Settling in to view the much-anticipated premiere of America’s Next Top Model cycle 9 (featuring Yale ’09 Victoria Marshman), I went to pre-pop my popcorn to avoid the snack-induced tardiness of yesterday’s Beauty & the Geek premiere recap. But the co-op down the hall was locked! The communalist chefs of Brown Hall must be on to my appliance-abusing ways. Maybe because I write about it on the internet.
ANTM cycle 9 begins with a bang: The girls are going to the Caribbean! Requisite shots of screaming girls with tears of joy streaming down their faces, then cut to sunny San Juan and a busload of skinny chicks, faces wrapped in black satin eyemasks. Is ANTM going SM this year? They disembark and Miss J. Alexander, Tyra Banks’ gender-bending black male runway coach, is wearing sailor whites. Surprise! The semi-final cut will occur on a cruise boat! The girls freak out; apparently they don’t realize that cruise boats are less Titanic more shuffle-board and all-you-can-eat-buffet these days. Boats are so 20th century.
Challenge #1: Life jacket fashion show. The girls strut down a rubberized speed-walking track before an audience geriatric sun-worshippers. Marvita, a mohawked black girl from Anchorage, takes the bait with the first hard-knock-life story: raised homeless, abused, molested. The creatively-named Spontaniouse loses points for sticking her butt out. And now-Victoria! Y-bomb number one hits the waves and our girl Tory marches down the rubberized speedwalk. Ohmigod she’s so awkward and stiff I almost can’t watch. Not to worry, though, because the next girl is a hunchback, and you can’t get much weirder than that. Heather says it comes from hunching over her computer all day. Nerd alert! Tory’s status as Token Smart Girl is at risk. Heather has got to go. Take her out, Tory! Now where is that razor-sharp stiletto when you need it…
Meal time: Go go anorexia go! A girl with arms like swizzle sticks says she will represent the plus-sized girls in the audience.
Drumroll and, Tyra Banks in a showgirl costume, postprandial entertainment. The girls stand up, applaud, scream, tear their hair, sob-I think one girl might be having an orgasm. Tyra blabs some stuff on the fashion-world relevance of the beach. Whatever. Everyone knows the real reason they’re in the Caribbean is gratuitous bikini shots, knock-off exoticism, and maybe a product-placement deal for sunscreen or something. Let’s get on with it.
The girls do stage-interviews before Tyra, Miss J., and Mr. Jay Manuel, Tyra’s Latino gay boyfriend art director. Tyra only has friends whose names start with J. Tory has no chance.
Enter Ambreal, 19, of Howard University. She starred in Howard’s equivalent of Princeton’s Operation: Style runway show for
showcasing how cute and anorexic Princeton girls can be charity. This makes Ambreal a runway pro. “Toned down she could be Naomi,” coos Tyra.
Heather storms the stage and flails around while shouting bizarre jokes about men being women and Tyra being ugly. Is she high? Nope, turns out Heather has Asperger’s, which is supposed to explain the hunchback and loud, awkward jokes? Mr. J. questions whether she could be a “top model” without runway skills. Tyra says Heather’s hump will make her great for those awkward “high fashion” shots where the models are supposed to look like aliens.
Janet, 22, is a career bikini waxer from Bainbridge, Georgia. “Once you’ve seen one butt, you’ve seen them all,” she says in direct violation of ANTM’s founding principle, that some butts are superior to others and deserve zoom lenses and international ad campaigns. Janet simulates a kitty-cat wax on Tyra, which involves Miss Banks on all fours popping and locking while Janet rides her like she is a rodeo stallion. Yes, I am exaggerating. But Janet did get a full-palmed ass-slap in, which is either totally amazing or completely and utterly horrifying.
Our girl Tory enters, stage right. Oh my god, she’s a robot. Y-bomb number two, and Tyra prompts, “You know you think some of these girls are dumb.” Tory shrugs and agrees weakly. I’m impressed by her restraint; did anyone else see the episode where none of the models could pronounce “magenta”?
Evidence of the terror that is Dumb Hot Chicks is sunny, blonde Mila. “I’ve had such a great life!” she sings. “I celebrate everything: my birthday, my friends’ birthdays, a new nail color!” Even her voice sounds like a smile. She bats her eyelashes and rainbows shoot our in all directions. “Crying?” Mila says with a wrinkled nose, “It’s a little bit of a waste of time. If you just stay positive and be happy about everything, everything will always be okay!” I hate this girl. She dons a bikini and has gross boobs. Sweet justice. She’s cruising for a nervous breakdown.
Hard-knock Marvita cries, and Tyra prods for gory details on the sad skinny girl’s sad life. Beautiful girls in agony = ratings boon. Cry, you beautiful damaged thing, cry! Tyra feels your pain and gets an extra $10,000 for every tear.
Back in the dining hall, Tory’s face turns green and she grasps wildly for a solid object to support her. Yesss, the producers silently cheer. Our clever ploy to induce seasick drama has succeeded! Luckily, delicacy of the stomach is a boon in an industry where the ability to barf on cue can make or break a career. Tory lurches, collapses, and curls into a fetal ball. “She’s sick? Time for me to shine,” sneers Sabrina, who says her best feature is her hair, and that she has no bad features at all. Except that she’s a big stupid meanie! Nobody messes my girl Tory and gets away with it.
The next morning Tory sports a pair of fetching motion-illness-vanquishing wristbands that I’d previously seen only on my grandmother. Over breakfast Ebony announces, “Let’s play a game and see which of us has an eating disorder.” Ebony, you bitchy minx, I love-hate you already. “I want to slap the hell out of her,” says Hard-Knock Marvita. Mila beams and songbirds flutter gaily about her golden hair: “I wish everyone would be nice! We’re all in the same boat!”
Sarah, the one who will represent fatties the world throughout, pulls an accordion out of her nose. I think we are supposed to laugh? Tyra looks disgusted.
To mix things up, Tyra starts asking the girls to dish on each other. Everyone hates Ebony. Lisa is an exotic dancer and does a dining room lapdance. Cut to a shot of Tory rolling her eyes. Camera-trick alert! They just want us to think the Yale chick’s a prude, but I bet Tory was shaking her stuff all over the lido deck, star deck, and poop deck alike. Don’t let the Medieval History concentration fool you; Tory is all about getting down.
The ship has landed and we’re in Antigua! The girls meet Jaslene Gomez, winner of cycle 8, at a fake-photo-shoot on the beach. Jaslene waves like a beauty queen, throws her head back and gives a toothy cackle. Jaslene has no body fat. I think she is a tranny.
Challenge #2: Ocean photo shoot! Tory goes first, wearing a string bikini and gauzy white cover-up. The cover-up comes off. Back on the beach, the other girls say they’re not worried abou Victoria. Little do they know the power of Eli. Yale can get you anywhere in life, including D-list reality television aimed at body dysmorphic 12-year-old girls. And Ivy League bloggers like me, of course.
The other girls do the splash-and-flirt thing, and Miss J. is back: “For some of you the fun is over now.” Time for the first cut! The producers have arranged 20 boarding passes on a strange cage-like edifice, and those are the girls going back to New York. Does this mean the other 13 get to stay in Antigua? Mob run to the cage-like edifice; the models tear down the passes with hungry hands. Tory’s in! So is Hunchback Heather and Bitchy Minx Ebony. Sabrina is not in, and tears shoot from her eyes. “Now I have to go back to school!” she wails. Poor girl. We at IvyGate feel your pain, like clockwork, every August.
Why do the girls scream every time Tyra enters the room? Back in New York the presence of the Grand Dame Banks sends most of the girls into epileptic fits. Gearing up for the second cut, Tyra demands each contestant stand up and say why she deserves to be there. Heather talks about being “on the bottom of the social totem pole.” Tory looks deeply moved; she is windswept and romantic-looking. Don’t fall for it, Tory! Heather’s the enemy! Stab her with a salad fork and hide the body in your ANTM mansion shoe closet.
The 20 must be reduced to 13. Tyra and the J.s go through the Antigua pictures. They love Mila but hate Marvita. Chantal is high fashion, Bianca needs a better weave. Hunchback Heather is killer on film: “I don’t see awkward or lack of focus,” comments Mr. J., “I see a model.” Tyra says Tory is “quirky girl! So interesting, with that long face. I love her.” Miss J. makes horse noises, but he makes them with love, so it’s okay. Ebony is “the original mean girl,” and how does Tyra deal with Mean Girls? “High-fashion ass-whooping!” It’s official: Tyra Banks has a spanking fetish.
Tyra stands before the girls atop a glass runway built over a glowing turquoise pool. She calls the girls’ names one by one, and they walk across to the other side. I’m already bracing for someone to fall in. Mila is in. She squeals with delight. Bianca of the cheap-weave is in. Jenah, Chantal, Ambreal. Tory stands stiffly off to one side, winsome face rippling with nerves and fear. “Victooooriaaaa!” cries Tyra, and Tory is IN! Her hands fly to her face and she gapes in amazement.
Sarah, Saleisha, Kimbery, Ebony. The non-called-upon girls are starting to cry. Janet the Butt-Toucher is in, and so is Hunchback Heather. Tory nods and grooves at this choice; Heather must be her homegirl. The final name is Lisa, who has tears streaming down her face. Having just relived the pains of a broken childhood and multiple sexual molestations before national audiences, Marvita is out. Tyra tells the losers they are “all special,” but bitches, it’s time to go home.
This is the first post in my America’s Next Top Model series, which will last as long as Tory stays on the show.