It seems unbelievable, but it's taken nine cycles, four years, and one network merger for America's Next Top Model to finally, finally end up on a cruise ship. Shouldn't this have happened 6 cycles ago? How could it have possibly taken this long for the show's producers to realize, "Hey, you know what would be a great cruise ship activity/modelling challenge? An impromptu life-jacket fashion show down a runway flanked by vacationers on lounge chairs on the sun deck of an ocean liner! Get Royal Carribean on the phone!"
Afterall, America's Next Top Model and the cruise ship experience do have a lot in common: both are blatantly, almost proudly cheesy; both feature highly regimented, though exceedingly stupid activities; and both are presided over by campy showboats whose only job is to keep the schedule moving and the fun rolling–your ANTM ship's leisure director, Tyra Banks. And even though Mr. and Ms. Jay gave Tyra a run for her money last night, it's hard to upstage a woman who sings her own version of "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean" while dressed like a background performer in a regional production of Gypsy.
So, yeah. Cycle 9 began on a cruise ship with 33 gangly girls with various colorful afflictions: There's Heather who has Asperger's syndrome and a hunchback. There's Jennifer who is a bartender in Massachusetts (definitely an affliction), and can't see out of her right eye. There's Lisa, who is the world's only exotic dancer who keeps all of her clothes on. There's Mila, who seems to suffer from chronic, terminal cheerfulness. There's Victoria, a long-faced Yale student, who is trying so hard to paint herself as the underdog that she'll probably pull a muscle. And there's Ebony, who is a bitch, but, as revealed by Tyra's instant psychoanalysis, only acts that way because her mother was a crackhead. (As long as she has an excuse…because, as Tyra is quick to remind us, "It's not just about being pretty and taking pretty pictures, it's about being a role model.")
After auditions on the cruise ship (which included the juxtaposition of one contestant saying, "Tyra is so down to earth," while Tyra eagerly pantomimed getting a bikini wax on all fours on the judges' table), and an uneventful photo shoot, the group was whittled down to 20. Then, following an elimination ceremony on a glass-covered pool that would make a perfect evening cruise ship activity, the group was chopped down to 13, including Aspergers Heather, long-faced Victoria, clothed-stripper Lisa, bitch-but-for-a-reason Ebony, and super-happy Mila. I would list all of them here, but as is the case with every ANTM cycle, until you see them argue over the phone, and call out each other on their eating habits (or lack thereof), they kind of all blend together. Still, I'm rooting for Heather.
—Mr. and Ms. Jay's beachwear consists of sleeveless, button-down, black shirts open to their navels.
—The Tyra praise from the contestants upon their first glimpse of their mentor has reached a new, ridiculous level of hyperbole courtesy of Ambreal, "Oooh. Can I just touch the hem of your garment?"
—"When pretty girls have a stanky attitude, that irks me." But that's basically the point of this show, right?
—That "je ne sais quoi" Tyra is always talking about finally has a concrete definition: "Any girl who gives me a simulated kitty cat wax is fine with me!"