The Wife:

Proving that she is totally on top of the cultural pulse, Tyra decided to do an ANTMAmerica’s Best Dance Crew crossover episode . . . four seasons too late. Granted, ANTM and ABDC churn out seasons at breakneck pace (giving us two a year), so they’re in good company on that front, but it somehow felt incredibly stale for her to teach the models how to use dance by sending them to learn moves from first season winners Jabbawockeez with the guidance of Lil Mama and Benny Ninja. Her point in using the Jabbawockeez, who wear masks during their performances and yet still create completely effective dance works, is valid, which is to say that sometimes a model can’t just rely on her face to convey an emotion. But the execution of the challenge reminded me of, well, this Sesame Street segment:

She asked the Jabbawockeez to perform happiness, sadness and anger, and then asked the models to follow suit. Exactly like Muppet Don Draper makes lackeys Muppet Pete Campbell and Muppet Paul Kinsey do in the Sesame Street Mad Men parody. The Jabawockeez and muppets did this adequately. The models failed. Even Dancer Ashley couldn’t choreograph a cohesive dance piece for her competitors that demonstrated anything worthwhile. I’m presently trying to banish said dance pieces from my mind, because they were all fucking terrible.

Marginally less terrible than the others was the team of Jennifer, Kara and Rae, who won 17K in jewelry. Then the girls were taken to Vegas for a photoshoot involving Cirque du Soleil, which I am pretty sure Mr. Jay could just join anytime he wants to. He makes a good host for a carnival of horrors, and I’m pretty sure that end is achieved through years of practice on ANTM. (Alternately, I think he’d make a great flight attendant. I mean, we all heard how nicely he promoted TSA regulations on that “You’re Going to Vegas” video, right?)

Alternate career for Brittany: playing Magenta in Rocky Horror.

Alternate career for Brittany: playing Magenta in Rocky Horror.

But as excited as I usually am by all things cirque and carnival related, this shoot with members of Mystère was sort of blah, even though photographer Mike Rosenthal had the distinction of shooting the actual Sideshow shoot back in Cycle 7. I think part of the problem here is that the girls had to work in groups, which I agree is an important skill to learn, but was also limiting here, not only to the girls, but also creatively. Making the girls pose in groups disallowed anyone to tell a story with the final image. All of the shots ended up being cloudlike women posing listlessly with masked circus acrobats. I mean, what is that even about?

  • Brittany: “I think it’s the Bride of Frankenstein’s second cousin, who is a model.” — Tyra. Because the Bride of Frankenstein herself would never book a modeling job. With that hair.
  • Rae: She did a really admirable job of pushing herself out from the background of this picture and looking mildly alive.
  • Jennifer: Her photo is lifeless and her outtakes from the shoot are even worse. Possibly the worst I’ve ever seen on ANTM.
  • Laura: She worked the pole on the fringes of this shot. It was great, but incredibly strippery. Props to her for looking alive, though.
  • Ashley: Bleh! Bleh! Bleh!
  • Kara: She looks absolutely hideous in this picture, but the judges seem to like her face for some reason I will never understand. Kara is one of those girls who looks pretty in person, but photographs like a Drag Queen from Outer Space.
  • Erin: I think she’s totally lost in this photograph, but guest judge Josie Marin really likes it.
  • Nicole: It’s a fine photograph, but she really suffered from unfortunate positioning here, wedged underneath the crotch of that acrobat, with the light shining right out of her own crotch. Dreadful, dreadful composition.

    Shes being violated by that light.

    She's being violated by that light.

  • Sundai: I have grown weary of Sundai’s single face in every photograph. She looks like she’s waterskiing in this shot.

Callouts: Tyra awarded the first three spots to the girls who had the best group shot as a whole, so that honor went to Jennifer, Rae and Brittany. She then called girls individually: Laura, Nicole, Sundai and Erin, leaving Ashley and Kara in the bottom two. To my delight, Ashley was kicked out of the competition and Kara stayed. Now it’s only a matter of time before Kara gets the axe, as well . . .

Looking less than ethereal.

Looking less than ethereal.

Some thoughts:

  • “He asked for angry, but I think my dance ended up being way more bipolar.” — Nicole
  • Are all the best dancers really that short, Benny Ninja? I think Cyd Charisse would beg to differ.
  • “It’s not just what mama and daddy did, it’s what I did with it.” — Tyra
  • During their discussion of the photos, the judges said Jennifer was being too sexually forward in her photos. Why is this the standard critique given to every Asian model to ever appear on Top Model? These girls can’t all fall into the stereotype of the sexually exotic Asian woman, can they? Sheena, certainly, but Lazy-Eye Jennifer? Really?
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The Wife:

Can someone explain to me why this episode was called “Put Your Best Face Forward?” It’s not as though any of the challenges directly related to having one’s face thrust forward, and that’s usually the kind of literalness the ANTM writers go for. I suppose it vaguely relates to the idea of an immigrant making a brave stride to come to America, putting their “best face forward” in so doing, but the episode titles from this season and last really make me miss Tyra’s “The Girl Who . . .” structure. This episode would have been much more memorable if it were called “The Girl Who Continually Doubts Herself and Somehow Got Best Photo This Week” or “The Girl Who Stood Up for Herself” or, better yet, “The Girl Who Was Told by Tyra to Step Back in Her Place.” Because, really, the most memorable thing about this episode was Tyra scolding Celia like a Kindergarten teacher scolds her class.

But before that hoopla in the final few minutes, Tyra made the girls jump through her regular series of hoops, such as inviting former contestant Toccara of Cycle 3 fame to host a slumber party with the girls in some free sleepwear from Mira Kelis and talk about how important it is to have personality, because its totally Toccara’s personality that made her one of the first black women to be featured in Italian Vogue. (I would wager that its because she’s got a really classic Sofia Loren-ish figure and Italians like that kind of thing, but I guess being an unapologetically vivacious lady helps, too.) In other news, nobody likes Sandra, Tahlia’s confidence continues to flounder and, inexplicably, Kourtnie thinks that she has the personality of an old male comedian trapped in a curvy chick’s body. I think I’ve seen that movie . . . isn’t that The Hot Chick with Rob Schneider and Rachel McAdams? Man, I can’t wait until Kourtnie buys a box of tampons and runs around screaming, “I have to put these WHERE?” That’d make for a great episode.

I hear Benny Ninja coming! Quick, everyone! Look fierce!

I hear Benny Ninja coming! Quick, everyone! Look fierce!

After Toccara jetted back to wherever she came from, the girls received a Tyra Mail: “If you can’t move to the music, then that might pose a problem.” And off they went to a posing challenge at the Marquee with Benny Ninja (!) and Aussie model-turned-DJ Sky Nellor. Benny taught the girls how to create poses inspired by different kinds of music, his best piece of advice going to Fo in re: posing for country western music:

“Think of horse dung.”

Wow, I wish Randy Travis had given the contestants that advice on last week’s Idol . . .

The girls started picking on Kortnie’s poses, claiming via confessional that she wasn’t taking the competition seriously and just wanted to be funny all the time . . . you know, because she’s Rob Schneider. All of this talk of Kourtnie being funny was very, very strange considering we’ve never heard anything about it before or seen her attempt to be funny or weird. I mean, she’s not Jael, who was both funny and weird and you knew it from the minute you laid eyes on her. Or crazy-ass Lisa from Cycle 5, who, let’s not forget, wore a diaper around the house one night and wet herself. Intentionally. Most of the girls this season are fairly boring people, and Kourtnie is chief among them. It’s not a good sign when the most interesting thing about you is how your name is spelled.

Oh, and if you want more proof that most of the girls this cycle are incredibly boring, here’s a whammy: I completely forget that Wind Tunnel Teyona even existed. The girls received another Tyra Mail to set them up for their next challenge (“Practice your posin’ if you wanna be chosen.”), a cabaret-style pose-off facilitated by Benny Ninja and The Blonds for a house full of queens and Boy George, pre-imprisoning an escort, I presume. Ninja made the girls compete in two heats of five models, with the incredibly gay audience’s applause deciding the winner of each heat. I look away from the TV for a second during the first heat and only caught Allison (sour lemur poses), Kortnie (trainwreck poses), Sandra (even the gays hate her) and Celia (easily winning this round by being a posing bitch BAMF) posing off and could not for the life of me figure out who the final girl in that heat would have been. As I went through the next heat of Aminat (booed by the gays), London (also booed by the gays), Tahlia (super duper booed by the gays), Natalie (yays from the gays) and Fo (stripper boos), I still couldn’t remember the tenth model. My husband kept insisting that it was a black girl with a strange name and I kept insisting back that there were only two black girls left now that Ninja was gone: Sandra and Aminat. It wasn’t until the photoshoot that I even remembered Teyona existed. He was right, but that is not a good sign. At all. (Sorry, Teyona! You are boring as shit!)

Natalie and Celia easily advanced to the next round of Benny’s pose-off and Celia won as the gays love for Natalie was fleeting. Celia best amused the queens and won a dress from The Blonds, which was very, very sparkly. Once again, Tahlia’s confidence flagged and I realized that I hate her and do not have time to put up with her emotional rollercoaster ride. At this moment, I decided I wanted her gone. She stole my scars angle, and that was enough reason for me to hate her, but her emotional instability is really the nail in her coffin here. I will not be happy until she gets the hell off my TV.

Oh, shit! The British are coming!

Oh, shit! The British are coming!

The photoshoot was introduced by Tyra Mail: “Models aren’t the only ones that migrate to New York to make their dreams come true.” Immediately, the girls assumed they were going to be birds, cleverly latching on to the word “migrate.” Little did they know that they’d be taken to Ellis Island to be high fashion immigrants, recreating old timey photos using a long-exposure 8×10 camera, surrounded by dirty little immigrant children and Benny Ninja posing as their multi-ethnic husbands. 10 points for creativity with this shoot, because I think foremost that reminding people that this country was intended as a refuge for anyone who longed for freedom is truly important and because I really liked the idea of shooting with an old timey camera. Kourtnie said she related to this shoot because immigration is how most of her family got here, and I hate to burst the poor girl’s bubble but since not a single girl on ANTM this season is of Native American descent, that’s exactly how EVERYONE’S FAMILY GOT HERE! (For some, though, it was perhaps not through Ellis Island, but through British colonization, Dutch colonization, in chains to a debtor’s colony or, sadly, on a slave ship.) I really wish we had some old timey photos of my nonna, Philomena Carmela Caruso (or Carmela Philomena Caruso, no one is really sure because we think they switched her first and middle names when she came through the immigration station) looking fabulous with her luggage and her children when she came through Ellis Island. But, alas, we do not have those photographs. Because photographs were expensive back in the day, which really is the one issue with this shoot . . . immigrant families coming through Ellis Island probably couldn’t have afforded these long exposure photographs, and the only reason they would exist is if some cub newspaper photographer asked them to allow him to photograph them for the paper. That’s how I’m going to rationalize this shoot to make it completely make sense.

Some preliminary thoughts during the shoot:

  • Mr. Jay calls Sandra his biggest disappointment so far. Ouch.
  • London looks just like Eliza Doolittle in that stripey “I come from Morcambre” outfit. She thinks she looks like Kate Winslet in Titanic, but apparently doesn’t realize that Kate Winslet was filthy stinkin’ rich in that movie.
  • Tahlia does really well in this shoot, and that’s disappointing because I hate her.
  • Alison is apparently a Russian dockworker in this shoot. She looks like Kristen Schaal in the Flight of the Conchords‘ “Petrov, Yelyena & Me” video:

In Tyra’s strange self-promotional intro to panel, she only had two little babies with her, disproving my theory that she will collect babies like Miss J collects bowties, but still confusing me. She has also stolen Blair Waldorf’s bow-print Milly blouse (which, btw, looks way better on Blair), which proves to me that sometimes Tyra shops out the of CW wardrobe closet. On to the judging:

  • Teyona: The girl whose name I totally forgot received generally favorable reviews from the panel, who noted her strong eyes in the photo and said empty things like “there’s a history” and “there’s a romance” in this photo, which I guess needed to be said just because it was the first photo and that way they could get it out of the way and never have to say it again.
  • London: Her face is great in this show, but the judges don’t like that she’s posing in opposition to the children she’s with.
  • Sandra: Girl is dead in the face and totally disengaged from the shot.
  • Lemur Allison: This is the first shot of the bunch that looks like a fashion shot, says Nigel. Tyra and Paulina thinks that she doesn’t look like a mother to the kids she’s with, but like a big sister. “Because mommy died on the way over,” Paulina morbidly notes.
  • Aminat: A good shot with a strong face.
  • Fo: Similar to London’s shot, she is disengaged from those she’s posing with.
  • Natalie: For some reason, the judges think she looks like Keira Knightley. This is not true, because Keira Knightley has a chin and an elegant neck, neither of which are attributes of Squishy McSquishface. However, it is a great fashion shot.
  • Kourtnie: This pose is sour, in the parlance of one Benny Ninja. She’s dead in the eyes.
  • Tahlia: The judges clamor around this shot and dub it the best picture so far. They think she is exquisite in the photo but that she looks like a hot mess in person. Both things are true.
  • Celia: Tragically, Celia gets lost in this photo and is completely upstaged by the little girl in the white outfit standing behind her. I blame this in part on wardrobe, who dressed everyone in dark colors and put that one little girl in white. If Celia were in white, or a lighter color, it would have drawn the eye to her, even if she were reclining on the side, a pose that made London stand out in her photo, even if it didn’t work to her advantage.
There were some bad wardrobe decisions that led to this shot being so awkward.

There were some bad wardrobe decisions that led to this shot being so awkward.

As the judges deliberate, Miss J comments on Aminat’s knockedy knees, and I learn a new Tyra fact: she learned how to unknockify her own knees. I propose that Tyra enter into a new business teaching women how to unknockify their knees and elbows. That should be a chapter in her whole “finding your inner fierceness” tome.

Callouts: Tahlia, Teyona, Lemur Allison, Natalie, London, Aminat, Celia and Fo, leaving Sandra and Kourtnie in the bottom two. As Tyra deliberated on who should stay, the girl who just dies in the eyes in photographs but is interesting in person, or the girl who relies too much on her natural beauty and sometimes forgets to try, the camera kept cutting to Lemur Allison, who seemed genuinely concerned about who would be leaving. The only reason I can imagine for her concern would be wondering if Celia would actually do what she said she was going to do in an earlier discussion in the house: tell Tyra that Tahlia had expressed numerous times in the open that she didn’t want to be there and that Tyra should consider those comments before sending anyone home. Celia did announce this, in her shiny new Blond dress, after Tyra made the decision to keep villainess Sandra over Rob Schneider girl, and then Tyra shot down her cries on unfairness by reminding Celia that it was unfair of her to speak on Tahlia’s behalf, reminding the Bergdorf’s employee to take her place in line, i.e. a place far below The Goddess of Fierce.

Was Celia wrong to speak her mind to Tyra about Tahlia? Because I hate Tahlia, I’m inclined to say no. I, too, believe that she should leave the competition (and modeling) if she doesn’t have the confidence to handle criticism, which she clearly doesn’t. Celia took the fall here for expressing the opinion of every other girl in the house, and that takes balls. Furthermore, she did so in a respectful way that was more matter-of-fact than accusatory, and she politely took her place when told to. What she said can be backed up by the dailies, if TyTy ever cares to watch them. But Tyra has never forced a girl to leave because she didn’t want to be there without the girl saying it herself, or Tyra coercing her to say it (such as the case the plant from last cycle who didn’t think high fashion should exist). And Tahlia, owner of her own fucked-up emotions, has the right to decide whether or not she wants to leave the competition outside of an official elimination. Mostly, this little skirmish needed to happen so that there could be some drama in the house, and it appears we will get it next week.

Am I wrong to think that Tyra liked this shot best because its the most Tyra of the bunch?

Am I wrong to think that Tyra liked this shot best because its the most Tyra of the bunch?

As for me, I’m on team Celia. Even if what she did was not the kindest thing, Tahlia needed to be called on her bullshit. Because that’s what it is: bullshit.