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Illustration for article titled iAmericas Next Top Model/i: “Kristin Cavallari”
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It’s rare that there’s an actual upset on America’s Next Top Model. Usually, it’s pretty clear if a contestant made a fatal error in judgment that would send them packing. Refuse a haircut, snap at a judge, insult Tyra behind her back, or look more drab than perky, and you’re probably out. So when Angelea stepped up to call out Nigel on a point of his critique this week, I was pretty sure she was history. Keeping her in the game changes all the rules of the endeavor—is Tyra after strong photos or big personalities? What on earth does she want in an All Star?

One thing that seems to be necessary is the ability to really wring that bit of reality television fame for all its worth. Enter guest judge/motivational speaker Kristin Cavallari, whom you may remember as the girl from The Hills who didn’t wig out and redesign her face. No, the other one. Anyway, her brief and uninspiring explanation of haters (or, ahem, H8Rs) segued nicely into the confusing Extra-related interview segment featuring Mario Lopez. Is it just me, or is he in everything lately? He’s apparently vying for the title of “Next James Franco.”


The Extra segment, though generally pretty bland, at least demonstrated pretty clearly that the important thing to do on camera is be interesting, not crazy. Lisa, clad in neon high-waisted aerobic pants, was fast with the nonsensical quip (“I got first place in balance beam, baby!”) and happy to steal the spotlight from anyone who stumbled or paused, but her over-the-top high-fiving earned her Nigel’s sad-eyed displeasure. I was most impressed by Isis, who fielded the question about her gender change with as much grace as one could possibly hope to while Lopez’s hair-gelled dome and dimpled cheeks are glinting at you. But the judges really loved Allison, the Bjork of Top Model, who managed to sneak in something about learning how to be on both sides of a photograph. Though she’s one of the most interesting of the bunch, I wasn’t expecting Allison, she of the outfits that combine stuffed animal with Victorian schoolboy, to ascend this quickly in a cycle full of other, more traditional lunatic fringe models. It’s more a move towards haute couture on Tyra’s part, and less of the splashy razzle-dazzle circus that she promised from the All Star cycle.

Angelea went the “aggressively professional” route, which, to her amazement, fell flat. Her bus ride home tirade was an amazing hissy fit that included the boast “Bitch, I worked at a bank.” Of the girls who didn’t get immunity, it seemed clear that Angelea was the most obviously on the chopping block: She has none of the zest of Lisa, the poise of Isis, or the weird hatred-fueled popularity Alexandria has. Things only got worse for her in the photoshoot, one of those good, old-fashioned, throw-the-models-into-a-situation-that-usually-requires-professional-training types of things that involved posing on stilts while wearing 1980s stripper gear. The way the ladies were paired up—one from the team that was safe from elimination, one from the team that wasn’t—heightened the tension a bit, but labeling the ones up for the chopping block as “unsafe” made it sound like someone was about to step on a nail somewhere.

Immunity on Top Model is almost never an option, and I thought that the dynamic it introduced was a bad one. Keeping almost half the girls safe from elimination muddled who was actually good and bad in the shoot. I think Bianca, freak-out about heights and juice-box waving aside, would have still been in the clear, though I think her good shot was pretty much a fluke. Mr. Jay was certainly not feeling it. “Are you trying to show me ferocious?” he asked, “Because it looks like you’re about to throw up.” I’m not sure that Kayla would have clung on for another week. It’s a bad sign when Andre Leon Talley keeps telling everyone how he wishes he could airbrush you out of the shot. Ditto Camille, who hasn’t merited any real attention this cycle and probably won’t stick around that long.

But of course, the real heartbreak was for Isis. If there weren’t six others in line ahead of her, would she have still gotten the axe? I don’t think so; she may have stumbled a bit in the shoot, but she has by far one of the most winning personalities in the group. Allison’s win was no surprise, and I was pretty sure that Isis and Dominique would be toward the bottom. But normally, the quality most rewarded on Top Model isn’t questioning the judges, even to clarify a point. And on All Stars, the idea that a middling photo could beat out a competitor with a great deal of confidence and a real fan backing is pretty baffling. Is Tyra upping the stakes? Or is she, like the rest of us, just not sure what a Top Model All Star should look like?


Stray observations:

  • Was Mr. Jay dressed like the Hamburgler? Really?
  • Tyra seems to be hellbent on introducing a model neologism every episode this cycle. "Booty tooch" has more of a ring to it than "Tyra-over," but it's still no "smize."
  • Lisa's pants just keep getting less flattering and more made out of materials scavenged from a kindergarten crafts bin. I can't believe Tyra hasn't made her go back and change yet.

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