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

America's Next Top Model: “J. Alexander”

Illustration for article titled America's Next Top Model: “J. Alexander”

Louisa’s grand exit last week left the British girls down one and the Americans full of doubts. It apparently also inspired Kyle to have her own crisis of confidence, because this week’s episode was a prolonged guessing game of whether Kyle and her girl-next-door bangs would be there to model for another round. Those wishy-washy contestants are always mildly interesting and mildly annoying, because unless the lady in question has a real, pressing need to go home, she usually is met with encouragement and frustration from her fellow teammates, who wonder why anyone would want to opt out of Tyra’s dream-come-true model machine but also would be glad for a bye week. “J.Alexander” did have the incredibly welcome sight of Ms. J, whose new look is somewhere between yogi and Yung Humma. But for me, this installment was mostly an extended wish for the super-names Tyra concocted last week to die a long slow death. I half suspect that she made those up just so she could drop the Suessical bon mot “Exotica was forgotica” on Candace at judging panel.

Martin Lindstrom, who last cycle informed a puzzled-looking Kayla that “being a lesbian was hip five years ago,” returned to enigmatically advise the girls about how to be a brand spokesperson. I was disappointed that he didn’t weirdly diss all the girls again, though I suspect Azmarie might have socked him in the face if he had tried to give her his Kayla face. Instead, all of the models had to shoot a commercial selling a household product. The selection of things to sell looked as if a harried PA had raided the supply closet and the backseat of someone’s car: There were vitamins, a pooper-scooper, a hair-dryer, and tissues. Ashley amusingly tried to sell toilet paper on its aromatic merits: “It’s scented so your bum’ll be nice and fresh if you have a boyfriend or…” She then looked panicked. “My mum’s going to think that my boyfriend smells my arse,” she told the confession camera later.

All of the commercials were wince-worthy in one way or another, either from a infomercial quality or from the ubiquitous introduction “Hi, I’m _____, and I’m here to sell you _______.” But Lindstrom had a further surprise up his angular sleeve. The judges for the commercial were going to be a focus group of people that the ANTM crew somehow tricked into volunteering for the job. The lesson from the comments of the befuddled group was that it was more important to be cute and likable than, well, to know what you’re doing at all. Sophie, Kyle, and Annaliese were bouncy and friendly enough to pass the mark, but a volunteer hated Azmarie’s tattoos and another complained, awkwardly, about Alisha’s “African accent.” Kyle’s patter wasn’t as smooth as Sophie’s, and the other members of the group felt that it was important to press that on Kyle, who freaked out and had to be soothed by the kind, beige-swathed words of Ms. J.

The whole challenge demonstrates a serious change in the America’s Next Top Model concept. To be a top model a mere four cycles ago, you had to be someone Versace would consider his muse. But since ANTM: All-Stars, the point of the show is no longer about haute couture, but rather, seems solidly geared towards “how to be famous longer.” The prizes this season include a perfume ad, a gig on Extra, and a single produced by CBS. The focus group opinions only matter if the models are trying to do commercial stuff, not particularly if they’re trying to sweep into Vogue. Azmarie might not be a hit with the 18-45 set who are willing to be pulled into a room with J. Alexander, but she would surely do better than Kyle in most of the high fashion world.

This week’s photoshoot was one of the marvelously nonsensical cultural mash-ups that seem to be the cornerstone of this cycle. The ladies, adorned in Philip Treacy-inspired highfalutin’ hats, posed next to brawny dudes in tricked out lowriders. The effect was supposed to be something like the royal wedding meets pin-up photos, but it came off more like BBC extras wandering onto the set of a future Fast and the Furious movie. (Christina Aguilera would probably have fought for any one of those hats, though. )

At judge’s panel, Kelly “I’m not a fan of mediocrity” Cutrone had it out for basically every photo. I’ve been enjoying her as a new judge, but you begin to see what Louisa is talking about when she calls out a photo of Laura that Nigel praised as looking like “drunk Mae West.” It didn’t seem like anyone did spectacularly this week. Azmarie nabbed the first photo almost by default, and Kyle, despite her frazzled nerves, got the second photo. She isn’t likely to drop out past this point, though most models who have those sort of doubts don’t last until the final two anyway. The bottom two were both on Team USA, the fiercely real but photographically bland Symone, and Candace, who never really moved her face. Candace tried to bring Kyle down when she left, but Tyra wasn’t having any of it. “I, too, have had that weak moment,” Tyra commented, which seems pretty forgiving after last week’s Louisa debacle. Maybe she’s harboring some USA pride after all.


Stray observations:

  • I hadn’t noticed until Kyle’s phone worrying that the U.S. and U.K. teams each have separate, nationally-appropriate phone boxes.
  • Another one for the ANTM phrasebook, courtesy of Ms. J: “Baloney and cheese,” which is, apparently, when your toes hang out of a shoe.
  • Don’t you wish Ms. J rode a lowrider all the time?