'America's Next Top Model' recap: And the winner is...

It’s the dawn of a new era, Model fans, not just an era of petite-ness, though for the record, previous winner Eva is only 5’6 and change, but an era of — dare I write it? — lucidity, credibility or seeming relevance? It was Bloody Eyeball versus the Bull Castrator, and to the episode’s credit, it had me believing there was almost a credible contest. But we all knew what would happen tonight, and the best part was that it actually did.

Most of the time, the finale of ANTM has three women pitted against one another, and surely that makes for better television — more drama, more confessionals, just more of everything. But if we’re going twosies, Nicole and Laura did at least present us with opposing options: The really good model and the other girl. Er, I mean Lady Awkwardness of Snobsville and SheBeast of Ye Olde Farm.

The episode’s opening segments tried to claim that Nicole doesn’t have a personality, which is false: She definitely, unequivocally does. She just happens to have a low-energy, slow-talking, what’s-the-opposite-of-bubbly one. Laura’s personality is certainly broader, bigger, even more likable, but Nicole is distinctly herself, even if that selfhood is relatively quiet.

Hey, it’s Teyona from last season! She’s here to hype up nuclear eyelash bomb mascara from Major Cosmetic Company! Nicole and Laura had to do both a commercial and a photoshoot to prove their worth as said cosmetic company’s lowest-ranking spokeslady. But it wasn’t easy: they had to memorize lines! And also smile! But what about Laura’s dyslexia?!

At the shoot, Mr. Jay told the girls the “concept” of the commercial, which was two BFFs hiking? And… wearing mascara? I can state for the record that I always make a point of wearing my most vagina-grazing shorts and bold, carefree mascara when I go hiking in Hawaii. It’s like Top Model is a documentary of my life, you guys.

First up, Nicole was doing her photoshoot, while poor, dyslexic — and apparently economically actually poor — Laura was doing her video one. “She models really well,” said Nigel of Nicole. Which is totally true. If this were a modeling contest, it’s almost like Nicole has the edge or something.

At the video portion of the events, Laura was, predictably, struggling. “When dyslexic people get frustrated, it just makes it worse,” she said. Surely she could have omitted the “dyslexic” from that sentence or added in any other qualifier. Frustration! It’s frustrating, y’all!

Nicole too had a hard time with the unbearable corny and lame lines for the commercial. If she’s going to do more live-action stuff, allow me to suggest a vocal coach: Homegirl needs to open her damn mouth. Her top and bottom teeth are never more than a centimeter away from each other, which is why a lot of her readings sound so flat. Open wide, Nicole. There’s a whole range of voice and emotion buried deep in there.

Laura wasn’t faring all that well at her shoot with Nigel, though. When he asked her to emote, she said she was thinking about milkshakes. In Laura’s defense, milkshakes are pretty damn fantastic — ahem, black and whites?! half chocolate, half vanilla, all awesome? — but loving them might not be enough to convey the oomph required for selling eyelash steroids. Still, both women and their perfectly straightened hair looked really beautiful.

As their last posing challenge, Nicole and Laura were subject to an incredibly strange and awkward shoot for Seventeen, right there in Chez Modelhaus. They were both dressed in atrocious outfits, and one-time ANTM catchphrase photog Gilles Bensimon notched nearly 30 seconds of screen time.

To add insult to injury at their luxurious abode, Tyra showed up. Screaaaaam! Juuuuump! Tyra wanted to get real, you guys, and talk about stuff. Like how Nicole was awkward growing up, and how Laura loves her grandma. Back in the day, Tyra did these heart-to-weaveshearts earlier in the season, where she’d talk to five or even six actual people. Now, though, only the final two get the privilege. Laura cried a little, but otherwise, these interviews added roughly nothing to our understanding of the top two, and they failed their main objective of glorifying the One And Only True Tyra, who just came across as oddly impervious to wind. I’m suddenly nostalgic for a time when Tyra would bust out her best Oprah impression and make everyone weepy.

Anyway, it wouldn’t be a finale without a runway show, and it wouldn’t be this oddly low-budget season without overstating something’s importance, so: Runway show! In what could have been a cool dramatic twist, Erin, Jennifer, Brittany, and Sundai rematerialized to walk in the show, too, but all we heard from them was that they were all rooting for Laura. Ooof.

Backstage, everyone got covered in an absurd, Cullens-on-crack amount of glitter, and Laura marveled that she had a “50/50 percent [sic] chance” of winning. Poor Laura. She only had a 50/50 shot if this were decided at random. This is like saying every sports team has a 50/50 chance of winning every game. Sadly for our bull de-baller, she was the Lansing Lugnuts going up against the Yankees. It’s definitely not 50/50.

When the time came for walking, though, all that testicle removal must have paid off somehow: Laura’s walk was way more natural than Nicole’s shoulder-heavy, stompy march. Also, the show included the, uh, three elements of fire, wind, and water. Sorry, earth; perhaps you’re not model-tastic as the blink-and-you-miss-him Eddie Murphy. To wrap things up, all the models  writhed together under sprinklers, like you do at fashion shows.

Finally, it was time for judging, where for once the ladies were wearing heels. And the hideous dresses they wore in the runway show, but still: heels! (Apparently they dried off in between, and got their make-up redone? Or maybe this was shenanigans all over again? Who can know?) Laura’s walk earned raves, and to my shock Nicole’s awkward gait was deemed “signature.” Somewhere, Camille from Cycle 2 gently weeps. The judges revisited most of the previous photos, and it became clear that Laura had her mouth hanging open in every single shot. None of the judges seem to notice, but it bugs me so much I just have to mention it. (In fairness, Nicole is staring down her nose in most of her images.)

I’ll be honest: At this point, I was getting a little worried. Sure, Nigel had complained that it’s hard to understand Laura when she “speaks,” but Nicole had been dinged for her lack of natural charisma. To the editors’ credit here, it did seem almost up in the air at the moment before Tyra announced the winner. Even though all evidence pointed to Bloody Eyeball being the runaway best model this show’s seen in ages, it’s not like ANTM has a particularly solid track record of picking skill over sizzle.

And yet. The winner of this cycle was… Nicole! Hallelujah! In a weird turn of events, Top Model picked someone who might actually credibly model because she’s freakishly beautiful and distinctive and photogenic. I feel like I just saw a unicorn being born.

Thus endeth the 13th go-round of Tyra Banks and her merry models, and I have to say that for a cycle I was pretty down on, Nicole is someone I actually think has legit talent. Despite all the editing weirdness, the lack of meaningful conflict, a strange absence of someone to emotionally root for, this season still turned out kinda great. I hate even saying that, but I can’t help it.

Okay, PopWatchers, let ‘er rip: Are you glad to see Nicole take the crown, or were you pulling for Laura? Do we think Nicole has a future in the industry? And might Laura surprise us all and become a star, too?

Photo credit: Nigel Barker/The CW
BFF credit: Evelyn, who watched this whole season with me

Comments (131 total) Add your comment
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  • Jade, UK

    The right person won – finally. I can see Nicole actually being a top model, especially in editorial magazines etc.
    I have to say though that throughout the show, I thought Laura was going to be victorious. I didn’t even think she deserved to be in the final two.

    • niki

      I agree- knowing Top Model’s track record with picking a winner, I was afraid, right until the millisecond before showing Nicole’s picture, that Laura would win. Even at the runway show, no positive comments were made about Nicole, and Tyra certainly seemed to enjoy talking to Laura more while at their “interview.” Either way, glad Nicole won – they finally got it right.

    • Liz

      I agree. After last seasons surprise win (Teyona with her weave flapping during the runway) I just wasn’t sure. Nicole has been my pick since day one and I was glad she got the W! Can’t wait to see more of her modeling!@

    • WD

      Agree!!! Nicole is one of the most deserving winners the show has ever produced. Her unique look and dorkiness adds to her appeal. And sorry, but she looks as tall as the tall models. Bravo Tyra, you FINALLY got it right.

    • pool

      I think Nicole is the best model the show has seen EVER. And she is without a doubt the best winner they’ve had through all the seasons. I’m actually surprised they chose a good model to win. They usually pick terrible people who the second-place finishers outshine. But this season they actually made a competent decision. I’m impressed.

  • jem

    I totally agree – Nicole was clearly the best model, and therefore should win the modeling competition, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d picked Laura for her personality.

  • Stephanie

    Even though I thought I’d be happy with either girl winning, I was relieved to see Nicole’s photo at the end. Moreover, I liked her runway walk. Given her artistic sensibilities, Nicole approaches modeling as a creative activity with herself as the medium. She showed how the ordinary could transform into a work of art, which is what I love about ANTM.

    • Nick T

      That’s so true about Nicole!
      PS- “Somewhere, Camille from Cycle 2 gently weeps.” (lmao)

  • coco

    Nicole’s pictures were consistently amazing. The last shot is beautiful, great contrast between her green eyes and red hair. The editors did a great job messing up with the viewers last night..all that dyslexia talk had me worried. Laura will do well in US but Nicole will get high-end, high fashion contracts, she is stunning.
    See you next cycle, can’t break this vice!

  • Dana

    Glad Nicole won; I believe she is the best model the show has ever seen. She is not only striking, but she can actually model as well. I didn’t understand why they were telling Nicole she sounded snobby during her commercial, since when does speaking in proper English make you a snob? She has good grammar and pronunciation, I think that is great. Even Laura told her she sounds stuck up because she pronounces her words so well and no one talks that way. ??? I certainly speak that way and I am far from being a snob.

  • Sarah

    I thought it would be Nicole but I think that Laura was a close second. Her pictures were really beautiful and I love her personality.

  • carla

    i think the right girl won. nicole definitely earned for owning nearly every photo shoot and, if not winning, coming close in every competition. but i thought this cycle was great and far better than this article made it seem. i think nicole earned the title but i think laura deserved it more.. if that made any sense. laura needed this title and wanted way more. this was the first time i was more than happy with the final two! i would’ve been happy no matter who won.

    • Stephanie

      Did you see Nicole’s face when they were waiting for the decision? She wanted it as much as Laura but didn’t wear her heart on her sleeve.

      • Nihilistic

        Nicole didn’t have to “want” it. She knew she had it.

  • KO

    Margaret: Thank you for the best EW recap I’ve read in weeks. (I guess it helps that I agree with pretty much everything you said, and that I’m so happy Nicole won.)

  • Katie G

    totally agree
    Nicole was so much more complex and interesting a model then any of the other girls (although I did enjoy Jennifer)this season.
    Hope she does well in the future!

  • Fridge

    Compared to past seasons this one was so boring. What happened to the judges challenges they used to do right before elimination? (Which I know have been absent for awhile but it would be nice to see them make a reappearance) What happened to having four judges? I thought the deliberating between the final two last night was just blah. I love Mrs. Jay and Nigel, but I really do feel like they need another ex-supermodel on the panel to balance out Tyra’s ego. Couldn’t they have had Mr. Jay on the final panel? I really used to enjoy this show, but it seems to have lost so much of it’s pizazz and spirit. If next cycle starts off as bland as this one I don’t think I’ll be watching through to the finale.

    • metzmom

      I’m with you on the final judging. They used to have the other Jay in the final judging but for whatever reason he wasn’t there last night. I also agree on the judges challenges before elimination. I miss those too!

      This season really was a disappointment. I hope it picks up next time and that Tyra’s ego deflates a little.

    • jpc

      This is the first season that I watched, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. However, I was mystified the entire time about the final judging every week. Why was Ms. Jay, who rarely interacted w/ the models, there instead of Mr. Jay, who, as the art director, had valuable experience dealing with them one one one? Also, you would think that they would pull in the photographer as a judge: the most important aspect of being a model is to be able to deliver what the photographer wants. Shouldn’t their opinion matter?
      Anyway, I am glad Nicole won. She was obviously the winner way back in episode 1.

      • LisaH

        Because Tyra wants to sound like the smartest one on the panel.

  • Brett

    The right gal one…Nicole is simply gorgeous. Did you see her on Regis and Kelly this morning? Wow she looked so classy and beautiful.

  • Kelly

    Margaret, your recaps are the best! I was LOL-ing reading this, and i’m at work! I agree that Nicole was the better choice. I have to say, though, that Tyra is getting more and more unbearable each season!

    • Mary Q. Contrary

      Agreed. I can’t stand her. And it was funny that Jay was saying that Nicole seemed smug and snobby, because for a minute he could’ve been describing Tyra at any given moment this season.

  • tonig

    I loved both Laura and Nicole, But I liked Laura’s pictures and personality more. Laura will be fine, I’m sure she will also get a contract.

    • Nihilistic

      At 5’5″ you’re “sure” that Laura will get a contract. I’d like to make a very lucrative money bet against those odds. Notice that this was the first season where Tyra didn’t tell the dejected loser each week that they should keep working at becoming a model. It’s just not realistic for girls this small to get signed other than the very rare occasion. Even Nicole, who I think we ALL agree is absolutely gorgeous, will have a very hard time getting work.

      It’s a tall girl’s game and Laura’s face said it all when she lost the competition last night. This is indeed the end game for her. Back to castrating bulls.

      • LaK

        Notice that even Tyra didn’t recommend that Laura should keep plugging away at modeling? It would bee too cruel, even for Tyra, to tell such a beautiful sweetie to waste her life trying to get a handful of gigs.

      • jenni

        She did tell Laura to keep trying? She said that Laura came out of this competition as model which seems very encouraging to me—

      • Nihilistic

        She told her she was a model? Wow that’s exactly the same as telling her to pursue a CAREER in modeling. It was the equivalent of a mother seeing her little boy playing with a toy firetruck and saying, “Ooooh look honey, you’re a FIREMAN now!”

  • jenny

    What was up with all the glitter at the runway show? Were they trying to look like sparkly vampires?

  • Patty

    Laura’s face lacked definition (although she made up for it with an excess of glitter). When she lost and was crying she looked like the wrath of God.But not in a fierce way.

    • Nihilistic

      OMG I was so embarassed for her when she lost! Her face was saturated with tears and snot and her crazy medusa hair made her look like an escaped mental patient. By far, the least gracious loser we’ve seen in years. But again, I don’t blame her. In other seasons the girls actually had a shot to continue modeling if they didn’t snatch the ANTM crown. But with these midgets, it is surely game over as soon as they walk off that stage.

      • Cherie

        Least gracious loser?? Modeling was her dream and it got crushed. Allow her to be emotional about the loss, why don’t you.

      • Natalie

        Are you kidding me? It is a million times more gracious to show your earnest feelings by crying than it is to do what most other girls do: smile sourly to the winner’s face and complain about her behind her back. Most people who lose are convinced it should have been them.

      • 2334fdfd

        Pegy Zoxiou 24 Νοεμβρίου στις 9:02 μ.μ. Απάντηση
        Αγιος Νεκταριος ειναι γιατρος και γιατρεύει τις αρρωστιες. Αυτο το γραμμα γραφτηκε στις 3/10/1995 και πρεπει να κανει το γυρο του κοσμου. Ο Αγιος Νεκταριος θα σε ανταμειψει σε 45 ημερες. Πολλοι που το εγραψαν ανταμειφθηκαν. Αγιε Νεκταριε πιστευω σε σενα. Υγεια,χαρα και ευτυχια δωσε μου. Αυτο το χαρτι εχει σταλει σε σενα για καλη τυχη. Το γνησιο αντιγραφο ειναι στηkν Αγγλια. Εχει Δωσει το γυρο του κοσμου 9 φορες. τ ωρα η τυχη εχει σταλει σε σενα. Θα παρεις καλη τυχη μεσα σε 4 ημερες που θα λαβεις το γραμμα. Πρεπει να το στειλεις σε αλλους.Δεν ειναι αστειο. Στειλε αντιγραφο σε ανθρωπους που νομιζεις οτι χρειαζονται τυχη. Μην στειλεις χρηματα διοτι η μοιρα δεν εχει τιμη. Μην κτρατησεις αυτο το γραμμα. Παρακαλω! στειλε 20 αντιγραφα του γραμματος και δες τι θα γινει σε 4 ημερες. Η αλυσιδα παιχνιδι ηρθε απο τη Βενεζουελα και γραφτηκε απο καποιο ιεραποστολο απο τη Ν. Αμερικη.> Προσεξε τα ακολουθα:
        Καποιος πηρε την επιστολη το 1993 και ειπα στη γραμματεα του να του κανει 20 αντιγραφα και να τα ταχυδρομησει.Λιγες μερες αργοτερα κερδισε στο λαχειο 2,000,000 δολαρια. Καποιος αλλος πηρε την επιστολη και την ξεχασε. Την ειχε στα χερια του πανω απο 96 ωρες. Εχασε την δουλεια του. Αργοτερα βρηκε την επιστολη και την ταχυδρομησε σε 20 αντιγραφα.Λιγες μερες μετα βρηκε μια πολυ καλυτερη δουλεια. Καποιος πηρε την επιστολη και δεν πιστευε. Την πεταξε. 9 μερες μετα πεθανε. Παρακαλω μη το αγνοησεις. Δ Ο Υ Λ Ε Υ Ε

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