Oxygen Media released the results of a survey this week of women aged 18-34. Almost 25% of those polled indicated that they'd rather win America's Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. That's a statistic I would like you to keep in mind as I recap this week's episode four weeks in to Cycle 12. Each of the current remaining contestants represents a boatload of American Girl angst, hope and dreams. Big, ragged, heaving sigh. Wanna be on top?
As you all know by now, the show was created by and stars talk show hostess/former supermodel Miss Tyra Banks. I've decided that Tyra is a gay man in a woman's body. Her panel of judges consists of noted fashion photographer Nigel Barker, runway coach Miss Jay Alexander, and supermodel Paulina Porizkova. Also, the show is hosted by photo shoot director Jay Manuel.
This week the show begins with the townhouse doorbell ringing and surprise, it's Toccara Jones - the first black plus-size model to pose for Italian Vogue - from Cycle 3! She's there to host a slumber party and dole out some product placement sleepwear goodies for the gals to model. "So Tyra sent me over here so I can talk about person - ality which I have a lot of and that's what you're gonna need when you're in this business," she advises cheerfully. Meanwhile it's like she's in color and the contestants are in black & white; that's how severe the personality-meter difference is between her and them.
Benny Ninja makes his series appearance in this week's show to teach the girls how to strike a pose of absolute fierceness first time, every time. He's brought a DJ/model along, Sky Nellor, to play different styles of music while the girls pose in the style of the particular genre she's spinning. Allison, who looks for all the world like a living kewpie doll or a Margaret Keane painting, is totally intimidated by the experience and very nervous.
Next up, the ladies are swept off to the weekly challenge: a fashion show for New York's fashion elite at a nightclub wearing swanky gowns by androgynous design team The Blonds. The fashion show starts with Benny riding down from the ceiling in a glass elevator before he sashays, in a kilt, onto the stage. In a series that is chock full of over the top moments, this one is pretty rich.
So of course kewpie doll Allison is first and she looks like a deer in the headlights. "I think everyone could smell my fear," she says later. It's very Thunderdome with the audience hooting and hollering as each girl poses to the music. Celia brings the house down; she looks exactly like a drag queen and she's as fierce as it gets. There's a pose-off between her and Natalie which she easily wins, squashing Natalie like a bug.
Meanwhile, the week's drama centers around Tahlia, who is quite frankly losing it. She confides to Celia during hair and makeup for their challenge shoot that she is having second, third, and fourth thoughts about the competition and wants to go home.
Every once in a while this show steps outside the box and it happens this week as the photo shoot requires the girls to pose as immigrants at Ellis Island with Benny Ninja as their husband and a passel of children. The photos will be sepia-toned and made to look like a turn of the century family portrait.
Prior to panel, the girls get together to discuss how Tahlia wants to go home and then doesn't whenever she does well in a photo shoot, which she did today. Bitch, bitch, bitch, if she isn't sent home this week they discuss staging a mutiny.
There are some really good one-off lines during panel. Paulina declares that kewpie doll Allison looks like a child in her photo, maybe the older sister because Mommy died on the trip over. This gets a laugh. Tahlia's hairstyle in front of the judges is called a Something Like Mary do by noted fashion photographer Nigel Barker. Miss Jay says Sandra takes a great picture "but I think she's as boring as home made soap."
And then - the moment of doom. "Ten beautiful ladies stand before me but I only have nine photos in my hands," intones Tyra stentoriously. Tahlia, due to her amazing Ellis Island photograph, is chosen first to stay. Everyone blanches. The final two are Sandra and Kortnie (whose parents would spell a name like that? I ask you). Kortnie, who seems not to really care either way, is sent home.
Before Tyra gets a chance to ceremoniously wish her well in her career and all that happy horseshit, Celia (who is wearing the glittery dress she won at the nightclub fashion show challenge and looks like an escapee from the set of an 80's music video) interrupts the script. She crosses over to where Kortnie is standing, ready to accept her Tyra-hug and fade off into exit-interview-land, and declares, "Tyra, with all due respect there's something I think you should know." She proceeds to blow the whistle on Tahlia's whining to go home, only no one backs her up and she looks like a complete fool. Tyra gives her the fierce eye flash and cuts her dead. She creeps back to the winner's side like a whipped dog, weeping openly.
What was that statistic again from Oxygen Media? Sometimes it seems to me we're not so much heading towards a nation of nascent Michele Obamas or Hillary Clintons as a nation of budding Anna Nicole Smiths.
America's Next Top Model airs Wednesday nights on The CW at 8pm.
Read more of Holly Cara Price's ruminations on the slings and arrows of outrageous pop culture on her website, Snoop* Du Jour.