Welcome to Cycle 10 of America’s Next Top Model! I think most ANTM fans – and I’m including myself here - begin every cycle with the optimistic hope that the show will somehow finally result in a winner who all the fans can agree on: a girl who’s the perfect combination of commercial and high fashion, who hasn’t back-stabbed her way to the finale or won by NOT screwing up more than anyone else. Let’s face it: this has never happened before, but we carry in hoping for the best with every new cycle. Cycle 9 ended with what was possibly the biggest ”HUH?” moment in the history of the show. Enough about past disappointments, my lovelies! Let’s start this season with the same (possibly foolish) hope that the “right” girl will be the last model standing!
The 10th cycle begins with Tyra’s voice over and a look back at the previous 9 cycles….because they don’t have enough footage to fit into just one hour? The past 9 cycles have included:
9 catfights, including last season’s battles between Bianca and Saleisha and Tiffany getting beer on her weave.
8 tearful makeovers with lots of crying over the adding or subtracting of hair. Remember Cassandra refusing to cut her hair?
7 stressful medical emergencies, featuring Caridee as the human popsicle, Danielle at the hospital in Thailand and Joanie’s nightmare dentist visit.
6 scary runway skills. Cue the shots of Kari falling down repeatedly in those humongous heels and Anchal nearly taking the plunge over the side of that “pontoon-style” runway.
5 fierce plus sized models, including Sarah (check this), the incredible shrinking model
4 high flying photo shoots with ropes in uncomfortable places
3 critter encounters…. remember those nasty cockroaches?
2 amazing Jays
But only ONE America’s Next Top Model……What? I’m not one to quibble with Tyra 30 seconds into the first show and math really isn’t my strong suit, but “one” winner? Okay, yeah, she’s referring the girl who will win this season. Whatever.
The cycle officially begins as a bus of screaming girls pulls up in front of a fabulous…okay, it’s a high school. They all look like prisons. The girls don’t seem phased. They all spend much of the next hour screaming. It’s a wonder anyone can speak by the end of this. They should get Ricola as a corporate sponsor. While they’re all piling out of the bus, we get reacquainted with Marvita. Marvita got to the finale of the casting episode last cycle, but didn’t make it. She’s back for this cycle and hoping to pull a Jaslene. The girls stand in front of the main building of the school and, again, start screaming. This time, it’s because the two Jays – Manuel and Miss – have emerged. Jennifer tells us Miss Jay is fierce and Mr. Jay is fine.
Mr. Jay welcomes the girls to Top Model Prep and tells them that school is in session. He then directs them to the locker room to get changed for their i.d pictures. Again, there’s a whole lot of screaming.
It’s at this point that we meet Shaya, who says she’s totally into fashion. She studies fashion and likes to create beauty because she is beautiful…..and clearly doesn’t have a confidence problem.
Once in the locker room, the girls change into school uniforms that are very Britney, only with stockings…. and underwear. Each girl will get four shots at this photo shoot. While the girls are all getting ready for their photo shoot, we meet: Katarzyna, a Cornell graduate from Poland; Lauren, an artist; Allison, who calls herself “a silent predator” and vows to annihilate the competition; Fatima, an Iman look-alike from Somalia; Dominique, another one who doesn’t need self-esteem classes, as well as Kim, who stands in front of the camera like a deer in headlights. It’s like a Mexican standoff between her and Mr. Jay until she finally asks if he wants her to pose. Seriously, that’s what she said.
Later, in what looks to be the auditorium, the girls gather and are greeted by Miss J, who welcomes them to their first runway class. The girls all scream with happiness…or in fear, it was hard to tell. Today, Miss J will be evaluating the girls on how they move. To make things a little more interesting, they will have to walk the runway carrying a backpack that contains the entire contents of the New York Public Library. For their first lesson, Miss J lectures, they should focus on being strong. The other stylistic things - like spinning - are unprofessional.
Each would-be model takes her turn on the runway with the big-ass backpack. As the girls wait for their turns, we meet Shalynda, who admits she’s auditioned for ANTM eight times. She’s either really persistent or really delusional. We’ll have to wait and see. Next up is Lauren, who marches up the runway like she’s wearing combat boots. Miss J remarks that she walks like she doesn’t have any circulation in her feet. We also meet Dominique, who informs us that she has this whole runway thing all locked up. There’s another one who doesn’t have a confidence problem.
Really, Miss J goes pretty easy on the girls and doesn’t criticize too much. He’s probably trying to lure them into a false sense of security before he really tears them to shreds.
Stop it Debbie, You’re Embarrassing Me!
At the end of the day, the girls all gather at the center of the football field where a bonfire is burning and stage is set up. They all run out to a group of cheerleaders who stand in front of the stage. As they get closer, they realize the cheerleaders are actually previous cycle models including Furonda, twins Michelle and Amanda and Jael in a horrific white blonde (please tell me it’s a) wig. Mr. Jay steps onto the stage and tells the girls that ANTM will be going back to New York this cycle.
Mr. Jay then announces that it’s time to name the homecoming queen. Dominique – boy, that one definitely doesn’t have a confidence problem, does she? – is sure it’s going to be her. When Tyra comes bursting out from the paper backdrop behind the stage, Dominique looks disappointed that there’s not a homecoming crown for her. The girls all scream and jump up and down like 10-year olds at a Hannah Montana concert. Tyra is working the whole broke down prom queen thing. She’s like a cross between Carrie. “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” and [i]Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” Tyra cries and taunts the model wannabes in a display of terrifically bad acting. She whines and cries, asking who stole her boyfriend. In an attempt to stand out, Allison says she stole Tyra’s boyfriend, but offers to share him. Mercifully, this little performance is over pretty quickly and Tyra makes her exit: the next time they see her, it will be in front of the casting panel.
Letting Your Freak Flag Fly
It’s time to get down the real reason where here: casting this season! Each girl takes her turn in front of the panel (Tyra, Mr. Jay and Miss J) and we learn more about each girl, including some things we probably didn’t want to know. First up is Anya, who is living proof that there actually is such a thing as a Hawaiian accent. She tells the panel she has fire and is driven to the camera. To demonstrate, she directs her “fire” at the camera. Mr. Jay thinks she’s got the looks, but wants to die when she opens her mouth. Next we meet Atalya, who says she has a passion for competition and is constantly compared to her sister, who’s a doctor.
Allison takes her turn in front of the panel and explains that she’s from a hick town in Wisconsin and she’s not going back: there are no opportunities there for her. She knows the modeling industry is competitive, but she has more experience than the others. Shaya, whose last name is Ali, admits Mohammad Ali is her uncle. She tells the panel she studies fashion and they begin to quiz her. Her answers show that she might not know as much as she thinks. Still, she’s pretty confident, describing herself as goofy, sexy and everybody’s fantasy.
As the other girls wait to face the panel, Amy tries to keep the mood light for the other girls. The more fun and “positivity,” the better, she says. This apparently extends to offering to show everyone her pubes. Fun! In front of the panel, Amy calls herself a weirdo with no verbal filter. So she’s the new Lisa. Whitney, our first plus-sized girl this season, has less than flattering opinions of the plus-sized girls from previous cycles. She thinks they rocked the audition process, but then lost it when they got into the competition. Whitney thinks she represents the healthy, American woman. Mr. Jay thinks she represents beauty pageant contestants everywhere.
Marguerite introduces herself with a white-girl freestyle rap in which she reveals her crush on Mr. Jay. He looks mortified. Backstage, the girls size up the competition. A few of them agree that Dominique is way too tan. In front of panel, Mr. Jay asks Dominique to smile. She explains that her look doesn’t involve the whole happy smiling thing. Look no further – here’s this cycle’s Jade. Dominique talks about her past, including an abusive relationship and says she wants to use her modeling as a platform to inspire others. The judges aren’t sold on her.
Kristen’s brother and her boyfriend are both in the military. Her boyfriend is currently in Iraq and she admits it’s scary. He does know she’s auditioning for ANTM. She admits she prays for him every day. Fatima watches as other girls goof off backstage and thinks they don’t know how stupid they look. Fatima tells us the other girls seem to be intimidated by her.
Ding, Ding, Ding! We have the makings of our first catfight, people! Apparently, Shaya thinks Fatima called her “ghetto” and it’s ON. Shaya isn’t about to back down from the ghetto comment and continues to get in Fatima’s face about it. When Fatima questions her, Shaya admits she’s a bitch, but then Fatima asks if that means she can call her a bitch, Shaya goes off, screaming and yelling. Has anyone gotten kicked off the show for fighting before the actually even made the show? We might just find out.
Hey, there’s Saleisha’s first Cover Girl commercial. That’s all I have to say.
Dang, How Many Girls ARE There?
Since she graduated from Cornell, Katarzyna has been working for an executive search firm. While the job pays pretty well, she really wants to be a model. What’s with all the rapping this season? Shalynda starts off with a rap as well. She explains that she’s auditioned for the show eight times because she’s not a quitter. Either that, or she’s not very quick on the uptake. Lauren faces the panel wearing high heels for the first time and she walks exactly like it’s the first time she’s ever worn heels. Lauren explains she’s there to represent all the weirdo girls out there. Tyra tells her that lots of top models right now are odd, so she has to set herself apart. As Lauren turns to leave the room, Tyra tells her to strike an edgy pose. Lauren stands there frozen like a department store mannequin. I guess that’s one way to work the edgy.
Stacy-Ann has a bubbly personality that matches her name. Although she married at 17, she did it for love – she wasn’t pregnant. Stacy-Ann reveals her dark side to the panel, admitting she’d love to know what it’s like to give a lap dance. Mr. Jay is nothing if not obliging. He comes out onto the floor with a chair and sits down for Stacy-Ann. It’s just as if Disneyland opened a strip club and the strippers dressed like Disney princesses and had little woodland animals flitting around them. Stacy-Ann hums a little tune as she circles around Mr. Jay. It’s the least sexy thing I think I’ve probably ever seen.
Aimee’s mother was only 18 years old when Stacy was born. Before you start imagining some cautionary tale about teenage pregnancy, don’t. See, Aimee’s mom is Mormon and definitely not happy that her daughter wants to model. Kimberly, who, based on her whole deer-in-the-headlights photo shoot, I think should be renamed Bambi, is a bank teller. When Tyra jokingly asks if Kim takes a lot of money, she answers “yes.” No, honey, she meant do you steal money from the bank. Kim admits that lots of people think she’s a dumb blonde. Shocking. Miss J thinks Kim has lots of potential…making Barbie molds. *snort*
Fatima isn’t in the door 2 seconds before she sees Tyra and starts bawling. Tyra actually gets up and goes to give Fatima a hug. Fatima explains that she has been in America for 7 years but, while she was still in Somalia, she went through a traditional rite of passage in her country: she was circumcised. She claims it’s looked at as a traditional, positive thing in her culture. It happened to her and she’s moved on. She now wants to dedicate her life to making sure no other young girls are subjected to female circumcision. Backstage, the girls discuss marriage and Fatima reveals that she won’t marry because she can’t have sex. She weeps as she explains female circumcision to the other girls. Several of the girls begin to cry and Shaya hugs Fatima as they both cry. Marvita, who is clearly the most clueless person in the room, actually picks this moment to ask if Fatima feels like less of a woman. The others jump on her for the insensitive comment, but she doesn’t see the big deal.
With the panel, Marvita plays the victim, saying the other girls are trying to push her buttons and that, if she hadn’t done lots of work with her pastor since the last cycle, she would have hit one of them. Tyra wonders if Marvita has changed enough. After all, Jaslene was able to turn things around for herself. Mr. Jay thinks the two situations aren’t the same. I have to agree with him there.
Jenna is just all about her new Impala, which she would trick out with the prize money from the show. She rattles off a list of things she would do to her “cah” with all that money. You know, I think Jenna might be from Boston. Just a hunch. Jennifer is our second plus-sized girl this time. She admits she’s insecure about the stretch marks on her lower body. Mr. Jay thinks she has a sweet, beautiful face. Claire proclaims her intention to be a global warrior. She talks about her daughter and the fact that she’s still breastfeeding. In fact, both Claire and her daughter are partaking of her breast milk. To the horror of the panel, Claire reveals that her breast milk tastes like light soy milk. She’s continuing to pump her breast milk so that she can still breastfeed when she gets home. All this talk of milk makes the panel thirsty. They finish up judging with tall glasses of milk. I’m hoping it’s from a cow and not Claire.
This “school year” is just flying by! Mr. Jay informs the girls that it’s already time for mid-terms. That means some of the girls haven’t made the grade and they will be cut. Their “report cards” are set out on long tables in another room. Mr. Jay sends the girls – who are, yes, screaming – off to learn their fates. Among the girls who made the cut are Whitney, Jenna, Marvita, Jennifer, Kristen, Stacy-Ann, Claire, Anya, Kimberly, Aimee, Fatima, Amy, Atalya, Allison and Dominique and another girl whose name I typed so fast it’s totally unrecognizable. Who’s out? Of the girls we’ve really gotten to know, Shaya, Shalynda and Marguerite are all going home.
The eliminated girls are swept out of the room so Mr. Jay can prepare the girls for the final photo shoot. This time, they will be shooting senior class portraits….in black tube tops and a fur wrap. This is the kookiest prep school ever. The girls will have five minutes to do their hair and makeup. Allison smears purple eye shadow down her cheeks like tears, telling us that this is totally the thing on the runways in Asia right now.
The girls each get a few minutes to pose away. Anya admits she doesn’t want to go home: she loves the food here. Fatima over-thinks the shoot too much and takes a lot longer than the other girls. Kim manages to find a personality and actually growls during her shoot. Jay seems so pleased that she’s showing some life that he doesn’t question the sound effects. Whitney assures us that, if she gets in the house, she can win the whole thing. Marvita is showing some more confidence as well. It’s like confidence is catching. Wait until their first actual judging panel.
Once the pictures are taken, Mr. Jay goes off to discuss the final cuts with Tyra and Miss J. Here are their random comments:
Aimee: There’s definitely something there. She looks like a model, she just doesn’t know how to model.
Allison: No one’s sure what to think about the makeup, but she obviously wanted to stand out. Mission accomplished.
Anya: She looks like a model, but her voice could be a hindrance.
Atalya: Her audition photo was not good, but this shot is better.
Claire: Very special, but might be a little too vain.
Dominique: Beautiful, but might be a little too boring.
Fatima: Great face, but bad walk.
Jenna: Stunning face.
Jennifer: Able to bring a different look to every picture.
Katarzyna: Sex on legs. Reminiscent of Paulina Porizkova.
Kimberly: Too mushed up in the face
Kristen: Interesting, with a European vibe.
Lauren: Might be able to get it together.
Marvita: Might have been better in the last cycle, when she didn’t make it.
Stacy-Ann: Great walk.
Whitney: Beautiful, but needs to stop sucking in her cheeks.
Mr. Jay sums things up, saying that New York City could definitely turn out a top model.
It’s Not Us: It’s You
It’s finally time for the 13 girls to be chosen. The hopefuls file into the prep school elimination room to learn their fate. Tyra calls the names in this order:
Amy and Aimee: they’re both in, but Tyra tells them that one will have to change her name. Amy agrees to make the change. That explains that whole “Amis” business.
Dominique stands there stone-faced, clearly about to demand a recount. Tyra explains that there was so much talent this time and the judges had a really tough time choosing only 13. That’s when they realized 13 is an unlucky number and decided to choose a 14th girl. The last person to make the cut is Dominique. Dom confesses she feels blessed and humbled. I’m sure that will wear off in, like, 3 seconds.
Tyra gives the “you’re all winners” speech to the unchosen. She tells them to keep working and then ushers them out. With that little bit of business taken care of, Tyra turns to the chosen 14 and tells them to get ready for New York City. As the show closes, the girls all celebrate and walk the runway at Top Model Prep, dreaming of NYC and a Cover Girl contract.
Coming up this cycle: The models head to NYC, baby! Plus, they hit Times Square and walk the runway show of a lifetime. Also, they’ll face The. Most. Shocking. Elimination. Ever.