Welcome, fashion mavens and those who are following Tyra Banks’ yo-yo’ing dress size, to the ninth season of America’s Next Top Model! You’ll be horrified to know that I know nothing about clothing or supermodels – as one of our Cycle 9 ingenues already confessed, I too have the fashion sense of a 12-year-old boy. Plus, Jade is my all-time favorite ANTM contestant. No worries, though, because the fabulously fierce PhoneGrrrl will be your regularly scheduled recapper for the remainder of this season. So bear with me as I take my first tentative steps on to the catwalk, and pray with me that it doesn’t collapse under my middle-aged muffin-top.
Cruisin’ for fame
Tonight’s premiere opens with Tyra’s Modeling Theory, in voice-over form. Tyra waxes philosophical, asking, “What is Beauty?”. According to Ty-ty, beauty comes in many forms, and isn’t necessarily what you may think it is. Translation: there will be some homely-ass girls among the 33 finalists. There’s some rapid footage of Tyra personally phoning the final 33, and the requisite screams and hand-flapping result. This crop of 33 girls not only will have the chance to vie for a spot in the top 13 – they also get a free Caribbean vacation cruise to do it on. Perhaps the lush, warm island breezes will cut down on the catfighting. Or not.
The girls are bid to put on blindfolds, and when they remove them, they have the dubious treat of seeing Miss Jay Alexander, dressed as the Love Boat’s Captain Stubing. This may be the first time I’ve ever seen Miss Jay in pants. (Leggings don’t count.) Miss Jay pronounces himself to be the “cruise director”, and tells the hopefuls that 20 girls will be cut in the ensuing week. All, of course, are supremely confident that they alone are the only girl deserving of standing on the starboard deck and breathing the same air as the catwalk queen.
In case there isn’t enough reason to hate 33 young, thin, gorgeous women, we’re shown clips of the cruise ship, which is sumptuously appointed with golf courses, swimmin’ pools, and movie stars. The girls are assembled on deck with the ship’s safety officer, who hands out life jackets. Up pops Miss Jay, who tells them that a model should be able to wear anything, including a personal flotation device. The shuffleboard court becomes a makeshift runway, and the models must rise to the occasion of their first fashion show, dressed in their Titanic survival vests. Some of the girls, in a misguided effort at “fierceness”, have developed extremely odd catwalk gaits – Spontaniouse (you just can’t make this stuff up) is told to stop shaking her generous booty, Ebony – who is about as drop-dead gorgeous as they come – makes it through without excessive critique, and Heather – who claims to have a “hump” on her back, though I don’t see it under the life vest – horrifies Miss Jay with her walk, which is half pimp-roll and half praying mantis.
Gentlemen prefer supermodels
Over dinner, the models discuss Heather’s hunchback and overall poor posture. Heather is either deaf, a doormat or a spectacular good sport, because she takes no offense at the girls’ digs. We’re skipped ahead to breakfast the following day, where the girls are having a spirited discussion about eating disorders. That is – an obnoxious, bitchy girl by the name of Marvita is loudly accusing Ebony of having one. Marvita’s nastiness gets the other models worked up, and they fret over their own sylph-like figures. I assume any mad dashes to the restrooms were edited out.
Of course, nothing makes a girl feel thin like a bodaciously buxom Tyra, who appears onstage in front of the hopefuls in showgirl spangles, complete with a red-feathered headress that Dita Von Teese could be proud of. Rather spoiling the effect is her vocal performance, which is sung in a breathy, Marilyn Munroe-like manner. While Tyra may be equal to the size of the late Ms. Munroe, she can’t pull off the Betty Boop voice. But it’s her show, after all, and the girls politely applaud her effort. Tyra effusively welcomes the group, and after a brief pep talk, can’t resist hamming it up a little more. Well, she may as well enjoy her outfit now, ‘cause you know Miss Jay probably has dibs on it after she’s done.
Walking the audition plank
It’s time for the models to earn their cruise time, and Tyra, Miss Jay, and Jay Manuel are seated in the ship’s Lyric room with their best bitch on. The girls troop in, one by one, encountering varying degrees of success with the panel.
Ambreal, 19, makes a squealing, arm-waving entrance, then proceeds to underwhelm the trio with her “ghetto walk”. Because nothing says couture like a “ghetto walk”, I suppose. Ambreal is under the delusion that she’s “good at walks”. Fortunately, she finishes off wearing a white bikini that displays her lovely figure.
Blonde Chantal, also 19, declares that she’s “built to be in the industry”. Jay Manuel enthusiastically agrees, after seeing her in her tiny flowered string bikini. Sylvia, one of the group’s senior citizens at age 23, is asked by Tyra to do “interpretive walking” – meaning, she has to pretend to be a high-fashion butterfly, robot, and centipede. The power is going to your head, Tyra – it’s not pretty.
Hump-girl Heather, 21, cracks wise with the panel, then things get serious when she talks about coping with her Asberger’s Syndrome and ADHD. Miss Jay thinks she looks very 1950’s (a good thing, apparently) but admonishes her to stand up straight. Saleisha is next, and she’s a product of Tyra’s “Tzone Camp”, which is a self-esteem camp. Personally, I’ve found any kind of children’s camp to be anything but good for one’s self-esteem. Saleisha claims to have had a fabulous experience, though, and her self-esteem is just fine now, thanks for asking. It must be, because she wants to model for Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated, where there isn’t as much high fashion as there is T&A.
The token girl-so-homely-she-must-be-beautiful is 20-year-old Victoria. Victoria is very thin, and very unattractive. She’s also very nervous, and claims to be a “nerd from Yale”. She does manage to calm her nerves long enough to take a shot at the IQ level of her fellow contestants, smirking, “Come on, now” when Jay asks her if she thinks some of the other girls are dumb. Janet, 22, is a Georgia peach who is thrilled to death that her small town just got a Wal-Mart. Janet is a bikini-waxer by profession, an admission that inspires Tyra to leap up on the table on all fours and give a horror-stricken Miss Jay a graphic demonstration of what it takes to pull off a thong bikini. Janet, in turn, gives Tyra’s ample backside a hearty smack. It’s either the spanking or Janet’s killer body that induces Tyra to exclaim how much she likes Janet.
Jennifer is a 24-year-old bahtendah. That’s “bartender” to those of you unfamiliar with the lilt of the native Bostonian. Jennifer claims to be blind in her right eye (unnoticeable to the rest of us) and displays a stunning bikini-clad figure. 23-year-old Marvita, the breakfast-table nasty, snivels about her terrible childhood to the panel. In turn, Tyra praises her bone structure and her spirit. Mila, 20, is a modern-day Gidget – she loooves parties, and is a happy, happy person who thinks crying is just a darn old waste of time. She’s annoying as hell, and Miss Jay amuses himself by mocking her walk. Christie, age 20, is apparently an Adrianna Lima lookalike. I have no idea who that is, so I’ll take Tyra’s word for it.
There’s a gruesome (non) talent portion, which is mercifully quick. Two slow blinks and it’s over. It’s fortunate that these girls are pretty.
Sabrina, 18, says her long, dark hair is her best feature. Even if you didn’t catch Tyra grinning, you know this one is in for a buzz cut if she makes it to the makeover stage. Jenah, another 18-year-old, confidently announces that girls don’t like her because she’s beautiful. Wow, I can think of other reasons not to like her already. Plus, Jenah is smart, because she reads books and stuff. Yale-girl Victoria is probably convulsed with laughter backstage. Sarah, 20, thought putting a crumpled piece of Kleenex up her nose was a good way to get the panel’s attention. Or, perhaps, it was to distract them from her sort-of full figure. Tyra comments that Sarah is too thin to be plus-sized, and isn’t sure where she could fit in on the modeling spectrum.
20-year-old Lisa has a multitude of problems – she was a homely child, did time in foster care, and currently works as a stripper. She’s a mess, but an attractive mess, with legs that are about 10 miles long. She later confesses her exotic dancer job to the others, and gives a couple of them lap dances. If she doesn’t make the top 13, maybe Tzone Camp could be an option.
Bianca is a worldly-wise 18-year-old who tells the panel there are two kinds of bitches, the “fun bitch” – like Bianca herself – and the “bitchy bitch”. She must have read that in one of Jenah’s books. Kimberly, 20, is an oddball who brings Tyra a ceramic horse and distinguishes herself by her ear-piercing scream. They must have edited a lot of Kimberly’s audition time, because I can’t quite figure out why Tyra is so enamoured of this girl.
Ebony is another 20-year-old, and gives self-confidence a new name – she immediately tells the panel that “I’m fierce, and the other girls are jealous”. Tyra is having none of it, and soon Ebony is tearing up over her crack-addict mom, and the saintly grandma who raised her and made sure she graduated high school and attended college. Tyra loves nothing like a tough chick that she can crack, and you just know that Ebony is a shoo-in for the final 13.
Beaches, bitches, and bikinis
In Antigua, Jay announces that he’s taking everyone to the beach. Cheers ensue, and the girls are ushered down to the oceanfront, where Cycle 8 winner Jaslene is participating in a staged photoshoot. Jaslene, looking even more starved than she did last season, gives the girls a skeletal grin and enthuses over her new life as a
reality-show competition winnermodel. Of course, the beach trip isn’t all fun, as Jay is conducting the competition’s first photoshoot. The girls pose in bikinis (though each one is wearing a transparent cover-up) and frolic in the waves. Miss Jay looms into view, and the two Jays tell the girls that behind them is a rack of boarding passes, but there are only 20 – thirteen of them will be “shipwrecked”. The girls dash towards the boarding passes, and I would list the casualties for you, really I would, but I endured 5 – five – full minutes of commercials immediately after this first cut, and it made me so crabby I stopped writing names down.
Lucky number 13
Oh, go ahead and forgive me already, because there’s only 5 minutes of show left. As they say on the islands, no worry, mon. With no time to waste, the 20 finalists congregate on some dangerous-looking plexiglass planks laid over a swimming pool, and Tyra asks each of them to tell her why she should choose them. She should have banned the use of the word “fierce”, and really made them sweat.
Tyra, Jay, and Miss Jay have a sit-down to discuss who goes and who stays. Tyra gives particular thumbs-up to Victoria (Miss Jay neighs in agreement), and there’s general accord about the fierceness of Jenah, Mila, Lisa, Chantal, Bianca, Heather, and Janet. The “meh” votes go to Ambreal, Kimberly, Jennifer, and Sarah (though Tyra likes the idea of a not-quite-fat chick like herself making the final cut). The panel is also unanimous in the desire to give Ebony an ass-whuppin’. Yeah, Ebony is definitely in.
Tyra heads back to give the girls the final decisions, and the 13 finalists are Mila, Bianca, Jenah, Chantal, Ambreal, Victoria, Sarah, Saleisha, Kimberly, Ebony (told ya), Janet, Heather, and Lisa. There’s tears galore from both the losers and the successful candidates, and Tyra dispenses hugs and congratulations all around.
Next week, Heather has trouble fitting in, and Bianca and Lisa commence Round One of the house catfights. Maybe Bianca is pissed that Lisa overlooked her during the lap dances? Check out PhoneGrrrl’s recap for all the juicy bits. I’m off to book my cruise – the mini-golf course sold me. Aloha!
September 19th is National Talk Like A Pirate Day – PM me your best Captain Jack imitation.