Ty-Ty! What happened to modeling being the most difficult profession on earth? In previous seasons of America's Next Top Model, the girls were "jammed" into a "small" (i.e. decent-sized) New York apartment and told that this is how models live, get used to it honeys! Suffer through sharing a bathroom! And last season the girls were dropped off in Downtown L.A. after being freaked out by Skid Row and some hairy biker types who owned the shop at the front of their luxury loft, but at least there was the illusion of model-hardship. This season, the girls got driven around Beverly Hills by a harmlessly lecherous Robin Leach, then gently deposited in front of their Bel Air mansion? Say what? They should at least have had to sleep with The Leach. Where's the pain?
To add insult to injury (the injury being that done to the integrity of the modeling profession), the first photo shoot ended up being "flying in a safe harness, wearing hair extensions and superhero gear" instead of "being stuck atop a Manhattan high-rise in a bikini in the dead of winter"? Tyra used to lecture the incoming contestants about the perils of modeling, about how they must prepare themselves for a career path so tough that they might want to turn around pronto and join the army instead, cushy by comparison. But this season all we got was therapist-Tyra, counseling girls from atop plush easy chairs, a Tyra that doled out hugs and let her top models go shopping for Top Ramen at the market.
I figured it out, though. Tyra can no longer present modeling as the Most Difficult Job On Earth because there is something that's usurped its place. And that's the job of Being Tyra Banks. Now that she has her afternoon talk show, Tyra wants the nation to know that the life of Ty-Ty is the most harrowing one imaginable. For one, she has cellulite, ladies! And, listen, she didn't really want it to have to come to this...but she has to show her cheese to her audience in order to alleviate longstanding personal pain through confession. But that's nothing. Because probably the number one reason why it is so difficult being Tyra Banks is because everyone talks about how you have breast implants, and you don't. You don't! And no one will believe you. So on your new show you have to bring in Dr. Ex-Mr.-Brooke-Burke to feel your ta-ta's on air, then x-ray them, which seems a little ass-backward because he probably could have just x-rayed first and gotten results without going to first base, but the world of Ty-Ty's ta-ta's is complicated, y'all. Even though the doctor announces to the studio audience and viewers at home that indeed, Tyra Bank's breastesses are real, this is just the tip of the Being Tyra Banks iceberg, and there are so many more battles to fight, so many miles to go before you sleep.
Whoever didn't want to pay Janice Dickenson her demanded salary and/or coke lines should be fired immediately. While sometimes Tyra gets pissed off enough to yell at a be-weaved contestant for not caring enough about the modeling industry, Janice was the stalwart judge, the one who you could count on to tell a perfectly beautiful girl that she was so ugly she couldn't even be looked at. This season Tyra has hired Twiggy in Janice's place, and the sad thing is that Twiggy is wholly useless. She's a cross between Olivia Newton John and every mom from elementary school that ever baked me cookies when I came over. Twiggy laughs indiscriminately at everything Tyra says, and trust me when I say that it is a rare episode that Tyra says something even minimally amusing. Twiggy thinks everyone is beautiful! Twiggy thinks everyone has potential! Twiggy doesn't have a bad thing to say about anyone, not even the anti-Twiggy plus-sized girl to whom Twiggy could say, "They called me Twiggy. Perhaps we'll call you Biggy? Bloody good, yes?" The ideal judge for this competition is really Naomi Campbell, who would inevitably end up clawing one of the contestant's faces, dashing the girl's modeling and competition hopes in one fell swoop, but this is simply an impossible dream because the only thing Tyra hates more than being accused of having fake boobies is Naomi Campbell.
The "theme" of this season is Bling, which is a presumptuous promise to make to the contestants judging from the careers paths of past Top Model Winners. Adrianne's over on VH1 trying to get Bobby Brady to marry her, and if he won't marry her, then just spank her. Yoanna is over on The Look For Less showing college chicks how they can replicate a Gucci original by pulling together pieces from Wal-Mart. Eva is counting the days until she's out of her Cover Girl contract and can finally say, "Yes, I'm a lesbian and I'm doing Missy Misdemeanor!" And Naima is so unbelievably boring that I was already almost falling asleep while watching this year's Emmy's, and then, when she appeared on stage, I just totally blacked out.
Who are my favorites of this year's crop? Definitely not the girls who are going to win, as I've learned that with the exception of beloved Adrianne, Tyra favors sucky, milquetoast winners. (And on a side note, what happened to yelling at the girls under 5'8 that they have to overcome their pathetic, disgusting shortness? This season almost every single girl is 5'7 or 5'8, and no one's saying boo?)
I can't help loving Cassandra, the Texan self-admitted non-violent sociopath. How can you not adore a girl who tells another contestant that she's just like a murderer who takes life without thought or regret, except she hasn't killed anyone yet? And yes, while Cassandra is slightly classist, racist, and homophobic, she's so endearingly unaware of the implications of her condescending statements that I can't help but find her refreshing. She's a pretty, pretty princess looking down at the world from her pretty, pretty castle. It has also occurred to me that maybe I just have a strange fetish for gentile accoutrements-- for instance, when younger I drew Christmas lights and trees on big sheets of butcher paper and taped them to my closet door mid-Hanukah-- but I love how alien her look and world is to me. That tiny, upturned nose. That complete lack of neuroses. Texas. I'm riveted.
I also love Kim, adorable Show Lesbian, who reminds me of my big, androgynous girl-crush over on The L Word, Katherine Moennig. If Tyra actually wanted to pick someone who has a look that will have an impact on the modeling world, then this would be her girl. She's the face of the mid-2000's. And her awkward, totally butch runway walk? The strut of the decade. I'm serious. What I also like about Kim is that she good-humoredly accepted the open-mouth kiss of impressively insecure contestant, Sarah, who, after tripping on the runway, went insta-gay in order to validate her attractiveness to the only girl in the limo who might find her sexually appealing.
Oh, and I also like Nik, but maybe only because her upper lip almost touches her nose when she smiles and I've been brainwashed by Julia Robert's "mega-watt" grin. I'll wait to see how I really feel about her after next week's "makeover" episode.