America’s Next Top Model Finale Recap: An “Illuminata” Princess is Crowned

America’s Next Top Model Finale Recap: An “Illuminata” Princess is Crowned

She flirted with it all season, but I really have to give props to Tyra for taking until the finale to directly compare the season’s Brits vs. Yanks theme to the Revolutionary War. As Sophie and Lauren stood before the Great and Powerful T with their hands politely folded and legs firmly planted in front of flag paintings done by the Mexican non-union equivalent of Jasper Johns, published author Tyra Banks told the two young women that just like their forefathers, they started out enemies and quickly became allies. Only this time, George Washington (today being played by a white-blonde nymphet with a penchant for snarling) ended up losing to a Lord North with cotton candy hair. We’re learning!

Sophie was the obvious choice for the win (arguably from the beginning and certainly ever since Azmarie got unceremoniously dumped) but I was kind of obsessed with how Laura looked during both her photo shoot and runway show. As a TV character, I found her pretty annoying and occasionally attention-starved when the season began, but enough genuine cracks in the façade and displays of earnest emotion started to develop in time for me to feel a little conflicted (just a little) about who I wanted to win. The complete lack of drama between the two reminded me of when Joanie and Danielle went head to head in cycle 6, only this time there was no snapping Jade in the background to offset the cuddly-wuddlies.

That’s not to say the episode was a complete snooze, and while paramedics probably end up arriving for a contestant at least two times a year these days, the panic attack Laura suffered during her Cover Girl shoot really did seem sort of scary, especially when they showed her shaking in the fetal position while laying on a truck’s loading dock. Sophie, having gone through all this before as a runner up on the British version of the show, was completely in her element here, and while Laura ended up pulling through better than most “quirky” girls do in these types of challenges, the look of pure terror on her face was never totally gone from any of her commercial shots.

The next day, Sophie and a presumably tranquilized Laura are whisked off to shoot their Italian Vogue spread, which is described as a “hyper-stylized spa inspired shoot” which basically means it looks like those scenes in the “Womanizer” video that you weren’t really sure Britney was actually there for. The scene is over in a flash, although it’s significant since editor Valentina Serra ends up preferring Laura to Sophie, stating that “she shoots like a dancer.” It’s here where I realize how confusing this show must be to aspiring models considering how much Tyra historically hates dancers who model. Winners are expected to have a song these days, so it’s likely Tyra just forgot that at this point.

Before the runway show, Tyra visits each of the girls for her requisite pep talks. Laura’s is blandly inspiring, but it’s during her chat with Sophie that Tyra manages to toss in some masterful backhanded shade. Not only does she describe Sophie as “someone I’d want to be friends with if I were 21” (extra emphasis on the “if”), she also tells her that her “eyes are a little far apart” and that her “chin is a little short.” It’s all part of your offbeat beauty, girl!

The Forever 21 (oh) runway show is pretty dumb, but not as awful as hurling ponytail extensions while covered in oil or running from imaginary Spanish ghosts. Coming off as a cross between hologram Tupac’s recent Coachella stop and Beyoncé’s multimedia performance at last year’s Billboard awards, the catwalk is horizontal and placed against a giant screen displaying graphics Tyra found while putzing around iMovie. The show is desperately lacking a 3-dimensional component, but was thankfully saved by a ridiculous Tyra opening that found her speaking violently and seemingly incoherently in Chinese. The look on Kelly Cutrone’s face as she pretended to find it enjoyable is maybe the highlight of the series.

At panel, most of the judges seem to have already made up their minds in favor of Sophie, although Kelly does manage to tell her that she looks like “Edie Sedgwick after a party” which is basically telling her she looks like she’s on drugs. Laura looks stunning in her candid shots included in the Cover Girl commercial and nothing about her walk ended up being as disastrous as anticipated, but it’s still not enough to topple the British monarchy. We’ll get them back at the Olympics.

Congrats to Sophie! Now can she please tell us how the pink in her hair changes hue every 5 minutes?