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America's Next Top Model: “Tyson Beckford”

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The end of America's Next Top Model All-Stars is nigh, and if this week's episode is any indication, it will come not with a bang, but a whimper. It's been clear throughout the season that Tyra and the producers weren't entirely sure what an All-Stars event would mean. It's been bigger, I guess, if by bigger you mean less related to modeling than ever before. But whereas, say, Top Chef: All Stars maintained a pretty clear line that the All Star had to be able to beat the other seasons' favored chefs at their own game, the models on All Star have just been haphazardly competing in their own individual games, coming out in the top almost at random. It's not that they're trying to out-model each other; it's that they're trying to out All Star-each other, a very confusing model indeed.


Which led to this, the penultimate episode of the season, which turned out to be something between Dada pastiche and a terrible perfume commercial. I can't believe that I miss the slog of the Covergirl commercials or that frisson of stress that the go-sees provide, but either would have been far better than this installment. First and foremost was the introductory challenge. Apparently, the winner of ANTM this cycle also gets a blog on Vogue Italia, which, if it appeared in actual print, would be presumably used to wrap fried fish with.

Look, I'm a blogger. I like my job. But it is with no false modesty that I tell you that there is a reason there's no America's Next Top Blogger. People typing frantically while eating rinds of cheese they found in the back corner of the fridge is just not going to bring in those ratings. And yet, that was what the ladies had to do: Write a blog post (everyone kept saying to write "a blog" which added to the general confusion and terribleness) about being in Crete, to be judged by Nigel and Vogue Italia impresario Franca Sozzani. That meant everyone had to put on something fancy, drive to a place in Crete, and type up something in three hours. Angelea took the prize thanks to her keen eye for graffiti, but the whole thing was so bland that not even Nigel giving her a set of gold laurels could redeem it. (I did love that Nigel proclaimed Allison's blog, "Peaches & Persephone," "too highfalutin'")

But this is so close to the crown, any number of challenges could have salvaged a lackluster beginning. What if the models had to recreate choice Greek myths or each try to solve the debt crisis? Even handling flaming plates of cheese would have been more fun than what Tyra came up with, a "motion editorial" for her young adult bestseller, Modelland. I confess that I haven't read Modelland, but this is what I gleaned from the challenge: It is a story about Tookie, a well-heeled baby stegosaurus who grows up to be a model that sucks Tyson Beckford's thumb. Apparently Modelland is overrun with glitter cats and "smells like blood oranges," but as to the actual plot of the book, your guess is as good as mine. Tyra chose to shoot everything out of sequence ("just like a real movie") but more or less neglected to clue her waiting audience in on the narrative. Not to mention that this weird ego extravaganza took two days to execute, and that the second part will determine the finale.

Not only was the challenge every film teacher's worst nightmare, but it gave very little chance for the remaining four girls to display their talents in any real way. The scenes each girl was judged on were ludicrous mockeries of any film project. Angelea cried with a toothbrush, Lisa screamed into the camera, Allison rolled around on a wall, and Laura filled her mouth with whipped cream, a scene they then played in reverse and criticized for being too sexy. Tyson Beckford showed up as some lovely eye candy, but he didn't seem to do very much aside from a scene where Tyra Banks, pretending to be an ingenue who knows nothing about kissing, suggestively sucks his thumb. When the judges played the film back at panel, it veered into hilarious 1980s perfume commercial meets someone who knows how to use Instagram. It was astonishingly bad, and this is from a season that saw Tyra Banks try to stage a viral video.


Laura and Allison ended up in the bottom, for little real reason except that Andre Leon Talley is tired of Laura's "hee-haw elegance" and Allison just has to be knocked down a peg every once in a while. I still think Allison will end up winning. Lisa is just too over-the-top, and Angelea is pretty boring when she isn't flying into fits of jealous rage. But I'm not counting on the All Star reveal being anything more than a sigh of relief.

Stray observations:

  • Lisa's neon pants are back, thank God
  • What was with Tyra's outfit? It somehow combined a cloak and a button-down shirt into one garment. It was like what Zorro might wear on formal occasions.
  • Is that the first time we've seen Ken Mok have to step in and break up the judges?

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