First off, no, this is not a joke: America’s Next Top Model really is still on the air. You haven’t been watching because Tyra has been ruining it hard by obsessing over social media and her #brand, which as of last season mostly involves sticking random syllables around the word “tooch.”
However, at its core, ANTM once had a genius premise: Find a bunch of pretty people and torment them with medium-humiliating made-up challenges. Admit it: That white-hot core of televised insanity is the freaking best.
And so we persevere, hoping against hope that we will drop the model-oriented YA novels and the Nooch Tooching and go back to making people pose naked in Jell-O with eels suspended in it as the universe always intended.
One thing I don’t think we’ll be dropping, though, is the boys vs girls premise, partly because it allows for stupid pretend Battle of the Sexes smack talk if there’s nothing else going on this week, but mostly because – I don’t know if you’d noticed, because the ANTM team is real quiet about it – there is an increased chance that some of the models will have sex with each other.
I prefer the classic all-girls seasons because I am a sentimentalist, but OK, fine, progress, whatever. Rosie the Riveter, meet Seymore the Stomper.
So! We start off and Tyra is at the Disney Center! She’s sporting a Claire Underwood haircut and none of us can blame her one bit for it. But soft!
She’s announcing that this is the runway show for the final two and everything has already happened and this whole cycle is a flashback!
Is your mind blown, America?!
Well, scoop it back into your cranium, because we have another bazillion Episode One hopefuls to deal with. I certainly hope some of here are Not Here to Make Friends.
We see glimpses of the kazillion people who sent pics and videos to Tyra. And – a scant one minute in this cycle – Tyra is already doing that thing where she seems to be trying to pander to all of “social media” at once.
This time, she’s making a point of how what with social media, they no longer have to worry about how models are usually tall for some reason. So either it’s a revolution or the producers are maybe having to, uh, cast a wider net to get contestants. No, one of the contestants informs me that everyone in America probably signed up. I stand corrected.
And so 31 hopefuls come to L.A.! Already that underwear shot that got shown on national television was worth it!
Tyra tells us that there will be special guests – Why the hell are the Property Brothers going to be here? – including “fiercely real” past winner Whitney Thompson. Jesus, producers. Just one of you, just once, take six hours and explain to Tyra how condescending it is. I’m not saying she’ll hear you. I’m just asking you to try.
As you know, there will be prizes and only one model can be on top. But also Tyra says this will be one of the most shocking cycles in Top Model history. You guys, I think this is the season in which Tyra breaks down why she has forsaken mainstream Christianity for the heretical ideas of the Cathars! Should be a hell of a ride.
Just the guys come out first and Dustin predicts best season EVER, no doubt because of that Cathar thing.
Mikey says he has a lot of experience and we see a photo of him posing with a unicorn head in his lap. Or maybe with a horse head in his lap and a massive boner that spirals pretty hard to the left.
Mikey says he has lots of modeling experience, which makes no damned sense. Mold some fresh clay, Tyra! This guy might already know how to stick his butt out.
Mikey watches one of the guys moving his hands around and, after some puzzling, realizes that he is deaf. Nyle explains to us that he’s deaf and speaks in ASL and reads lips and has an interpreter, Ramon. Let’s take a moment to curl our toes with delighted yet pitying glee at the stupid model fights in which Ramon will be forced to participate.
Nyle and Ramon are both adorable.
And hey! This season’s Cocky Guy announces himself. Bryant says he can get any girl he wants and has a prodigious amount of game and girls love his confidence. Oh, Bryant, do I have a party I’d like to bring you to. No one tell him, ladies.
Yu Tsai is back as the creative consultant and he seems to still be kind of a dick. Did the producers turn him and Jay Manuel into monsters, or is it just the job? Yu Tsai started out as guy-who-knows-what-he’s-doing, but then things took a turn when he started openly insulting the models to seem sassy and fun. And when he got called on it, he would swing straight into that self-righteous thing where they claim that this is how the industry works and young models should just take lots of uncalled-for crap and never speak up about it. You know, in case you were wondering how Terry Richardson still has a career. Thanks again for empowering young women, Tyra!
Also: looks like someone really expected to hammering home that short models theme – there’s a height chart on the side of the ANTM bus.
Justin wants Yu Tsai to be hard on him to get the best out of him. None of the clips of Yu Tsai show him giving anything even close to useful direction, so awesome. Yu Tsai announces that they’ll be taking a tour of Hollywood on top of a double-decker bus as the hopefuls model swimwear. New arrivals to Hollywood: This is the only time such a proposal has ever been a legit offer.
Yu Tsai fake checks the guys in so Bryant can tell us how intimidating and awesome he is and dear god, he already sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher to me. Devin tells us he’s goofy and already signed to six agencies (Dammit, Tyra!), but isn’t getting used much.
Justin – yes, there is a Dustin and also a Justin because Tyra wants to challenge us – says he’s a healthy young man and where are the girls at?
And then the girls all pop out of the exact same building the guys popped out of so everybody can woot at them and pretend they didn’t just all see each other during one million takes.
Justin and Mamé both announce their intention to flirt, but Mamé says she intends to be good. Lacey announces that she is a virgin from a small town in Arkansas and very inexperienced with men. Fifteen relieved producers check off that box on their forms.
Yu Tsai asks the guys to hoot at the girls because it’s too hard to think about the fake Girl Power of past seasons when boys are around. Ashley announces herself as the Independent Girl, which means she’s going to get called a cold bitch at some point this season and will be forced to cry in front of Tyra if she wants to make it through.
You have a tough row to hoe, Ashley. I feel for you.
So they’re all on the double-decker bus and then they shoot swimsuit pictures on it and I know it’s Top Model and I’m trying to relax into it but THIS MAKES NO SENSE.
Dustin calls himself a farmboy and has lots of abs. He’s a wrestler and likes to flirt with girls.
Yu Tsai immediately tries to insult Alexa by implying she looks too Las Vegas (I guess he means like a stripper?), but he’s terrible at it and Alexa is refusing to believe that a stranger would be that big a scrotal sack to her that early on, so the insult keeps not taking and he has to re-phrase it like three times. Seriously, Yu Tsai: Maybe time to re-evaluate your life?
Stefano calls himself a ladies’ man, but he does not care for women who have gained big boobs through plastic surgery. The editors classily intercut his interview with Alexa posing in her swimsuit. One of the other girls asks Alexa if she should get a boob job and Alexa gives her an enthusiastic yes, as does another of the women, Hadassah. Just in case you’re wondering who’ll be getting slut-shamed this cycle.
Swimsuits! Bus! Swimsuits! Bus!
Bello says he’s the guy who’s risking everything to be here, and has spent everything he had to be here. This always works out well.
Yu Tsai announces that all the models will be given phones that are such amazing selfie cameras. The models try them out as Satan rises up and whispers yessss.
Courtney, a little rough around the edges, says she’s only taken pictures of herself and hasn’t posed before. Yu Tsai immediately insults her instead of giving practical direction. Also: He’s still really bad at it and has to explain his insults. Whose delightful personality strategy is this?
Nyle makes the reasonable point that maybe we shouldn’t be crazy surprised that a handsome deaf person thinks he can pose for pictures? I feel like Nyle will be doing a lot of patient explaining over the next several weeks. (“You eat food? You walk? You sleep?)
Devin has a weird energy when he poses. Bello, Devin’s direct competition in having the weirdest energy, says Devin is very strange looking and he doesn’t like it. OK, if what I think is happening is happening, it’s a little slice of genius: Finding two guys who are very similar kinds of crazy and setting them against each other is going to be magic.
Mikey blah blah loves women hair blah. I guess male models feel an extra need to let people know they’re not gay? The ANTM bus drives down Hollywood Boulevard, just right in everyone’s goddamned way. You can actually feel people’s commutes getting ruined.
We pull up right at Tourist Central, Hollwood and Highland. Aww – someone has shooed away all the fake/terrifying superheros and Jack Sparrows for this shoot. The bus pulls up to screaming “fans” with posterboard signs, which looks like pretty much the best day of extra work ever.
You guys, you’ll never guess what’s there: A runway! No, wait, it’s a red carpet! But they’re calling it a runway! Let’s pretend those are the same thing!
Yu Tsai, who we’re pretending can emcee now, announces your favorites. There’s “PR Maven Kelly “Cutthroat” Cutrone, who I guess has just decided to go full-on Team Evil this season. What’s the deal now – they all constantly snark on the models so Tyra can look nice? Is that it?
Miss J. Alexander is also back and we get to see her walk the carpet. Once again, I say a silent prayer that this is the year we have learned the lesson that Miss J. is wonderful when we USE HER SPARINGLY. That is a hell of a walk, though.
And then we announce Tyra and she walks out among two separate groups of people who have been instructed to cheer for her.
The models have to give interviews about how much they love Tyra and her haircut and her skin. One woman calls her face a “buttery canvas.” To be fair, though – the new hairdo is legit great. Tyra brings up the SHATTERING of the height requirement again.
Tyra looks directly at the camera and tells us “Don’t let anyone. Ever. Get in the way of your dreams.”
Well. Tyra has spoken. Looks like I have murders to commit.
As the models start to walk the runcarpet in pairs, fake fans with signs jump into their paths to cheer them on and impede them. Some of the models have fan signs and some are “protesting” the height requirement. Which makes no goddamned sense because Tyra just SHATTERED it. Throw down your signs and weep for joy! Your issue is resolved! You’ve won! Aw, you guys – remember when Twiggy had to explain to that one model that fur doesn’t come from animals that died peacefully in their sleep in the woods?
Mikey handles his walk fine in spite of the “protestors” and a purple Speedo. One of the guys on Mikey’s run is not so much protesting as clearly shouting “I’m rooting for you!” I’m guessing the production assistants got some conflicting instructions about what everyone was supposed to be doing? Mikey says he realizes that this was a challenge being thrown at them. Mikey explains his thought processes very carefully. I’m growing fond of him.
Bryant is not worried about his height on the runway because douche douche douche de douchitty douche douche. He’s not afraid to look good. As so many of us are.
P.R. Maven Kelly Cutrone has an early favorite: She says Delanie looks like Helena Christensen.
Devin says his strength is “editorial, fashion,” but he moves like an Imperial walker with sand in its shorts and he gets focused on getting the hell out of there, leaving Mamé behind on the runway.
Miss J. And Kelly are scandalized.
Miguel is gay and ex-military and holy biscuits, was a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist. So evidently Miguel is here to relax. And if you’re thinking that we keep hearing from the men and not the women, you’re correct. What the hell?
Dallas gives a pec twitch at the end of the runway. Oh, dear.
Mikey doesn’t like Bello, which it turns out is pronounced either BAY-o or BAYZH-o. The models won’t stick to a consistent usage. Get used to people not liking Bello so much.
Devin worries about screwing up the competition and losing modeling respect. He feels pressured!
Aw, yeah, it’s time for some interviews.
Lacey is 18, from Arkansas! She does have a little modeling experience; just none with men. They love her pose, but first she must suffer in front of the judges and talk about her parents’ divorce. Her pic is only OK. Also, she lost 35 pounds, so she’s got that challenge to fall back on if she needs stories of strength.
Nyle is sweet, and Tyra says he’s fine (the hot kind of fine, not the you-are-perfectly-acceptable kind). But she also asks him to tantalize the eyes. She says he smiles too much and is thus unsexy. Because why would you like someone who’s open and friendly? Ick. She makes him sign his own name sexier. Oy. Nyle looks good in a swimsuit; after he leaves, the judges call him goofy. Charming.
Tyra shows off her French and talks about Mamé’s life as the daughter of a diplomat, and then we learn that she had to go live with relatives in the U.S. to avoid constantly being uprooted. So SHE. IS. INDEPENDENT. And is the current Miss Maryland USA.
Bello, in the holding room, has a crown on and also some flowy white garments. Bored models are passing the crown around and trying it on and two of them (Looks like Dallas and someone?) break it during a pass. Bello is angry at the loss of his crown and says it’s hella disrespectful demands $200 for it, which is a little steep for molded plastic.
Bello says everybody loves an honest person until they meet and honest person. Bello says everybody loves him… Until he tells them how he feels about them. Oh, dear, Bello is the person who’s an asshole all the time and you’re supposed to love him but never ever say even the tiniest critical thing back. So we already know he’s going to make it in and this is going to be a long season for his roommates.
Bello is hella weird in his interview, walking in in a crown and gown and talking about how this is his substitute graduation march.
I’m concerned that we may have tossed strong, eccentric personalities out the window and crossed the line into light mental illness.
Mikey says his hair is a unicorn and he has the best hair here. He comes in with swagger. Tyra says Mikey seems like he doesn’t pay bills, which is quite the how-do-you-do remark, but of course she’s just trolling Mikey into talking about his hard life. He had a job when he was eight years old, his mom worked two jobs, he’s one of the first people in his family to graduate from high school, and he’s one of the only men in his family who has not gone to prison. Damn. It’s almost like there’s some sort of cycle to poverty that it’s really hard to break out of. Props to Mikey for doing it.
Mikey says his own picture is amazing, but we’re giving him a pass because of that last paragraph.
Courtney is the woman we met earlier who had only taken her own picture. She brings a drawing of Tyra that is… A drawing on paper. She’s dressed like a cartoon hillbilly, but she calls herself a “tablet model” with all her selfie-ing, so it sounds like she maybe has a little more access to the Big Wide World than she likes to let on. The judges deem her swimsuit photo “sick.” Kelly points out that Courtney is such a “freak” that she can break the rules and it can all work.
Hadassah is another pageant girl and demonstrates the difference between a pageant walk and a model walk in the holding room. Hadassah says she’ll win because everyone is going to want to be her friend, and then she’ll use that to manipulate the competition just like she does in beauty pageants.
People. PEOPLE. This is not a drill! We may have some genius happening here. That’s two pageant girls and two dudes with weird energy and who seem to be proudly difficult to be around. I think the producers may have pulled off the fabled Reverse-Ark maneuver: They are pairing off as many contestants as possible with an exact counterpart whom they will loathe.
Oh, sweet Narcissus, let them actually be doing this. I will order a season’s worth of snacks and a Slanket immediately.
However, Hadassah is beautiful and pageant and has breast implants, so she must be shamed. The judges, all of them, tell her she looks like she’s taking her picture on a public toilet.
Bello trolls the room, asking everyone to name two people who are going home tonight. Nyle says “I don’t want to break your heart like somebody broke your crown,” and even Bello is delighted at the sick burn.
Stefano (Cocky douche number two! It’s really happening!!!) says that Hadassah and Delanie are beautiful, but Alexa needs to go home because of her boob job. What is your damage, Stefano? Bryant, the other douche, says “Big tits don’t make a model,” and then laughs at his own delightfully impertinent wit. I can’t figure out where all this is coming from; most likely Stefano and Bryant have accurately deduced that Alexa is never, ever going to sleep with them. Alexa says something back that is entirely bleeped out, so I’m guessing it’s along those lines.
Alexa is crying. Stefano says Alexa seems like a young girl who’s had some work done and he doesn’t respect her. Hell of a catch, that Stefano. I hope he has job interviews coming up.
Alexa walks in for her interview and Miss J, obviously having been prompted, hisses “Vegas” at her. Alexa says she suffered from anorexia and depression from being cruelly bullied during high school, so it’s extra super nice that someone thought the judges should pile on. They almost love her shot, just not the angle of her head. At least they have enough shame to back off the Lord of the Flies routine.
Stefano wrote a terrible “reggae rap” and brought a guitar and holy mother of everything, is he ever a cockbottle.
He says religion is the root of all evil no matter what you believe in. Thanks, Stefano. Way to be an ambassador for your beliefs.
Dustin thinks Devin is very loud. Oh, Dustin, you don’t know the half of it. Where the hell is that Slanket?
Tyra calls Devin odd. He agrees and says clients don’t know what do do with him even though he’s signed in six cities. Tyra found Devin on Instagram and apparently was not aware of the nutso energy he would bring. He and Bello already hate each other more than the Hatfields and the McCoys.
Dustin flips in. He is wholesome and a wrestler. Tyra asks to feel his cauliflower ear. Then she starts harassing him by saying over again that something is too long on his body. What’s too long on his body? What’s too long? Tyra keeps saying it until everyone in the world, living and dead, knows she’s making penis innuendo, but (Spoiler!) it’s his neck.
Ashley wants to be here so very badly. We go right to her struggles of her family living in a shelter for a few years. Tyra, an inhuman monster from beyond space and time, then says “Then there were more tragedies that happened,” forcing Ashley to talk about her molestation on camera if she wants to move forward on the show. For chrissakes, show.
Ashley says she’s really protective of her little sister, which, yeah. Totally get that.
Bryant says he’s the hottest guy who’s ever been on ANTM and has so many followers in Instagram and it’s orgasmic and better than sex when he has his picture taken. Good lord, can we just skip to the part where he and Stefano get drunk and start punching each other?
Raquel does a weird Harry Potter thing and tries to cast a patronus spell like she thinks the wand might work.
She’s not getting in.
Jake says he gets along with everyone except for typical models who see themselves as being better than other people because they’re beautiful, and that beauty isn’t earned.
Miss J. responds, and I am rewinding here to make sure it’s accurate,
“But also too, just remember, sometimes it’s all hearsay. And sometimes hearsay can start wars.”
Jake, wise beyond his years, just looks at Miss J completely stone-faced and says “That’s very true” even though no one knows what on earth that means. Nevertheless, we’ve barely seen Jake. He’s not getting in.
Maleesa is the shortest person in the competition. She has good bone structure!
Delanie was bullied for her weight her whole life and then she lost 40 pounds and swanned out between 7th and 8th grade. She and Tyra agree that the bullying was a blessing because she can now relate to everyone.
Justin looks like a model immediately to Tyra. He says he’s soulful, smooth, and comfortable. Fine. No, the other kind of fine. He loves modeling, but his immigrant parents are not crazy about the modeling thing.
Oh god oh god Ava is wearing full-sized Gerber daisy earrings and says she’s is a really cool Christian flower child and a lover of life.
She says her motto is “keep your legs closed and your Bible open.” (Yes! Virgin number two! They’re trying to shoot the moon with the Reverse Ark! Also bonus points for the inevitable rum-fueled argument over religion that she’ll be having/screaming with Stefano.) Ava is homeschooled, and given the crazy mileage they got out of the last homeschooled girl, can you blame them?
Time to go to the Model House! God, do the people who rent these houses out know what’s happening? I’d hate to think they just thought it was going to be rented out for frat parties and ritual slaughters.
The models are told that they’re getting a pool party. No, no. IT’S NEVER A PARTY. (Also it’s not a pool. This is all a pack of lies.) This is where they found out if they made the cut.
Raquel thinks her height advantage will help her make it in. Go ahead and assess the odds on that for yourself.
There are 22 balls in the foam pit containing the names of the models who have made it and they have to go diving into the foam to find them. Yasss. This is how we do it, show!
So the rule is either you’re fondling a ball, or you’re not modeling. Sounds like quite the nod to fashion industry tradition. So who gets in?! We see:
Justin (Team Rhyme!)
Hadassah (Team Pageant!)
Dustin (Team Rhyme!)
Lacey (Team Virgin!)
Stefano (Team Douche!)
Devin (Team Difficult!)
Bello (Team Difficult!)
Bryant (Team Douche!)
And that is not 22 people, no matter how many times I count it. Are there still people lost in the foam? Well, I guess we’ll get some clarity next week.
Jake takes his loss gracefully. Raquel, less so. She says she’s not conceited or anything, but this doesn’t feel right. It’s sort of like the end of Best in Show.
Mamé warns all men that a girl is winning this cycle and then they all chant “22” and make that dumb double-two hand gesture.
Next week: Seriously, WTF are the Property Brothers here, a nudie photo shoot, and yes, Bello and Devin are already fighting.
You guys, I didn’t think I’d be saying this, but I cannot wait.