Felicia hugs a teary Dionne goodbye, then approaches Tyra. Tyra says that she and the judges think she’s beautiful. Tyra notices “a little resemblance” to herself but adds “you have a look that is is you too” and she needs more “development.” Yeah right, Miss Banks. Looks like there’s only room for one Tyra in this town.
The girls are all so sad to see Felicia go. She mentions how she’s grown “attached” to them like sisters, and I admit as a viewer I got attached to Felicia finally. She jokes that she would have been pissed if they didn’t cry at her elimination, but admits she’s sad but will deal with it since “everything happens for a reason” and will continue to follow her dream. Bye Bye, Baby Ty! It’s time for you to be your own person.
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