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America's Next Top Model: “Season Finale”

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The model war between Great Britain and the United States winds gently to a close this week with all the tension of a friendly racquetball tournament. Would a non-American win America’s Next Top Model for the first time? Where have they been hiding Ms. Jay? And how does Vogue Italia feel about sharing their model with Forever 21?


The final two contenders are, for once, not even fighting. Doe-eyed bouncy Sophie, with her re-dyed cotton candy anime hair, embraces Laura and they both romp around the house semi-adorably, doing victory laps around the table. Sophie doesn’t even take the chance to trash talk Laura in front of the confessional cameras. The sharpest thing she has to say is that she has a stronger walk than Laura, which is true, but pretty boring. I would have settled for some sassy comments from Laura about the fall of the British Empire, or some comparison to the Queen’s corgi fleet.

Because the winner of this round will be some sort of singer-perfumist-correspondent-lipstick model of all trades, the ladies first have to do the traditional Covergirl commercial and photo shoot. This time, perhaps because of just how painful the acting has been in past cycles, the commercial is mostly a montage of footage of the girls on the show, with a few moments cut in of scripted selling and lip gloss hocking. Sophie goes through her shot with barely a hiccup, in part thanks to her experience in the top two of Britain’s Next Top Model. But Laura, who laughed in the face of bungee jumping off a tower in an evening dress, finally has the pressure get to her.  Her nervous shakes make the photo shoot difficult, but she makes it through. It’s only en route to the commercial filming that she begins to have a full-blown panic attack, shaking and sweating in the backseat of a van that whisks her to the hospital.

When she returns, presumably tranquilized, she looks emotionally wrecked. The next Tyramail reads “Bongiourno Bellissima.” Laura corrects Sophie’s pronunciation, despairingly. “We’re going to Italy,” she sighs in despair. “Oh, that might be fun!” Sophie trills. But of course, it’s only their introduction to the editors of Vogue Italia, who sponsor a “hyper-stylized spa inspired shoot” which mostly means that the ladies are in nude underwear in a sauna. Laura’s cool energy revives—she is a pirate, or something—and she impresses Valentina Serra, who coos, “She shoots like a dancer!”

Then it’s time for the obligatory Tyra heart-to-heart. Her pep talks are always a little bit underhanded. To Sophie, she observes, “Your chin’s a little short and your eyes are too far apart.” Sure, she spins it as a thing that’s good and unique and what the modeling industry needs, but on the eve of a big competition, I’m not sure I would appreciate having the head judge critique my face length.


Perhaps inspired by the Tupac tour [http://www.avclub.com/articles/tupac-is-back-in-hologram-form,72431/], the Forever 21 finale catwalk is a holographic one. That means that the models have to walk in sync with their giant light shadow, and also reenact scenes that look ripped from Wii Games. Somewhere, Cory Arcangel is laughing maniacally or weeping inconsolably. Annaliese, Ebony, Alisha, and Annaliese return to get trussed up in faux fur vests, transparent plastic rain capes, and various other items that will no doubt be in a big box store near you any day now. Even for an America’s Next Top Model runway, the whole thing was discombobulated and downright weird. Laura’s wonkity walk, long the bane of her go-see existence, didn’t seem to give her much trouble.

At the final judging, the comments that Nigel and Kelly Cutrone offered seemed like they had already made their decision long ago, and were just trying to fill up space. “When you look at the camera, I saw too much of you,” Nigel chides Laura. Huh? He also doesn’t like the montage footage in her commercial, which is a bizarre critique since she had basically nothing to do with it. Is Laura just too snarly and crazy? Is Sophie just too bubbly and bright? Will British-American relations stabilize in the wake of this crisis?


Tyra pronounces Sophie the winner, and all the judges do spirit fingers. (I want a gif of that so much.) According to Tyra’s introduction, this cycle of America’s Next Top Model mirrors the relationships of the great nations themselves. First they were foes, and now they are friends. And their cross-pollinated reality shows are as much of an accord as the Treaty of Paris.

Stray observations:

  • Oh, I will miss Ms. Jay! His outfit for watching the catwalk was just superb.
  • It was hard for Kelly Cutrone to say that Sophie was “a little bit Edie Sedgwick after party” and make it sound like a bad thing.
  • How much farther away from high fashion can ANTM go? Next season, they’ll be on a catwalk for Fruit of the Loom.

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