Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

America's Next Top Model: “Barney Cheng”

Illustration for article titled America's Next Top Model: “Barney Cheng”

Don’t write off the Americans just yet. Even though last week, it looked like an all-Brit finale in the works, this episode proved that Team USA still has some fight in it. Of course, it’s mostly thanks to an unusually great performance from Laura and a relatively terrible one from Sophie. But still: Isn’t seizing upon the weaknesses of others what our great country is all about?

With six girls left, we’ve come around again to the portion of the cycle where Tyra flings the lovely models into a foreign country. Bet you thought that the international segment of this season is a no-brainer. It’s British invasion-themed? Surely the British team will get a chance to fight it out on their home turf? Isn’t there going to be a recreation of the Abbey Road album art and a chance to eat fish and chips?

No, the America’s Next Top Model crew is off to Macau, a destination announced by Nigel opening a soccer ball-sized fortune cookie at the ANTM palace. I guess we’re lucky that he didn’t have them pose as ingredients in fried rice or something. Sophie immediately starts spinning the location to her advantage. “It’s Asia!” she exclaims. “They like kind of big eyes.”

Fifteen hours on a plane later, the ladies arrive at the luxurious MGM Macau, and a platoon of showgirls in vaguely ethnic costumes usher them into the heart of Chinese Las Vegas. The model suite has a delicate pastry buffet and room for a dozen people to take a shower at once, but is also creepily decorated with pictures of the models at various points in the season. Plus, that stirring tiff between Sophie and Alisha? Yeah, jetlag didn’t help. The editing foreshadows more Brit-on-Brit drama down the line.

For their first act of exploration, the ladies troop over to Chee Hon Monastery headed by Clement Chen, who gives a brief history of Chinese astrology. Each of the ladies gets a horoscope, built upon their portfolio of pictures and a complex-looking iPad application. The best part of this whole scene is watching Ms. Jay’s eyebrows as the models receive their vague, wise, vaguely wise statements. When Chen tells Sophie that she’s “destined to be famous,” Ms. Jay’s eyes get so wide they practically leave his skull. Of course, this wouldn’t be ANTM without some fashion tie-in. In the space of 10 minutes, the ladies have to use their horoscopes to administer a self-makeover. It’s a challenge because most of Chen’s recommendations have to do with elements—water, wood, metal, fire, and earth—and dolling yourself up like a tree takes more than the time allotted. Laura’s simple black sheath wins Chen’s favor. “I already sense some change in your energy,” he says approvingly, and Laura wins a spa day for her efforts.

The photo shoot amps up the Fear Factor element of ANTM by having the models pose in splendid silk dresses with silkworms squirm across their bodies. Alisha deals with her fear of creepy-crawlies by naming one worm “Edwin,” but her photos are stiff and uninteresting. Laura, who had pet caterpillars as a kid, was the least freaked out by the bugs, and subsequently turned out one of the best pictures she’s had all season. The rest of the ladies did relatively well at avoiding a complete meltdown, but it was hard to shake the worms looking like huge maggots. The whole thing had a very Beetlejuice feeling to it.


The judges love Laura and award her best photo, even amid Alisha’s protests that she’s “too sexual.” Eboni hid her neck and her waist, but Tyra was too busy looking at Catherine’s dull shot to make too much of it. Catherine’s problem is that she couldn’t put emotion into her photo without thinking about something horribly tragic, at which point she got too emotional. In the end, it was a battle of two bad photos. Alisha stayed in the competition, but she earned a Cutrone burn in the process: “You look like the girl who didn’t get into The Supremes,” Cutrone tells her. Catherine’s elegance doesn’t save her, but her exit is extremely graceful. Next week we’re off to Hong Kong!

Stray observations:

  • I’ve been waiting all cycle for Tyra to try her British accent all season, and she finally did this week. And it wasn’t even that bad!
  • I loved Sophie’s description of the silkworm as “a posh creature.” If you must be covered in insects, at least make sure they have class.
  • Interesting that Laura’s now being portrayed as the over-sexed model instead of the bereaved one. I wonder how that will play into the final five.