Last night, Tyra Banks fluttered her lash extensions on the edge of the abyss and a great cold wind rippled across the globe, ripping up trees, sweeping the deserts into furious sandstorms, and causing at least one tidal wave. But on the bright side: America's Next Top Model is back. Cycle/Season 12 is fresh off the Bankable Productions conveyor belt and as ready as it will ever be for public consumption.
Next Cycle/Season is supposed to be the "short" season, meaning only girls 5'7" and under will be allowed to audition for one of the coveted spots as America's Next Top Cover Girl Lash Blaster. It's an interesting development because by only auditioning "short" girls, it seems Tyra has essentially dropped all pretense of ANTM being a modeling competition. Working models are giant, occasionally pretty freaks. A girl who's 5'4" is going to have a hard time finding modeling work that doesn't include the words "J.Crew Petites," "Boat Show," or "J.Crew Petites Boat Show."
But that's next Cycle/Season. This Cycle/Season has all the many kinds of pretenses you've come to expect from ANTM, including the pretense of logic. Witness Tyra's stunning reasoning for holding the casting special in Las Vegas: "Welcome to America's Next Top Model Cycle 12. Reverse those numbers and what do you get? 21, Top Model's lucky number. So we're going to Vegas, baby!" Sure, Tyra, sure. But aren't you forgetting to divide the reversed number by 3, multiply that number by 7, and then add those numbers together? How else are you going to know how many children you are going to have?
So, yeah. If last cycle/season's semi-finals episode was a campy, sci-fi, blue bodysuit affair, this one is a Vegas numerology goddess parade. "Sin city? Un-uh," Tyra intones, wagging her finger with such ferocity an entire village in Venezuela was wiped out by a tornado. "Induuuuulgent city." Who wants to tell Tyra those two phrases mean pretty much the same thing? Anyone?
From there, Tyra firmly latched on to the "Caesar's" part of Caesar's Palace, complete with armies of Roman soldiers, a goddess "walking on clouds" fog-covered runway interlude (they'll do anything to make those girls fall), and, of course, Tyra's "Goddess Of Fierce" entrance. As she stood on the plexiglass pool bridge dressed like a Vegas drag queen doing Tina Turner in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, she yelled, "I have been the goddess of fierce for 2752.7 years!" Three months and several earthquakes in Eurasia later she finished the thought, "And I. AM. TIRED." You don't say, Tyra.
Following the requisite, "Tell me what your weirdness is," casting session, Tyra and the Jays whittled the model pool down to 21, then 13 girls who would go on to live in an Upper East Side townhouse in the through-Tyra's-looking-glass version of Gossip Girl. Because, as the contestant with the sad pen collection keenly observed, "Tyra is serious. She knows a gimmick when she sees one," nearly all of the 13 chosen ones had gimmicks heretofore unseen on ANTM. There's Aminat who is 6'1" with a 4 inch fro; not to be confused with Fo the "blaxican" (Congrats! That word got you on the show); Celia who is 25 and therefore ancient; Tahlia the burn victim; Sandra the bitchy African (okay, we've seen that gimmick before); London who wears necklaces on her head in an effort to get a better reception when she's talking to Jesus; Teyona, she of the pulled, windswept face; Allison, who has the eyes of a lemur and an avid interest in hemophilia; Isabella the epileptic; and Kortnie, whose terrible mispelled name felt like a finger poking my brain whenever it flashed on screen, and who also dated Dale Ernhardt Jr one time. The gimmick-free girls were Nijah and Jessica, who tried to make gimmicks out of being prom queen and being Puerto Rican, respectively, and Natalie, who didn't even try.
After making the girls go to the top of the Empire State Building to get the key to their house, and after an impromptu good girl/bad girl fashion show where Epileptic Isabella worries about the strobe lights, the girls report to their first photo shoot: playground games. Even though Mr. Jay is dressed like a Power Ranger, the girls have to dress up like preppy schoolgirls and play games because "girls today growing up too fast" is an issue close to Tyra's talk show. I mean, her heart. (What? You don't see the connection?) Basically they re-enact the Limited Too catalog from 1990. At judging, Tyra gushes (not blood) over Lemur Allison, but she doesn't appreciate Sandra's half-a-runway walk and Isabella's blandness. In the end, Isabella is sent home, ostensibly because she doesn't know how to model, but really because they had already gotten as much mileage out of the epilepsy thing as they were ever going to.
—Tyra to Kortnie: "Now you got your own thing. You don't need no man." Yeah. You just need to bring up your relationship with him in order to get on the show.
—How fake is London's "street preacher" story? At least as fake as her name. "Hey guys. Any of you know who Jesus Christ is?" That's the best she could come up with?
—The initial scream response from the girls when they first saw "The Goddess Of Fierce" could have been a little longer, right, Tyra? It was only about 30 solid seconds or so. Next cycle/season.
—"You gotta get creative with the creative." You do?
—I've never been jealous of an ANTM house, but the UES townhouse is pretty nice. Even the interior isn't so bad, though it does kind of resemble a museum cafe in Stockholm.
—Early likes: Lemur Allison, Celia (though if she mentions her age one more time, it's over), Teyona
—Early hatreds: Sandra, Kortnie