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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

America's Next Top Model: "How Short Can You Go?" & "The Early Bird Gets A Makeover"

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Every 6 months or so, Tyra Banks gets an idea. You can tell, because the faint scent of metal and burnt happiness hangs in the air for two days afterwards. Earlier this year, Tyra propped herself up on her giant inflatable ego near her perch by the edge of the abyss, opened her throat, and issued forth a great, earth-shaking belch. One of Tyra's unfortunate minions, stationed nearby in the meager Bankable Productions tent, swung around the small chalk board hanging from his neck (all Bankable Productions employees surrender their tongues upon employment) and wrote a message: "Short Cycle?" He turned the chalkboard around to show his colleague. She nodded, swung around the chalkboard hanging from her neck, and wrote "I think that's what she said." She then showed her chalkboard message to her colleague. The two nodded. And thus, only one near-riot later, the 5'7"-and-under America's Next Top Model cycle/season was born.

And, really, it couldn't have come a moment sooner. For far too long, impossibly thin short (aka 5'7" and under) girls have been largely excluded from the modeling industry simply because the modeling industry exists mainly to sell clothes, and clothes look better on impossibly thin tall girls. Where is the justice? I mean, small hangers can be just as good as big hangers, right?

Likewise, for far too long, impossibly thin short girls have been largely excluded from competing to become America's Next Top Cover Girl Outlast Lip Slicks Wal-Mart Aisle, simply because Tyra Banks wanted to pretend like her show was about high-fashion modeling. Then Tyra had a revelation: She can have an all-5'7"-and-under cycle, but still pretend like her show is about high-fashion modeling by saying that she wants to change the modeling industry. Change! She'll be like Barack Obama, but for models on the CW! Tyra Banks is a hero to the marginally-height-challenged everywhere!—According to Tyra Banks!

And so, tonight while Obama gave a primetime speech about changing the healthcare system in America, Tyra Banks gave a speech in a bad French accent about changing the modeling industry to a bunch of short-ish girls from a runway in a place called "Le Cycle." Coincidence? Oh, yes.

But enough about the casting special. Wait. "I like eyeballs. I have a bloody eyeball, I think it's this one. When I was a kid, they called me 'bloody eyeball.'" Thank you for that, Nicole. That, and London Jr.'s crazy, Jesus-praisin' ("I love Him!!!") is all you need to know about the casting special.

After whittling the pack of shorties down to 14, the girls all congregate at the Shane From The L Word Salon to immediately get "Ty-overs." Shockingly, "Ty-overs" doesn't translate to "limb-lengthening treatments via tying the girls to a rack" but just "makeovers via Tyra's sloppy wielding of a telestrator." But before the makeovers began, Mr & Ms Jay informed the girls that London Jr. had to drop out for "personal reasons" (aka "Jesus camp conflict") and so to replace the craziest contestant, Tyra is bringing back the blandest contestant: Lisa. How bland was Lisa in the casting special? Well, the most interesting part about her was that she had nicely threaded eyebrows.


But judging by the ho-hum makeovers, eyebrows are apparently now a fixation of Tyra's. ("Smile with your bleached eyebrows!") In fact, Tyra gave at least two girls new eyebrows instead of new looks: Bianca (aka Meshell Ndegeocello) was treated to bleached eyebrows and nothing else, while Jennifer got her hair slightly trimmed, and half of her eyebrows ripped off. The rest of the makeovers were astonishingly restrained for ANTM—which is no fun. Maybe Tyra just didn't know how to use the Telestrator, but the majority of the girls were simply given a slight hair color tweak and a blowout (Nicole, Kara Not-So-Fresh, Rae the mother, Laura the country bumpkin, and Courtney Brokenfoot). With the exception of Sundai, who had her weave taken out, Lulu, who had a Cleopatra weave put in, and Ashley, who had that same tired Naomi Campbell weave that they recycle every season of ANTM put in, everyone's hair length stayed the same. Then Tyra turned Brittany into Anya from Cycle 10 by bleaching her eyebrows and hair, and darkened both Erin's and Anime-eyed Rachel's locks. Naturally, Tyra saved the blandest makeover for the blandest girl: Lisa had about three inches cut off of her long hair. In other words: signs of her makeover, like signs of her personality, were negligable.

Later, the teacup-sized models went to the "Recreate Your Baby Photo…Cause You're So Small! Like Babies! And Tyra Only Has An Idea Once Every 6 Months!" Bianca, still reeling from her incredible eyebrow makeover, decided to bitch it up, mostly because that's what every girl named Bianca on ANTM does. She complained about her smelly outfit, and her crappy makeup, and, you  know, stuff. Meanwhile, weirdo Nicole revealed a hidden talent for modeling Hammer pants, and Rae somehow didn't break her ankles wearing 8-inch toe-shoe Mary Janes.  Oh, and Lisa couldn't work a clown suit. Shocking, I know. "Clown suit workage" is right up there with "Runway walk" and "Smile With Your Eyes" in the Tyra Banks' School Of Nonsensical Modeling.


And so, when it came time for Tyra to put on her costume from Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation Tour (minus the hat) and send a shortie home, it came down to bitch vs. bland. Since Bianca hasn't bitched about Tyra (yet), she stayed, and because the rule goes "last one hired, first one fired," bland ol' Lisa was eliminated.

Grade: C+/B+

Stray Observations:

—Le Cycle? Quoi?

—Notice how the girls were all wearing flats at judging? Short girls, especially short girls trying to be models, don't wear flats. Tyra just wants to tower over all of them.


—Considering that Eva (who won Cycle 3) was 5'6"/5'7" and Isis from Cycle 11 was only 5'7," and that there are shorter girls in most cycles of ANTM, the "short cycle" gimmick isn't really paying off yet. The Go-Sees should be interesting, though.

—The house has pictures of dolls everywhere! Get it? Because they're so tiny! They're like dolls!


—A Bankable Productions safe in the house? That's dangerous. What happens when one of those tiny girls gets lost in there?

—Early likes: Rae, Laura, Bloody Eyeball. Early Hatreds: Bianca, Sundai, Kara Not-So-Fresh