Wednesday, September 14, 2011

America's Next Top Model - The Almost-Stars!

Yikes, has it really been over a month since I last blogged? Shame on me. Anyway, my love for crappy reality TV continues unabated, and Tyra Banks has given me the gift of ANTM: The All-Star Edition. (Excuse me, Cycle.) I think I've watched all but two seasons of ANTM, so I'm hoping to see some favorites return tonight! I have high hopes that this show will be suitably ridiculous, and that some of you will appreciate it with me. So are we ready? Everybody SMIZE!

We open on a teddy bear in a "Smize" t-shirt while plinky music-box chimes play in the background. Tyra is "asleep" and "dreaming" of the ghosts of former ANTM contestants--in this piece, all played by Tyra despite the fact that the actual contestants are here. Name-checked are Camille, Laura, Isis and Allison, and as the dream-models get more frantic, *poof!* the real contestants appear around the bed. Tyra awakes, and the show begins!

But this cycle is not just about modelling, people--it's about Star Power, which none of these contestants truly have or they would already have moved on to fame since their original season. Apparently Star Power means Bigger. We've been promised more judges, more challenges, and more house drama.  (Also booty tooches! Um, yay?)

Time to load up the house with crazy skinny girls! First one to arrive at the All Stars mansion is Angelea, from Cycle 14. In her previous season, she won at asserting her awesomeness, but was a fairly heinous person and got booted about halfway through.  She trots into the house gleefully, once again asserting her awesomeness, and accepts a glass of champagne from a cater waiter. (Girl, don't you know how many calories are in alcohol?) I must point out that although the house has marble columns and a vaguely Tuscan-villa feel, it also features the words "All Stars" spelled out in lights above the living room door. Klassy.

Next up is Laura from Cycle 13, the charmingly dorky country girl with the accent thicker than Grandma's sausage gravy. I adored her on her season, but she was sadly flat in the TV job they tried to give her after her show (she and ?? commented on the next season during commercial breaks, courtesy of some teen acne medicine or something). She looks skinnier, and tells us that she signed with an agency after her season.

Bianca comes in next, and at first I don't remember her at all, because she has masses of curly hair. (She wore it straight in Cycle 9, when she was The Bitch.) She has signed with Ford Models and is prepared to show that she can bring the drama. Um, I think we already know that.

Enter Lisa from Cycle 5! Oh, lordy, this old gray mare will show the whippersnappers what crazy really means. I still remember her as not only one of the original Man-Faces to be cast (now every year Tyra has at least one contestant with, shall we say, handsome features), but as the contestant who got so drunk that she thought it would be a good idea to get dressed up in a diaper and...use it. She tells us that since 2005, she's recorded an album, the last refuge of all reality TV stars. There is no mention of signing with an agency. Just sayin'.  Cut to Bianca, who is concerned about being associated with Lisa (she remembers Diapergate too!).

Now Bre from Cycle 5 arrives. I don't remember her--will need her flashback photos to help me--but first there's a whole kerfuffle because she runs in and shouts, "My sister!" to Bianca, who leaps up and walks away. Huh? Apparently these two became friends after their respective seasons, and actually lived together? But Bre didn't tell Bianca she was going to be on the show too, and Bianca doesn't seem to like surprises. So they start pecking at each other while everyone else looks on in concern until the two say, "This is nothing." (At which point I assume all the other girls go, "Great, so we get to hear this bullshit all season?") And ANTM thinks I remember who Bre is, because we don't get any old photos. Sorry!

Welcome, Brittany from Cycle 4! I'm sure there have been about 17 Brittany/Britney/Brittnies on this show, so the cycle designation is key--this one is the pretty brunette who was doing great until the judges turned on her and declared her too porny for ANTM.  She looks the same, just...older. And a little Olivia Munn-mixed with-Megan Fox.  Moving on!

Dominique from Cycle ? is the next to come in. She still has Man-Face--but one of the other girls says, "Didn't you just have a baby?" and she's all, "Yes, and I named her Bre." (Or Bree? Brie?) There is NO WAY I'd have guessed this woman had a baby--not a scrap of baby weight on her.  She still looks like a drag queen, though.

Sheena from Cycle 11 is the next in the door, and gets just enough airtime to tell us she's done "national commercials, print work, hosting work, runway shows...I can do it all." Good, because I can't remember who you are, and the producers don't want to show me any of your photos.

Sheena's words have barely faded from our ears when Isis trots in the door, delighted to see her fellow Cycle 11 castmate. Isis, of course, was the transgendered contestant (who, judging by the clips we're shown, allowed her surgery to be filmed by the Tyra Show). Her surgery was completed two years ago and she has embraced her sexuality. She doesn't look half as draggy as Dominique.

On to Kayla from Cycle 15, whom no one recognizes--including me! The producers have to explain to us that on her season, she had short red hair, and now I remember. She was the one with the "Run Lola Run" makeover, and was the out lesbian on her season.

Enough of that, say the producers, because we still have to welcome Allison, the Olsen-twin-like girl with the giant anime eyes and freaky love of blood! She's a Cycle 12 contestant, and since her show she's been doing "art internships and freelance art directing." Of course she has. She is wearing a poet's blouse with a little black tie at the neck. She looks like a fucking velvet painting.

Into the Wayback Machine we go to welcome Camille from Cycle 2! She was Queen Bitch of her season, and memorable to this day. Bianca tells us, "Camille and I have such a long history" and notes that Camille hugs everyone in the house except her. Long history? What is Bianca, a time-traveler? How does she know all these people? And why does she hate them all? (One might wonder if the common denominator is the lady herself, if one were a less charitable sort.)

Next is Shannon from Cycle 1 (which Shannon calls "Season 1" like a total amateur--get with the program, girlie, or Tyra will cuss you out and post it on YouTube). At first I stare blankly, but she kindly explains to us that she is known as "The Girl Who Wouldn't Pose Nude." Well, I suppose that's better than being the Girl Who Posed Nude in Contravention of Her Moral Code Only to Lose the Whole Thing Anyway.  She has a very catalog-y girl-next-door look and appears to be in her 30s.

Ooh, speaking of drama, let's welcome Alexandria from Cycle 16! You might remember her as being a heinous bitch, pretty racist, or maybe that's all been blocked out by her truly terrible giant knit beret. Yes, that Alexandria.

And that's our crew, it seems, because it's time for TyraMail! The message (which is now a text slide; Tyra can't be bothered to tape footage for these things any more) tells them to go find a bed. So off they sprint! There's the usual gleeful careening around bedrooms for the choicest spots, but no real squabbles. Cut to the exterior of FameWhore Manor, where a tall, lean gentleman strides toward the door. Oh, wait, never mind--it's Jay Manuel, shot from so low that the perspective has added a foot and a half to his height. He is still wearing his silver hair and orange tan, and resembles an Oompa Loompa fashionista. Jay is here to tell everyone that their first photo shoot starts RIGHT NOW! in their backyard, and introduces us to the photographer, who is a woman wearing a pink feather fascinator on her slightly limp hair.  Their styling is going to be "larger than life versions of your ANTM persona." I shudder to think.

Bianca is already moping because they're adding bright red extensions to her hair. Geez, lady, they'll take them out after--what's your problem? You're lucky they didn't dye your hair platinum blonde until it fell out. Think she's in character? Wow, she looks a lot like Brandi. Her shoot is awkward and stiff and she's not modeling through her face at all. That's enough of her.

Allison is next, working her Kewpie doll looks.  They've given her a bright red Clara Bow mouth, and tons of lashes. Also she's holding a giant lollipop, so this basically looks like kiddie porn. Allison takes the opportunity to remind us that she's "usually behind the camera now, so it takes a while to get back into this." I'm going to wind up hating her in another three weeks, aren't I?

Bre's turn! Still don't remember who she is. I don't really know what her "persona" was supposed to be, and her leather bustier and purple pants don't really help me. She has an "amazing agency" and books top campaigns, but wants to see if she's "still got it." Honey, you've "got it" as long as people are willing to pay for it. If not, you've "lost it."

Whoosh! Dominique goes by in 3 clicks of the camera, without us even seeing her face. Her "persona" is "masculine/feminine." Hope it went well, Man-Face.

On to Camille, who is dressed as Flash Gordon. Well, a bottomless Flash Gordon. Silver spangled leotard that was swiped from Lady Gaga's closet, and just stockings otherwise. She has a lot of forehead going on, but the photographer says "You worked that outfit."

Kayla tells us in an interview that "I already know which one I am, I'm this big gay flag over here." Before any of you take umbrage, we cut to the rack of clothes, and sure enough, there's a huge swath of rainbow fabric. Sorry we doubted you, Kayla. Get some imagination, ANTM producers. The outfit looks ridiculous and she's basically dressed as Rainbow Brite, but she looks pretty in long dark hair and is working it as best she can.

Brittany! Styled like a floozy, of course, on the walk of shame. She owns it, asking Jay for a cocktail so she can take it even further. Brittany tells us she started a "medical spa" after her season. I don't know what that is. But she seems to be having fun.

Laura gets the Dominique treatment--no words, three shots, on we go. She's in Daisy Dukes, carrying a fishing pole. How original.

Out of the way, Laura, it's time for Alexandria! She is apparently doing "Tough Girl" a la Ke$ha, but looks like she smells a little better. She's in a bikini and leather jacket, as one does. She growls at the camera.

Isis totally blows Brittany's "medical spa" out of the water by telling us that since the show ended she's done lots of motivational speaking. She's also happy that she can wear the skimpiest of bikinis now. Her body is better than mine will ever, ever be.

Sheena seems more like a Miss Universe contestant, but her persona is supposed to be "Harlem but not Hoochie." Oh, right--she was another girl with larger breasts who kept being told she looked slutty. (And she lied, but then confessed, about having implants? I think?) Looks like Kim Kardashian here, and says something about carrot cake that I don't understand.

Time for Angelea, doing "Girl from the Hood" in a fur vest, but only for two shots. She looks better there than she has in any of the footage so far, perhaps because she kept her mouth shut.

Lisa's next, in a cute pink bikini, covered in suds as she gleefully jumps into the pool. (How are they going to clean that pool now?)

Cut to Shannon, being asked what she thinks her persona is. (See, in Cycle 1, they were just "pretty girls." They didn't know they had to be "the bitch," "the shy girl," "the hot nerd.") Of course, they're putting her in underwear for her shot! Shannon, to her credit, is not surprised, but equally to her credit, she rejects the skimpy, see-through bottoms they try to give her and asks for something else, because "she doesn't shoot underwear." Fair enough...refusing to go nude is what got you here, so might as well keep at it. Though I think she scruples overmuch when she agrees to wear a bikini bottom, but won't wear the lacy boyshorts over the bikini. She won't wear underwear on the outside, she says.

Jay tries to get her to put on the lacy bottoms, too, and basically makes the same point I did. Shannon is trying to stay polite, but is getting visibly upset as she tells us this is the same thing that happened last time. "I thought I came on here to be me, and I don't like getting pressured." She's right, but of course part of "her" in ANTM land is that she has to dig her heels in about the nudity. Sorry, girl. She tells us as we go to commercial that she doesn't care, and if they can't live with it, she'll go home. Well, will she?

Of course not! At least not in the middle of the shoot. Jay insists in a talking head that Shannon "is still a little confused" because she believes that underwear "is only for her husband to see, even though these bikini bottoms leave less to the imagination." I don't think she's confused at all, Jay--see how she explained her position and stuck to it, and how it was the same position she held when you first knew her ten years ago? That's kind of the opposite of confused, no?

The first photo shoot is a wrap, and the very first panel is going to be live in...some mall space in L.A. (think it's the same one Janice Dickinson's modeling agency was in?). There is a horde of screaming fans shouting for Tyra, who introduces our first guest judge...Nicki Minaj, who dresses more crazily than these women on her way to pick up groceries. Next up is Nigel Barker, who has hair! Wow, he's kind of hot in a "West Side Story" sort of way, but almost unrecognizable at first. Time for the great Andre Leon Talley, clad today in graduation robes and a straw boater. No Miss Jay in sight.

Lisa's first up, and the panel feels a little strange because both judges and contestants are having to shout into microphones to be heard. This recap is already so long that I have to skip over some of this, but I will say that Lisa has elected to wear a tie-dyed wifebeater and a top hat to judging, for she is a self-proclaimed Wild Child. The photo they choose for her isn't that flattering--they've caught her in a full split above the pool, and she's bent forward so her torso is all shortened. Cute smile, though. Nicki calls her out on the hunched shoulders, and that's all we get!

Allison is dressed like a milkmaid. I can only assume they were styled for this, and not choosing their own clothes...but then ALT tells her "this is one of the most original presentations of personal style that I have ever seen," and Allison dissolves into a starstruck puddle, so maybe she did this herself? The judges love her creepy doll photo.

Angelea dances down the runway and greets Nicki joyfully. Nigel reminisces about Angelea doing her "Hammer dance" for him on the cable car shoot. Her photo is pretty great, though--her back is to the camera and she's looking drily over her shoulder with one finger raised and a perfect, "Oh no you di'int" look on her face.

Camille is busting out her "signature walk," which Nigel observes hasn't changed. She says "Thank you, Nigel," but I don't think he meant it as a compliment. In her photo, she's leaning coyly against a column and Nigel likes the softness in the photo.

Dominique is up, and the judges are stunned and complimentary about the fact that she just had her baby two months ago. Hey, I don't really care for Dominique, but mad props to her. She's in kind of the same pose as Camille, but on a palm tree. (In little shorts. Ow.) They think she looks beautifully feminine.

Shannon is introduced next as "the woman who refused to bare it all." She's dressed very Cheryl Tiegs in a black leather jacket and short skirt. They've photoshopped a halo over her head, which looks cheesy, but her pose is good. Not a great face, though--her jaw is so square! Nicki says she thinks Shannon is holding back...and Nicki is talking in an English accent now. Was she before? Is she English? What's going on???

Alexandria's intro clip marks the Return of the Beret! Run while you still can! Alex is demonstrating her "natural swag" in a sheer black top over high-waisted short-shorts. She's getting a lot of boos and someone yells "Fuck you," while someone else shouts "Bitch." She cries in the confessional. The girls backstage look genuinely upset for her. She tries to laugh it off onstage, but you can see she's hurt. Guess she should have been a little less horrible on her season, then.  Nicki starts out with an, "Eccch," which doesn't bode well. Basically, she says Alex is beautiful, but the picture is meh. Nigel agrees. I didn't think it was that bad, though she lost her neck. And I've never particularly liked Alex's photos anyway. Let's move past this unpleasantness, shall we?

Sheena's up, clad in a harem pant jumpsuit that looks vintage (or mock-vintage)? Crazy pattern and shine, anyway. Aha! Tyra compliments the outfit and Sheena says, "Vintage, my love!" and ALT loves it. I feel so smart! But Nicki doesn't like the picture, and says it looks amateurish. She's right. It's like a prom photo where the girl is playing model.

Brittany is introduced and strides out in a black and white animal print minidress, grabbing the mike and screaming, "It's Brittany, biiiiiiitch!" ALT's face just falls. Nicki thinks she nailed "Party Girl" in her pose, but since she's bent over, she overshortened her legs a bit. Tyra praises Nicki's keen eye.

Isis is up next, walking in a little chartreuse sundress and two-foot-long feather earrings. Her photo is bizarre, though--she was on her hands and knees over the pool in the shoot, but they photoshopped away the stool she was kneeling on so that it now looks like she's floating on the water. Nicki is astounded and doesn't seem to realize there was photoshopping.

Bianca's turn, and she's in a lavender frilly skirt that's actually pretty cute. Nigel loves the shot and thinks it almost looks vintage, but ALT says it's too vintage for him, and "almost feels Foxy Brown." Is Foxy Brown vintage now? I think that makes me prehistoric.

Are we not done with girls yet? Oof. It's Bre's turn, and she dressed like she's going to the laundromat--jeans and a white tank. I suspect that's what working models really wear on go-sees, but she looks underdressed compared to the others. Also, it's making her waist look a little thick. Nicki misses Bre's long hair, and wishes that she wouldn't wear it curly if she's going to keep it short. (Says the woman wearing a platinum blond wig.) ALT hates the pose and thinks it's a cliche.

Kayla comes out in a little gray romper and explains that she was portraying "a Supergay." ALT likes the pose, except for Kayla's clenched fist, which looks a little stubby. Nicki "likes the dress, love the shoes, the legs look sexy...I don't love anything else about it." Oof.

Laura the "Country Cutie" is up next, wearing an unexceptional minidress. Her hair is shaggy and awful here. Oops...I'm dissing Laura's grandma--Wanda Sue made the dress. Laura offers to have one made for Nicki, who says, "Wanda Sue, if you're listening, holla at the kid." I would love it if Nicki shows up to next year's MTV Awards in a dress by Wanda Sue. ALT loves the photo and says she "takes Hee Haw and makes it high fashion." It is adorable--she's "fishing" by the hot tub with her feet, in sky-high heels, propped up on the edge.

That's everybody! Who will be going home tonight? Tyra begins her "14 beautiful ladies stand before me..." speech, but tells us it's not just about beauty but personality this season. The winner will be determined by "how you work this crowd, how the crowd responded to you, and the potential that we think you have to be America's Next Top Model." Well, almost-top. America's Next Midrange Model? Alexandria is sweating it because of the fan element--she's worried that the fact that people hate her will send her home. However, I'm pretty sure the fact that people hate her is what got her invited back, so she probably has nothing to worry about.

Time for the judges to confer! I can't go one by one, my fingers are exhausted. Overall gist is: Allison is the audience favorite, Brittany didn't get a single comment, positive or negative (uh-oh), Camille is so wrong she's right, Isis is cool and admirable, Bre was blah in the photo but great in person. And the judges have made a decision!

First to be called is...Isis! Then Allison, Camille, Lisa, Angelea, Laura, Bre, Bianca, Shannon, Dominique, Sheena, and Kayla. Our first bottom two is Brittany and Alexandria. No way they're ditching Alex this early. Unmemorable is a far bigger sin than polarizing. Sorry, Brit-brit, your'e going home. Good luck with your medical spa.

The group photo this year is a weird composite of all their backyard outfits, but staged in a kiddie pool. Brittany is "disappeared," and we're out! Keep smizing, everybody!

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