America's Next Top Model: “Kris Jenner”
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America's Next Top Model: “Kris Jenner”

At the beginning of every cycle, America’s Next Top Model, like most reality shows, has the burden of keeping things interesting until we get attached to the contestants. Usually, every season begins with a string of three to four episodes where you can name a few of the most notable ladies, but probably not the full roster of fourteen. Maybe I’m imagining things, but I think Tyra’s Brits v.s Yanks approach has the added bonus of turning the contestants more quickly into characters. I actually felt invested in the elimination tonight, which doesn’t normally happen until a good four or five episodes into a season. 

Or maybe it’s because Tyra finally has fulfilled all the makeover dreams of my wildest dreams. Well, almost all. After the producers let the Brits go on about how important it is to win ANTM for their careers (Annaliese amusingly calls America’s Next Top Model  “the holy land” of Top Models), the girls get a Tyra-mail informing them that Tyra’s phone with her top-secret list of makeover ideas has been hacked. The list includes “crazy teased weave,” “one side shaved,” and “red, white and, blue.” Surely this is just a way of terrifying the girls into tears? Of provoking the more nervous among them into long tirades against the judges? 

No, praise Karl Lagerfeld. Tyra’s makeovers, or as Mr. Jay calls them, “shake overs” are a little bit art house, a little bit unfortunate junior high punk. Let’s count down the most interesting looks:

  • Sophie’s pale pink dye job was surprisingly flattering, though on the confessional camera clips it seemed as if they had just done the bottom layer and left the top blonde.
  • Alisha gets one side of her head shaved and the other be-weaved. It would have been more noticeable if she hadn't spent half the episode with a comical side ponytail. 
  • Azmarie has hit upon the surefire way to avoid a radical makeover: Already be bald. (As Alec Baldwin might put it, A.B.B.: Always Be Baldin’) So, in a quick bit of branding, Tyra has “ANTM” shaved into the back of her head. 
  • Catherine got magenta hair, but it didn’t really seem any brighter than Kayla’s Elmo-red color on cycle 15. 
  • Laura’s hair takes the prize away from Azmarie for awkwardly on-message makeovers. Her hair got the coveted “red, white, and blue,” dye treatment, which edged into the “alternative 8th grader at Sally Beauty Supply” territory, but which the judges adored. 

Pretty much everyone else got bangs. Even with all the creative hair coloring going on, the only real protests came from Eboni, who was burned pretty badly with a curling iron, and Laura, who pouted all the way through her fabulous blunt cut. I was personally impressed by Tyra’s relative restraint in nationality-marking during the makeovers. She could, conceivably, have given each model flag tattoo. But then, it all unwound in a particularly bizarre Fear Factor-esque segment. Each team had to eat the worst of what the opposite team’s country had to offer. You would think that would put the American girls at a disadvantage, what with haggis and blood pudding and all that, but the British models were pretty revolted by chitterlings and pig feet, not to mention the least flattering presentation of chunky peanut butter this side of a third-grader’s Halloween party. There wasn’t any indication from what I heard that it was a contest for who could eat it all fastest. There certainly wasn’t any prize. But, you know, the American team beat those Britishers anyway. USA! USA!

This week’s photo challenge was the classic confusing celebrity concept mash-up. I would love to be in the room when they came up with this one. I imagine it something like this:

MR. JAY: The special guest this week is Kris Jenner. Everyone knows her best as a mother! But the weird kind. So the photo shoot should be…

NIGEL: Maybe something like a children’s book, or some sort of Kardashians playback.

MS. JAY: Oooh, why don’t we have them all pose on enormous alphabet blocks wearing Raggedy Anne hair?

TYRA: No! I know! It should be set in a terrifying nursery. And the contestants can be toddlers. Model toddlers! Moddlers! 

KELLY CUTRONE: [Sighs, frantically emails assistant]

In any case, all of the ladies had to pose two at a time with Kris Jenner and a horrible clown doll in the background. Louise ate baby food. A handful of the girls took inspiration from Lolita. No one quite  figured out, as one girl put it, “how to be a baby and be beautiful and model-y.” At the judgement panel, where wearing flag t-shirts is now apparently mandatory, Tyra doled out her wisdom on how to effective pout without it getting Playboy. Laura of the hair that has three colors took the top photo for her innovative “hanging upside down” pose, and Ashley squirmed from the bottom last week to runner-up this time for correctly positioning a lollipop. The bottom three girls were all American, but it came down to sweet-faced Mariah and haggis eating champ Symone. Sadly, Mariah will not be the next face of ANTM perfume, but she did get some lovely bangs as a souvenir. And she should perhaps needlepoint Alisha’s confused statement on her heritage on some pillow: “I don’t think we have [Native Americans] in England. And if we do, they’re on the low down.” 

Stray observations:

  • Too bad that Mariah left. I would have loved to see her work out some of that colonial resentment towards the British. 
  • I loved Ashley and Sophie’s commentary panel, but where did they get so many Union Flag hairpins suddenly?
  • Cutrone is shaping up to be a great judge. Her description of Annaliese as “Diana Ross on crackerjacks” was kind of brilliant. 
  • Am I crazy, or does Candace look a little like Bianca of All-Stars fame? I think it’s the smile. 

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