America's Next Top Model: “Coco Rocha”
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America's Next Top Model: “Coco Rocha”

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America's Next Top Model

“Coco Rocha”

Season 17, Episode 5

After the toothless non-elimination that sullied last week’s otherwise great Jackson Family fest, this week ANTM was out for blood. It seemed like I wasn’t the only one who expected there to be more inter-model conflict. Both challenges this week were of the rough-and-tumble, feeding off house tension variety, but neither had a lot of fuel—relations seem to be simmering instead of at a boil. Perhaps those years away from reality television actually have raised the level of the contestants’ professionalism. But I suspect that it’ll just take until there are fewer ladies in the Top Model palace for Lisa to start it up in a more serious way. 

This week began with one of Tyra’s patented vaguely philanthropic challenges, a chance to be, as Nigel said, “a role model, not just a fashion model.” Actually, it was a flag football game that was somehow for charity, but mostly allowed the models to run around in bikini bottoms (oh, the blurred out butt cheeks) and tackle each other, flags be damned. There was a sprinkling of guests—socialite Brittny Gastineau, who desperately needs to buy a vowel, and some exceptionally game or exceptionally gullible NFL players. Someone also gave the girls access to the greasepaint, which was applied in styles that ranged from “Cowboys and Indians” to “Lady Gaga.” In between the two games, in which Bianca oh so subtly attempted to break Lisa’s nose, the girls had to pose for football-inspired photos. That mostly meant pretending to be cheerleaders and hanging off the NFL players, to no great effect. 

The best part of the whole challenge, in fact, was after Kayla won and went to her Andre Leon Talley-styled shoot for Tyra’s website, to which Talley appeared sporting a satin muu muu and a conical paddy hat, looking for all the world like a deranged Asian studies/choir teacher. It’s good to see Kayla coming back from a shaky start, but it’s generally confounding to see the models with more boring personalities—Dominique, Angelea, and Shannon, I’m looking at you—continually float to the top in the challenges while All-Star level material like Allison flit around the middle. 

In fact, this week’s main photo shoot brought the pictures v. personality issue to the forefront. Coco Rocha, impeccably angular face and horsetail ponytail in tow, stepped in to pose with the girls in a “bitch fight” photo. America’s Next Top Model, paradoxically, sometimes makes it seem like there’s not all that much to modeling—smizing and lithe body aside, many of the pictures that the judges love seem to be sheer luck. But seeing the lackluster performance of some of the models next to Rocha’s controlled facial contortions was like watching Tom Colicchio cook against the competitors on Top Chef

It was interesting to see who held their own—Kayla sparkled on set, as did Dominique. Angelea broke down into tears but pulled it together, returning to deliver some fierce screaming shots. Lisa did well, but, you know, to paraphrase Nigel, who knows how to be in a fight better than Lisa? (Ditto Bianca.) Allison, on the other hand, fell totally flat on set. Mr Jay proclaimed her “kind of embarrassing to watch… like two amateurs dangling off [of Coco]. Bre used the opportunity to act as if she was in a high school drama production of a bar fight, screaming in Rocha’s face at every opportunity.

But Allison’s picture, despite her floundering, was universally adored. Lackluster seems to be a non-problem for the judges with her. She barely showed up this episode except to look confused. Lisa soaked up praise at panel in her weirdo Snooki bustier and aviator combination—Talley described the shot effusively as a “Quentin Tarantino still”—but wackiness aside, Lisa only has two moves in photos: screaming or high-jumping. Bre’s effort on set resulted in a pretty awful photo, which landed her in the bottom against the boring picture of Alexandria. Bre got sent packing, which again loads the criteria for the All-Star winner more towards the photos than to the confusing one-word brand. Eight ladies left, and I’m not sure we’re any closer to knowing what Tyra wants in her Top Model ambassador.  

Stray observations:

  • I can’t tell if Kayla’s assessment that she had to rock at football “since I’m a lesbian and we all have to win at sports” was cuttingly ironic or, you know, dumb. 
  • “I’m going to punch high fashion in the face.”
  • “She looks like the beautiful Bride of Frankenstein.”