America's Next Top Model: “Cat Deeley”
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America's Next Top Model: “Cat Deeley”

One of the joys of America’s Next Top Model watching is Tyra Banks fill out her personal neologism dictionary. The most memorable and lasting of Tyra’s words—usually some combination of a portmanteau and a suffix that ends in a vowel—is “smize,” shorthand for “smiling with your eyes” or “the secret things I know how to do as a model that you fail to do with your face.” It seems as if in the past few seasons, delighted with the mild cultural success of “smize,” Tyra has tried really, really hard to make other slapdash phrases work. Last season, it was the horrendous “Pot ledom” which, as anyone who has ever tried to fashion an unsuccessful code language can tell you, is “Top model” backwards. There are an array of others: “Dreckitude” for godawful, “Booty tooch” for popping your butt out in an appropriate fashion, and, of course, “fierce” as a verb. 

In “Cat Deeley” (which features basically no Cat Deeley whatsoever), Tyra is back at her word-twisting game in a serious way. In one fell swoop, she manages to bust out her recently earned Harvard MBA (you knew she would) and the bizarro young adult book she wrote, Modelland. According to Tyra, models can also be known as “intoxibellas” with various marketing-related superpowers. In a weird little bit of ceremony, Tyra doles out capes to each of the contestants using her “Bestosteros” (Translation: confused-looking male models) and renames each of the ladies according to their perceived strength. It wasn’t too far away from those early scenes of Flavor Of Love where Flavor Flav would rename each of the hopefuls using what they happened to be wearing, or what popsicle flavor they most reminded him of. Instead of “Hoopz” and “Buckwild,” though, the ANTM contestants’ names range from mellifluous but meaningless to straight-up bizarre. Some of take a page from the “unobtanium” handbook, to boot. My personal favorites are Annaliese, (who gets “Excite-to-buy”), Kyle (baptized “Next Doorsia”), and Louise (who wins the most vowels with “Chameeleoné.” Isn’t that secretly what everyone wanted Blue Ivy Carter to be named?) 

If past season precedent holds, Tyra will forget about those naming flourishes in the next couple episodes, but not before wearing them absolutely into the ground. Not that the they have anything to do with tonight’s main challenge, anyway. Kelly Cutrone charges both Team Yanks and Team Brits to create a campaign for one of their clients. It’s an interesting move to put that much responsibility on the teams this early in the season, and she’s rewarded by a couple great shots and a lot of panic. Azmarie takes over as leader for the American team, deciding that they should do a “punk culture meets royalty” look. The British team decides to go 1960s mod, though they are clearly perplexed as to what that means beyond Mary Quant miniskirts. Oh, Twiggy. Where are you when we need you?

The teams each arrange for their own makeup, hair, props, clothes, and accompanying arm-candy, which leads to an amusing casting call with Candace asking a host of male models to alternate between “smile” and “intensity.” Azmarie takes control easily, but poor Annaliese looks stricken half the time, shuffling around the set without a shirt on while Kelly Cutrone yells at her. Cutrone, for her part, continues to impress me as a judge with her general disgust at the model’s amateurism and whip-crack criticism. “This is a fashion shoot, let’s not look dead,” is one of my favorite Cutrone comments, though it ties with a request for “less world-end, more Dolce & Gabbana.” 

Louise has apparently been slowly simmering since her blunt cut last week, because Cutrone’s nudges do not fly with her. Her time on the set is half-pouting, half delivering a pretty excellent photo that is fueled by rage towards authority. Too bad she isn’t on the punk team. When Cutrone mentions at panel that Louise should “put some gratitude in your attitude,” Louise reverts to full-on tantrum mode. She sucks on her finger, shakes her head, and leaves the runway in a fit, demanding to go home. 

Louise, at 25, is much older than many of the other ladies, and she has already weathered a cycle of Britain’s Next Top Model, so I don’t quite understand why Cutrone’s criticisms are enough to throw her into a hissy fit. Maybe she figured a trip to Big Brother would be more profitable then sticking it out. In any case, Tyra looks genuinely shaken. Louise’s photo is near the top of the heap, though Azmarie brings in the first photo, and Sophie the second. In moments like this, the judges generally do one of two things: Send someone home to save appearances and have a bye week later on, or keep everyone to teach the departed model a lesson. This week, Tyra calls down Alisha, Eboni, Candace, and Ashley for elimination, but in her Banks-like wisdom, pardons them “for knowing how to take critique.” That’ll teach Louise for her dramatic exit. Or, as Tyra might put it: her “Exitacryout.”

Stray observations:

  • The British crumpled-paper-ball attack is pretty tame, really. Symone is looking more and more like the Americans’ most volatile member.
  • Poor Candace. On her photo: “It did defeat me.”
  • Did the collective “oohs” of the models as Tyra doled out their names sound like the Toy Story claw machine aliens to anyone else?

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