If you are currently reading this, then I believe congratulations are in order! Yes, pat yourself on your assumedly emaciated back -- you deserve it for having survived the most boring cycle of America's Next Top Model ever! To quote Bre from Cycle 5, "I just wanted to take off my shoes and throw UP." Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for a gimmick (of which this cycle had no shortage), but the gimmicks here were recycled and played-out, and the lack of engaging/amusing interactions between the girls themselves made for one long, painful yawn of a season. I won't spoil who the recipient of the ANTM College Edition crown was just yet, but I will say that the outcome is even more blah than the hyper-bland one we'd all anticipated.
For those of you who opted for a self-induced coma, let me catch you up on the Final Three: we've got Leila, the gap-toothed high-fashion cutie who photographs like a dream and returned to the competition through her social media moxie; then there's Kiara, the sassy foster-care survivor with a history of basketball and a face full of tranny; and finally, Laura, the Dynasty progeny with skin the color of cheesy vomit and the charm of a wilted celery stick. Golf-clap for your finalists, people.
When the episode first kicked off, I momentarily thought I'd mistakenly tuned in to an installment of American Horror Story, but no -- just Tyra styled like a terrifying alien disco ball in front of a "haunted" mansion. She seriously looks like the tackiest ghost at the party, with her vacuum-sealed face situation framed by a broken-mirror collar, all resting on a breast-height tutu thing; I don't know if she applied eye makeup or removed it altogether, but the look here is consumption-chic. Tyra informs the viewer that this is the famous Rose Hall, a Jamaican ghost-place where the "beautiful and deadly" former mistress "murdered husbands, lovers, and any woman whose smize rivaled her own." Images of sexy phantoms scroll across the screen as we view the spookily appointed mansion -- my favorite touch is the phrase "Pot Ledom" scrawled in lipstick across a mirror like "REDRUM."
As the camera pans out, it becomes clear that we've prematurely arrived at the runway show venue, what with its meager crowd and overwrought catwalk concept. In yet another weird and unexplained tweak to the format, this episode will be a clip-show, in which Tyra introduces the segments from her ghoulish perch. It's essentially a recap episode featuring footage no one has seen yet, and every contestant from this cycle will be walking in the final show, a move that effectively strips the walk-off portion of its usual weight and magic. In any case, we're given a post-mortem viewing of Nine West and Nylon photo shoots the contestants performed in recent days.
The Nine West shoot is what you'd expect from a commercial shoe shoot -- the girls shift around hesitantly, gently lifting and tilting their feet. Laura and her blonde hair are pretty in an aptly commercial way, but Leila clearly has the most sellable look, cool and fresh with her hair pulled up in a high pony. Kiara gives the same face as always: bored, dour transsexual. The real highlight of this shoot is Kelly Cutrone's bitch-off with photographer Jez Smith. Kell, as the client rep, tries to coordinate the posing, much to Jez's chagrin. The words "rude," "producer," and "entitled" rise from their butts as Johnny Wujek coyly smirks in the background. Laura claims that this tension affected her shots, but all the girls had to shoot in the same passive-aggressive environment, so I consider the point moot. Johnny makes some subtly shady comments about Kell, before we're unceremoniously whisked away to the Nylon shoot.
The Nylon shoot, apparently, consists of little more than wandering the beach and its environs in a variety of off-kilter/on-trend outfits, as the models are instructed to hide in shallow bushes and pose with shore-side detritus. Laura gives her commercial best, but the director is pointedly unimpressed. Kiara, despite her B+ posing, pumps out nothing but amateur, catalogue faces. The Nylon production team, unsurprisingly, adores Leila, as she charms them with her "signature gap" (copyright Danielle, Cycle 6) and hams it up with crab husks.
The end of the shoot is accentuated by the predictable arrival of each girl's family members - Leila's midget-height mama greets her by a palm tree, Kiara's raisiny grandma hobbles out of a private car to a chorus of happy sobs, and both of Laura's parents (I'm assuming they footed the flight cost) awkwardly embrace her and play to the cameras. Laura's mom has the fabled voice of a harpy, as she raspily shrieks comments like, "You can stop wuhhhhking!" and "You so buuuuutiful!"
Back at the runway tent, Tyra floats over to the finalists to give assorted advice and critiques. The girls are clad in skeletal, Givenchy-meets-Salvation-Army papier-mâché gowns, equipped with chest-plates that double as face masks -- it's clear from their practicing that none of them will be able to see the ground or steps on which they'll sashay. TyTy tells Laura that "a little sexy's fine," Leila that she needs "to get that walk together because it's a little shaky," and speaks some stilted Spanish with Kiara's memaw. All the girls line up for the show, which will be opened by last cycle's victor, British sweetheart Sophie Summers, as well as by a spooky little film shot on the premises.
In a theatrical move that makes absolutely no sense, all the runway guests don Sleep No More masks (copyright infringement?) as the vignette rolls: Rob Evans and the three finalists enter and explore the mansion, each serving up his/her own version of eerie awe. Sophie's here, too, and she's a ghost out for dick and blood, (Lorena Bobbitt, eat your heart out)! She lures Rob to sleep and caresses his lifeless visage, before jealously tossing the girls to their deaths from the top of the staircase. The camera pans back to TyTy, whose outfit change has found her in a crazy grey leafy-scaly number; she announces the start of the runway show, and before we know it, Sophie herself is creepily emerging from an aptly-placed tunnel, her name hovering below her in spooky font.
Each model must walk through said tunnel before braving a catwalk that is really just a series of stairs of varying lengths. The venue and styling choices converge to form one dangerously difficult runway challenge, as each girl attempts to sexily strut down a staircase she can't see. Laura's walk is boring if passable, Kiara's is wobbly but believable, and Leila's is ... tragic. Our frontrunner falls on the first series of steps, then limps her way to the end of the runway, where she falls again, as the crowd gasps and averts its eyes. The outfits are really to blame here, as they hide body shape and prevent anyone from moving fluidly; every girl looks like an unhappy jizzmonster.
Then we're suddenly at elimination, where Tyra announces the induction of a NEW scoring system for this judging, which involves a lot of averaging and nonsense; it's safe to assume that none of you care anymore. Tyrabot's hair and makeup are on point, with fish being the theme: fishtail braid, fishy face, fishy smell. Her body is an amorphous goldenrod blob in an outfit modeled after a suicidal banana, while all the finalists have upgraded to more demure, less toilet-papery versions of their recent runway looks. Laura's walk is deemed awkward, and her Nine West shots pretty albeit forgettable (although Tyra does introduce the term "Shoe-y Tooch"). Kiara's walk is the best by far, but her shots are disgusting; as Ty astutely mentions, Kiara decided, "I'm gon' be a pea head back here." Leila's walk was nothing less than humiliating, but she came out head-and-shoulders above the rest, both with Nine West and Nylon. It looks like she's poised to be the winner, but wait!
The judges must deliberate (for the first time this cycle) -- they call Kiara's jaw chiseled, Laura is deemed a "not-favorite," and the question is posed of whether Leila's "teeth are gonna walk her into an agency and have her go on castings." When the girls are summoned back and the scores start rouletting onscreen, it is to my shock and sadness that Miss Leila is the first to be eliminated (35.2), at which point my investment in the program disappears. Kiara comes in second (36.6), and weeps as her fake $40,000 scholarship fund dissolves. So the winner of this boring cycle is boring celery stick Laura (41.2); she'll get $30,000, a bevy of prizes, and the knowledge that no one will ever consider her again. Boom Bam Bye, Bitch.
Thanks for taking this wild, soporific ride with me through the Cycle of Doom! Let's all pour a strong drink through our gap-teeth in Leila's honor, and pay homage to Tyra for the endless nightmare fodder with which she's provided us this season. Now it's time to use my own personal catch phrase and sign off for the foreseeable future: Get Real ... and Get Out! Love, Nick ~