'America's Next Top Model' recap: Surf's up?

top-model-Nicole_lRemember the “You’re going to Milan!” rap? That was exciting, once upon a time. Unfortunately for us, those times are long gone, and last night’s big trip-taking episode had to rely on its controversial and weird photo shoot; there’s zero drama among the contestants. I never thought it would come to this, but I yearn for the days of granola-bar fights and “respeito” T-shirts. Tonight, we had to settle for vague immaturity. To the bat cave!

On what appeared to be the way back from elimination — as far as I can tell, they’re in the same outfits from last week — Erin griped about her poor commercial performance, and Brittany confessionalized that Erin is immature: She acts 16 but is actually 18! Pish posh.

Back at Chez Shorty, Tyra(‘s production crew) stuck caution tape everywhere because the girls were so damn messy, but fo reals: Ants in the bathroom?! Messily unpacked suitcase is one thing — even though Tyra claimed that’s where rats like to live, which I don’t think is true, unless they’re taking a huge break from living on the tracks at my subway stop. But food mess? Hairballs? Again, ants in the bathroom? Horses of a different color. Really filthy horses, but definitely of a different color. Anyway, the house is so “contaminated” that, drumroll, they all have to move! To Hawaii! Noted fashion hotspot where real modeling totally, totally occurs!

The ladies were thrilled as anyone would be, and their Hawaiian digs were palatial, though presumably the gorgeous house would be crawling with ants and laundryrats in mere days. Nicole made sure that we all remembered that she’s a little weird by saying, “The beach is something I crave.” Is that weird in and of itself? Maybe not, but her flat affect and unusual vocabulary and syntax choices make her sound like an alien sent here to infiltrate our ranks, observe our ways, and eventually dominate us with strangeness/alarmingly narrow shoulders/perfect curly hair even in humidity, how is that possible?/something else. I mean really, this is exactly what she sounds like. I’m on to you, Bloody Eyeball!

Everyone lounged around, and Brittany complained more about how annoying and loud and immature Erin is. And she definitely seems like those things — plus bleached eyebrows make her seem demonic — but we learned something really, really important in this scene: Erin is the one who knows how to French braid hair. That is some crucial sleepover currency, not unlike being able to get cigarettes in jail (or get cigarettes at a sleep over, really), and we’ve seen a few people sport some cute plaits so far this season, which means despite her whiney immaturity, Erin has done other contestants’ hair for them. I’d stomach a lot of noisiness in exchange for regular hair-doing.

For this week’s challenge, the models had to “tandem” surf with surfer dudes after a quick lesson, which just made me miss that not very good MTV show from years ago, Surf Girls. Memories! Poor Laura continued to sound more and more like Kenneth the Page, noting that she was got sunburned like “a piglet in a skillet.” My Google-fu tells me that’s not a widely used phrase, so hurrah for Laura for coming up with such a bizarre yet catchy way to describe the mighty powers of our planet’s yellow sun. Uncharming Erin won again, and she complained that her prize of a stunning helicopter tour of Maui wasn’t “tangible” enough. “Like whatever, I’d rather win some jewelry,” she said, because she is too young and immature to recognize the Jurassic Parkiness of the whole experience. Immature!

And then it was time for the real challenge: Acting like there’s nothing socially charged at all about race-as-costume! Tyra and Jay explained (sort of) that Hawaii has a history of immigration. “What happens when men and women from different places comes together? Babies! From different cultures!” Tyra squealed. In Hawaii, she said, that’s known as hapa, which she translates as “half,” though others explain differently. And Barack Obama is biracial! Wait, what are we talking about?

top-model-Erin_lThe contestants were each assigned “two very different, distinct races,” as Mr. Jay put it, which completely conflates racial identity with national identity, and those aren’t quite synonymous. There was zero acknowledgment of the fact that race play has an extremely problematic history; there wasn’t even a dismissal of the idea that anyone might be bothered by concept for the shoot. Nope, everything just moved right along. Erin, er, portrayed Tibetan and Egyptian, but the only thing she knew about Tibet was that “it needs to be freed,” so Jay encouraged her to “feel that spirituality.” It became clear both here and at the judging panel that the only thing Tyra knows about Tibet is that the Dalai Lama is from there. Laura’s Greek/Mexican get-up worked out okay thanks to Tyra’s “brutal honesty,” and Nicole marveled that she “really looked exotic.” Jennifer’s Batswana/Polynesian shoot started out a little rough (maybe because Tyra said “Botswanan,” which does not appear to be the correct term), but Jay reminded her that in Botswana, “music is heard everywhere you go.” Brittany’s Native American/Indian shoot was stiff, even though Tyra nudged her to gaze at an imaginary eagle. Because that’s what Native Americans do all day! Stare at eagles! Oh, lord. Sundai did well as Moroccan/Russian and appeared to be the only contestant whose skin was not painted another color.

top-model-Sundai_lAt panel, guest judge supermodel Kristy Hume was barely heard from at all. Jennifer’s shot was praised for looking “almost sort of National Geographic,” according to Nigel. Laura’s shot was way awkward and gave her stumpy legs, but I am apparently the only one who noticed that because the judges liked it. Stumpy legs, you guys! So much for stretching out those petite frames. Erin was deemed “beautifully bored,” Brittany looked a little bit dead in her picture, and Sundai’s impishness played too much “like Gap Kids,” according to Tyra. My bigger concern was that it looked like Sundai wasn’t wearing pants at the judging; she turned out to be wearing very short shorts with a voluminous top, but…that’s not good either. Wear pants, Sundai! Nicole, duh, looked beautiful and did a great job because she’s a good model.

Which is how she came out on top for the week. Jennifer, Laura, and Sundai were safe, and it was down to a battle of the boniest, pastiest ladies left: Erin and Brittany. The lowly mathematician was sent packing, meaning Erin has now had two weird weeks in a row where she won the challenge but bombed the actual shoot. Good thing she can fall back on that French braiding!

Adieu, Brittany. At first I was sad that Erin was sticking around, but then when the goodbye autotune yodel fired up and that montage of shots flew by, it became clear that Brittany just wasn’t very good.

I’ve given up hope that Top Model would recognize that it exists in a real world, where racially-charged fashion spreads raise eyebrows and bother lots of people and are at least worth mentioning. I guess that ship has sailed, so now I’m just going to settle in and root for Bloody Eyeball. You?

Photos: Tyra Banks/Pottle Productions

Comments (56 total) Add your comment
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  • JenR

    Boring season. I just keep repeating “Just give it to Nicole already.”

  • niki

    Agreed. And it seems they really have cut back the spending this season – Tyra as photographer, twice? Hawaii instead of China, Japan, Brazil, etc? Helicopter rides instead of “real” prizes? Nicole winning would be the only redeeming point of this season..

    • queue55

      Agreed! When Tyra made it sound like it was history-making that she was playing photographer twice in one season, I told my daughter money must be getting tight!!!lol

      • jenni


  • Sarah

    Yeah, the girls got the shaft by not getting an international location. Erin really does complain all the time and the eyebrows throw me off big time. I still love Laura and I hope she sticks around!

    • Jen

      I agree. I actually preferred Erin’s photo this week over past weeks because she had some color in her brows!

  • Jade-UK

    Erin in the bottom two again…proves further that she should have gone last week instead of Rae.
    Nicole is my favourite and she should win, if she doesn’t then something really is wrong here. Sundai needs to go..she really is too short to get anywhere and I thinks she’s as plain as day.
    Nicole, Jennifer and Laura in the final 3 please.

    • Sarah

      I am not sure why Sundai is still here – they keep harping on the fact that she is a one-note. I prefer her interpersonally over Erin, but Erin is a better model, I think.

      • niki

        I’m gonna take a risk here and ask if you seriously think Tyra would eliminate the only African-American ‘model’ when there’s still 6 weeks remaining….

      • Sarah

        I had thought about that but wanted to believe that race would not be the only reason to keep someone on this long. Then again, this is Tyra…

      • Phillygirl

        They’ve gotten rid of all the black girls before(cycles 9, 10 and 11 come to mind). Maybe they keep Sundai around because she’s cute. But I agree, she’s not really model material.

  • sandy lewis


    • Nia

      That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard. Almost as dumb as typing in all caps.

      • sandy lewis


    • jenni

      I like that idea, but I don’t think they’ll do it cuz it undermindes their beginning judgement that they weren’t good enough–but Hey I’m with you! People improve and maybe they’d want it more now and have experience!

      • jenni

        sorry, should have proof read, I meant ***undermines***

    • cindy

      I’d rather see all the winners go at it. I mean come on the first top model adrienne going up against eva and naima and the others. I’d watch that. Lets see who’s truly a top model.

      • Kate

        I know. I’ve been hoping for an all-stars cycle! That would be great, to see the girls that are actually talented go head to head. But I do worry that some would be “too old” by now.

    • Kyle

      I think thats a horrible idea.. Surely the very reason why the girls went home first is because they sucked.

      And also, Cycle 1 was like 7 years ago now. I cant for the life of me think who went out first then, but she’s probably fast approaching 30 which as we all know is ancient to Tyra. It just wouldnt work whatsoever!

  • Dana

    Still love Nicole, she is the only good thing about this season. Beautiful girl who can clearly model.

  • Yoja

    Did anyone else notice that all these ‘short’ girls were wearing flats at judging? Shouldn’t Tyra be throwing one of her typical fits about how they need to make themselves taller and instructing them to wear heels at all times?

    • Miranda

      Tyra insisted that they only wear flats this season at judging. I have no idea why!

      • Yoja

        That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Every season, including this one, she has harped on about looking like a model at judging. Well, aren’t heels part of looking like a model for shorter girls?

      • Sloan227

        I really think its because Tyra is only 5’10” – putting her just 3 inches above some of these girls. she’s harping so much about how “short” this group is – she can’t be seen on TV only being marginally taller than some of them! (I took the time to think about it because at 5’7″ myself, I have been getting kind of annoyed at all the short talk. I know this is the modeling industry, but in the real world there is nothing short about any of these girls! How exactly is this helping to change stereotypes?….)

    • Renee

      Yoja – I agree I thought that this whole season.

  • RJP

    It’s Laura….not Lauren

  • redjanitor

    How is Sundai not in the bottom two every week? She’s terrible!

  • kuya

    It might have been racially charged, but they sure looked amazing with the darker skin. Erin especially looked so much better with dark hair than her usual bleached out look.

  • Reecie

    This episode was a little boring and going to Hawaii sure isn’t as exciting as the international locations of the past seasons.

    Normally I would bemoan the whole painting someone’s skin a different color for a photoshoot concept, but it was executed well and the girls looked beautiful.

  • Sowhatnow

    Short my ass. I always wanted to be at least 5’4″ but I finished about 4 inches short of that. I have friends that are 5’7″ and are considered tall. Flats are required to keep us aware that the models are shorter than the industry standard bUt in the real world, many of these girls would be of normal height hence, not special. Just like this season.

  • Meg

    Personally, I found Erin quite entertaining last night. She had great quotes like, “It must be that whole over-thinking thing. It makes my brain frazzled.”

  • pool

    I actually like the shoots where they make the models a different race (they did it in cycle 4 too). I find it interesting.

    I am getting SICK of Sundai. She is not model material. Her pictures are mediocre at best and, let’s face it, at 5’3 she will not have a real modeling career. I think if she still had long hair she would look much better. When I first saw her I thought she looked stunning. Then Tyra chopped all her hair off and she just looks like every other girl out there now.

    And Nicole is my favorite. I really, really hope she wins. She’s the best there. If she doesn’t win, my second choice will be Laura. But if it’s not Nicole, something is wrong with this show.

  • Becky

    The final two will be Laura & Nicole, with Nicole winning.

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