Oh, hello there! If you're just joining us, then might I suggest that you buckle the hell up, because everything is about to stop making sense. We are entering the deviant and enigmatic world of "America's Next Top Model" (Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW), a place where women are critiqued for posture as tarantulas are lowered onto their faces. Here, nonsense words are used as legitimate criteria by a panel of judges (see: "smize," "tooch," "dreckitude"), and low-grade weaves are forcibly sewn onto the scalps of sobbing white women. Like I said, nothing makes any sense.
Now, don't let my gushing bitterness deceive you -- I am nothing if not a faithful servant to the altar of Tyra Banks. I have spent years of my life scrutinizing the "ANTM" archives. I have lovingly memorized the words to TyTy's epic Cycle 4 freak-out. I have read "Modelland," people!! With these shameful facts related, I must concede that there are a few minor/extreme changes to the show's format this season:
First and foremost, Tyra has fired everyone. Noted fashion photographer Nigel Barker? Fired. Runway diva extraordinaire and resident gender-bender J. Alexander? Also fired. What about Jay Manuel, Tyra's critical right-hand gay with a face of gold? He, too, has been pink-slipped by Tyranasaurus. Take a moment to pour one out for your homies.
Secondly, for this cycle -- the 19th -- the arbitrary theme is "College Edition," meaning that Tyra has scouted contestants "from beauty schools to the Ivy League." Does trade school fall under the umbrella of "college"? Not to my knowledge. Is 22 maybe too old an age to begin a modeling career? Absolutely! But let this one salient truth be your touchstone: "ANTM" has nothing to do with the real-world modeling industry. Moving on.
Thirdly, and perhaps most confusingly, the viewers are supposedly given an opportunity, via social media platforms, to vote for preferred contestants and submit mixed-tone comments like: "good legs, horrible arms, boring face." Actually, this random gimmick could prove hilarious, despite the fact that the episodes are pre-taped so the entire scenario has most likely been staged at Tyra's behest.
Onto the premiere itself: the scene opens on a shot of a YouTube video. Typical Tyty shenanigans. The faux-cursor clicks the faux-play-button, and we are humbly greeted by Tyra, who is casually chatting with an anonymous, bearded gay in a dollar store wig. Tyra's pièce de résistance is a shirt bearing the words "Oh My Smize." The two banter a bit about "ANTM" as the setting alternates between poolside and nail salon, until Tyra spits out this gratingly scripted realization: "It's like my baby has all grown up and gone to college!" How apropos, because this is the COLLEGE EDITION of "Top Model," a premise Tyra will repeat in an all-caps voice throughout the episode and cycle. Tyra takes a moment to name-drop the Harvard degree she paid for, and we're off!
Before we really delve in, let me just say that Tyra is looking strangely attractive this cycle (thus far) -- I assume that all those extraneous crew members lost their jobs to make room in Tyra's beauty budget, and boy, was it worth it! Pop on some black blush and this could be Cycle 3!
It quickly becomes clear that this is merely a casting episode, meaning we'll be introduced to a new slew of beautiful, biracial masochists, but won't actually get to see them demean themselves as they engage in Kafka-esque challenges. Although we were effectively deprived of a real episode, I'm just glad Tyra didn't wear a metallic silver jumpsuit and assume a robot voice for the entirety of the episode, as she is wont to do.
We are introduced to a new, younger set of judges as the show scrambles for relevance We already know Kelly "Cut-Throat" Cutrone, PR maven and famed asshole. Next we meet hot ethnic model Rob Evans, and Katy Perry's stylist, Johnny Wujek, notable for his ambiguous speech impediment and penchant for bosom-baring ensembles. Other than Kell, these judges seem as dull as a bag of hair, but luckily a few of the model hopefuls have offered up promising sound bites as compensation.
My understanding of the models and their attributes is still very shallow, but the "ANTM" editing process is nothing if not transparent, so excuse me as I pass judgment on these girls and speculate on their assorted fates:
Brittany: Super-cute, borderline psychotic. Shrieks often, has disappearing eyebrows.
Darian: Trashy in all the best ways. When posing with Rob Evans, she pops a squat and pretends to smell his dick. This girl's one to watch.
Destiny: Girl has her brows on lock, isn't above dumpster-diving (which is also a plot point in "Modelland"), and blandly states, "I'm one of those people who wakes up every morning and is just ... angry at everyone."
Jessie: Hipster-looking studious type with butt cheeks for miles; Tyra noted that her pose "shoulda been facin' the wall and peekin' over like what." Frequents Trader Joe's.
Kiara: Tranny-face drag queen with a laudable walk and a history of domestic abuse. Good personality, but messed-up face situation.
Kristen: Blond bully: "I've been in a few brawls;" "You can be just pretty -- it's worked the past 19 years of my life!" DOA.
Laura: Limp piece of celery and "Dynasty" progeny. In an effort to "modelize" her, Tyra rips her dress from her shoulders and douses her head with water, effectively doubling her nastiness.
Leila: Gap-toothed cutie and edited front-runner, her skin is translucent and her moxie infectious.
Maria: Harvard student who claims she "came out of the closet about modeling." Disposable.
Nastasia: Pop-n-lockin' Latina with a name to live by.
Victoria: Unstable home-schooled super-freak who delivered the best line of the premiere: "I'm Jewish and Native American ... so if you have a problem with my face then you're a racist!" Unsurprisingly, attends college online.
Yvonne: Plus-size potato-face.
These are your finalists, narrowly edging out girls with missing teeth, kitten voices, and ADD. They will savagely compete for a severely downgraded prize package, featuring a spread in NYLON magazine and $100,000 in cash! Tune in next week for the (assumedly) updated theme song, assorted crying, and all-around bitchery!
"America's Next Top Model" airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.