America’s Next Top Model Recap: Don’t Have Macau, Man!
The last two episodes of Top Model have been so low-key and normal that I’m starting to get flashbacks to seasons 2 & 3. While we’ll never be so lucky to have the show bring back the long-forgotten in-panel challenges (remember when Yaya correctly called out Tyra’s ethnocentrism during one of these by refusing to wear a kente cloth hat and Tyra instead chose to dig her heels in by having a skin color-altering photo shoot the next cycle? Memories), there’s been so few histrionic Tyra outbursts and so many refreshingly simple challenges that I’m starting to think this massive rebranding we’ve all been promised for next year will have more to do with reestablishing legitimacy than it will with having Tyra trying to create her own governing body called “Fiercelandia.”
Take for instance the way this year’s international travel destination was revealed to the girls. Nigel came over to eat Chinese food with the ladies, and after some clearly producer-orchestrated fortune cookies (Eboni’s has something to do with maturity!), Nigel whips out an asteroid-sized cookie to quietly reveal to the girls that they’ll be immediately flying to Macau. If this had been last season, you damn well know Tyra would have come out dressed as a cow to break this news and then maybe said something about how the Chinese already have a naturally permanent smize.
Top Model was never a normal show by any means, so maybe I misspoke when I suggested that having a challenge centered around Chinese astrology and reading the girls’ auras off a giant iPad was completely without an eyebrow raise or two. Miss J gasped and widened his eyes until they were completely depleted of moisture as a man who was far too attractive and well spoken to not be an actor placated the girls with toothless statements about being stubborn and having bad childhoods. At one point Alisha is correctly told that she really loves her mom and Miss J responds by saying “Wow, this is really scary.”
In vintage Top Model style, the models are then told they have a few minutes to assemble looks based off the elements they were assigned during their consultations. Most of them end up looking like they’ve wrapped bed sheets around themselves, but I’m surprised at how correct the judges are when they say Laura emerged looking like a completely new person in her simple black sheath and makeup. Laura and her sudden natural glow are awarded to a massage, and since Eboni is the only other American girl left, she gets to come along for an awkward afternoon of reading the ingredients off of moisturizer bottles.
For this week’s photo shoot, the girls are asked to model beautiful silk gowns by Barney Cheng with the added twist that they’ll be covered in silkworms. There’s an admirable job by the editors to drum up some horror and suspense from this, but the truth of the matter is that they’re just silkworms and not tarantulas, so everyone manages to pull it together, although Alisha does have to anthropomorphize one of hers by naming it Edwin to get through without getting too squeamish. What the girls really should be worried about are the accompanying black bob wigs each is given for the shoot, which have the unfortunate distinction of making Catherine’s jawline look massive and sort of resembling that of a drag queen’s. The only queen she looks like after this is Dame Edna.
The bugs actually look really stupid on the dresses (I was actually hoping for a Silkwood tribute) and for some reason the girls are told that they should be channeling dramatic emotions for their pictures. Laura naturally creates intensity by pretending to orgasm (leading Alisha to say that “a fucking silk worm turns this girl on”) but Catherine takes a much different approach by pretending that she just found out a love one died, which ends up making her cry for her entire shoot. If there had been a painful back story here, Top Model would have been all over that, so all I can do with this situation is assume that Catherine is kind of bonkers this week. She tried to wear green lipstick earlier so I’m going to blame this on something like altitude sickness from the plane ride. Later Nigel cuts it bluntly by saying that a “tragedy like death is not an easy sell in the advertising world.” He’s right; it’s much easier to sell pedophilia.
At panel, Laura all but guarantees the Brit vs. American finale we all saw coming by delivering one of the best photos of the competition thus far. Tyra – who looks stunning in a floor length yellow silk gown, by the way – is hard on almost everyone else and actually manages to give Eboni a good piece of advice about avoiding making her waist appear the same width as her shoulders. Alisha gives good face in her photo (although Kelly Cutrone’s zinger of the week is that she looks like “the girl who didn’t get into the Supremes”) but she forgets to sell the dress, which leads her to her second consecutive bottom two appearance after getting first photo the week before. Luckily for Alisha, if the pattern holds, the finale week will be a good one for her. Catherine goes home though, since in the grand scheme of Top Model, regality tends to equal snoozies! Off to Hong Kong next week!
– Marcus Michalik is still quietly rooting for Annalise