Last night, the girls were given a non-challenge/actual real world opportunity that seemed cribbed off Petra Nemcova’s short-lived TLC series A Model Life, which, of all the modeling series I’ve watched, was certainly the most realistic in terms of its portrayal of the process of becoming a model. Nemcova’s show set six international models up with an agency on a trial, booked them jobs and go-sees as a group and then asked the girls to use those skills to book their own jobs. There were no challenges and no prizes. No winners and no losers. Well, except for Angelika, who was fired from the agency for being insolent.
Instead of giving the girls a preliminary challenge, Tyra sent the girls to meet with Sean Patterson, their potential new boss at Wilhelmina Models. They interviewed with him (with Nigel Barker’s assistance, for some reason), and walked for him. At the end of their time with Patterson, Nigel and Sean announced that one girl would be cut, because she basically had no potential as a model. And that girl was Rachel of the Doe Eyes, who made the obvious mistake of telling Nigel and Sean that she had musical theatre training but, when asked to perform, couldn’t come up with a song to sing. My husband felt this was somewhat unfair, but I don’t think so at all. Rachel shot herself in the foot by telling them that she had theatre experience, but then being completely unable to perform. I realize that musical theatre is fairly unrelated to modeling, but in base concept, she told them she knew how to perform, and couldn’t deliver on that promise. And so, she was let go. I’d say it was shocking, but the only shocking thing about it was that I’d forgotten she’d been eliminated and so, when the girls are digitally removed from their group shot at the end of the episode, I was completely taken aback to see two women in rope bikinis disappear.
But that attempt to assert the realness and seriousness of televised modeling competitions pretty much went out the window the minute Tyra showed up as SuperSmize for the girls’ actual challenge. As any ANTM fan knows, “smize,” of course, means smiling with your eyes. And Tyra, after hammering home that concept for 13 seasons now, decided she needed to change up that tired adage by coining a new word (a new, super dumb word, if you ask me) and dressing up as a super hero to battle an evil photographer with her incredible ability to smile with her eyes. I’m sorry, smize. Tyra is only trying to save me keystrokes, here.
After showing the girls how to do this act, with her usual amount of batshit crazy coaching techniques, she made the girls come to her “Fortress of Fierceness” dressed as pink and purple ninjas to have a smize-off with other girls. First of all, Tyra may sound insane when she’s coaching the girls on her patented modeling techniques, but I will admit that she gets results. Secondly, I’m glad the production design for the Fortress of Fierceness was somewhere between the old Adam West Batman series and Barbarella. I suddenly feel like I should turn my murder basement into a Fortress of Fierceness, complete with bleepy-bloopy machines with pictures of eyes on them and knobs that don’t do anything.
The modelettes stood before Tyra in their ninja leotards, faces entirely covered except for their smizing eyes, as Tyra’s “machines” gauged which girl better executed the concept of the smize. The winners of each heat were awarded a dinner with potential boss Sean Patterson and given nice fancy dresses to wear, while the losers were taken to the same restaurant and employed as dishwashers. The prize makes sense, but the punishment doesn’t. Models in a kitchen? Bizarre. I really didn’t need to see cutaways of the girls washing dishes, proclaiming that food remnants “look like throw-up.” No need to drive home their body dysmorphic disorders! We all already know!
The next day, the girls were taken to Santa Anita Racetrack to pose “nude” on horses with jockeys. Naturally, some requisite bullshit was said about how Seabiscuit was short and he beat other horses and blah blah blah. My husband was an extra in Seabiscuit. I’m sure he can tell you all about that. I like the idea of this shoot, however, I have to question a few things:
a) Why even have the jockey on the horse? Was it just to make those girls look taller?
b) Being topless in a photo does not equate nudity. It equates toplessness. Don’t promise me nudity but only give me toplessness.
c) It seemed like the styling of the shoot was working against some of the girls. Half of them were styled in this sort of faux-Victorian/Edwardian fashion with a lot of ruffles and cream-colored accessories. But other girls were basically wearing fetish gear in black and leather. All of the girls, however, were asked to be soft. And many of the girls who had issues with the shoot were the ones who were styled “hard,” where as the demurely styled girls ultimately read as demure on film. I question the execution of the intent. Some of the girls might have performed better if the conceit were better explained. It’s definitely possible to be soft in fetish gear, but I don’t think that juxtaposition was made clear. They were simply told to smize, and that was it.
- Kara: This shot was dead in the eyes.
- Ashley: I completely forgot she existed until she complained about something during the dinner with Sean Patterson. She looked bored to death in this shot and, while the judges kind of like its “simplicity,” I can’t believe they aren’t totally cutting into her for the fact that this atrocity was her fucking TEST SHOT and they had to digitally remove the lighting guy. Ugh. If this were MMAS, she’d have cost them a reshoot. (But then again, if this were MMAS, she might end up winning despite that bullshit performance. I HATE YOU, BRANDEN!)
- Jennifer: We learned earlier in the episode that she doesn’t have full range of motion in her left eye. I hadn’t noticed before, but the minute she pointed it out, it’s all I noticed. Her makeup failed her in this shot, drawing all the attention to that lazy eye. Tyra did give her some good tips on talking to the makeup folks about that eye so that she can work around it.
- Lulu: Wearing one of the best hats of the shoot, Lulu also ended up with one of the best shots. I begin to develop a theory about the relative goodness of these shots in correlation to the relative greatness of the hats the girls wore.
- Brittany: Homegirl got to wear the absolute best hat of the bunch and produced what I think is the most dynamic shot of the bunch. She lay across the horse’s back, a feat downright magical in its effect.
- Bianca: The judges like her lower body in this shot, but can’t stand her blank expression. I agree. This shot blows.
- Laura: I think Laura’s face is so perfect that I’m not surprised the wound up producing my favorite shot of the night. I mean, this girl has an amazing face for makeup. She’s spectacular.
- Sundai: Everything about this shot blows.
- Rae: As nice as she looked in this shot, I was very distracted by what the jockey was doing. Was he vomiting? Where is his head?
- Nicole: With her strangeness, she produced another great photograph effortlessly. Also, she had a wonderful feather hat.
- Erin: The judges love the shit out of this, but I think this one had the biggest styling problem. With so much black eye makeup on, Erin couldn’t not look hard. The judges thought she broke through and looked demure, but I disagree.
- Crutchney: Blah shot. She complained about having to model in her boot, but Tyra made a good point that Mr. Jay asked her to leave it on for insurance purposes. As in, no one wants to have their broken foot recrushed by a horse.
Callouts: Erin, Brittany, Laura, Nicole, Kara, Jennifer, Sundai, Rae, Lulu and Ashley.
I definitely like Erin’s photo less than Brittany, Nicole or Laura’s, so I disagree with that order inherently, but I also think that Rae and Lulu should have been called before Kara, Jennifer or Sundai.
Crutchney and Bianca were left in the bottom 2, which I thought would surely send Bianca home for her stank-ass attitude about makeup and hairstyles. But no, for some reason, they prefer her to Crutchney, and the petite cheerleader was sent home to heal that foot.
True, I am an extra during the final climactic horserace scene in Seabiscuit, and we most definitely did shoot it at the Santa Anita Racetrack where, around 70 years earlier, Seabiscuit made history. I got the gig through Ain’t It Cool News — I use the term “gig” lightly, because I was an unpaid extra just as I was in Spider-Man — and showed up in my sweet pinstripe suit. We had to look period, so I gave my friend Geoff my Bogart-esque raincoat to cover up his polo shirt. And those of us without hats (i.e. most of us) were given cheap period knockoffs to cover up our modern haircuts.
(For the love of me, I can’t find my original set report for AICN, so I’ll try to at least recreate some of the report.)
Most of this didn’t really matter, as you most definitely cannot see most of our faces or the details of our wardrobe in the finished product, but it was still pretty gnarly. Geoff and I were placed in the bleachers, nowhere near the action, so we felt it appropriate to switch seats and entire sections between the long setups happening. (Filming constant action is tough, and it never fails to amaze me that a director doesn’t lose his mind with all the downtime involved in filmmaking.) Unfortunately, we never really got to the handrail where you can really see the extras faces, but I had to presume that those people were actual paid extras who don’t do bullshit like switch sections for fun or steal from the wardrobe department (more on that later). We did, though, get to a spot near the finish line, but who knows if that was the one angle out of a dozen they used in the final film. Still, you can’t really tell who’s who anyway.
The strange part of the whole situation that the unpaid extras weren’t in big enough numbers to fill out the bleachers, so we were placed among blow-up dummy torsos (with heads), who were wearing the same hats we were as well as a tuxedo t-shirt. The remaining holes would be filled in by CGI, which I’m sure means that my shape is actually copied at least a dozen times somewhere among the crowd.
By the end of a very long day (seriously, where is that set report? I talk about the awesome Equestricam they used for getting close-ups of Tobey), Geoff and I had decided to steal the tux t-shirt off of the dummy and then deflate him. Both were able to easily be stolen away inside my raincoat Geoff had on (I’m a much bigger person than he is, so there was plenty of room in the coat). To this day, I still have the hat and the tux shirt.