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‘America’s Next Top Model’ Recap: “Cat Deeley”

America's Next Top Model
CW

It’s good to see Tyra recycling so many things this cycle of ‘America’s Next Top Model,’ like the opening credits from last cycle, and her endless plugging of her book, ‘Modelland’ (pronounced “Model Land,” because of course).

This week, Tyra comes to the model house to see how the girls walk down the runway, and then tells them that her book is about models with super powers called “Intoxibellas.” Tyra must have been intoxicated when she wrote that damn thing. She proceeds to lie to these poor, naive girls, and tells them all that they have super powers, like hers, which is — you know it’s coming — “smizing.” For those new to the ‘ANTM’ enterprise, “smizing” is when you make your eyes smile. It’s like squinting, but you have to look hungry and crazy, which is why it should be easier for these women to pull it off, but the truth is this: Smizing isn’t really a thing, and as far as I can tell after years of watching this show, it’s really just sucking in your breath while squinting your eyes, and if you have prettier eyes ¬†it works, but if your eyes are dark brown and don’t catch the light as well, Tyra thinks you’re bad at it.

Tyra brings out male models she calls “Bestosteros” to give the girls capes so she can give them “Intoxibella names,” like Illuminata and Gammatronica and Excite-To-Buy. Surprisingly, she doesn’t call herself ¬†Cashmoneyhustla, but she does explain what a “Super Mogul” is, which involves her dropping a sequence of buzz words like, “Accounting! Finance! Branding!” It has now become America’s Next Top Pyramid Scheme.

She sends the girls off to a warehouse to meet with Kelly Cutrone, “PR Maven.” The challenge today is to create an ad campaign for one of Cutrone’s clients, Very.com, a British fashion site. The girls are put into British and US teams where they must designate a leader, wardrobe stylist, hair/make-up stylist, prop master, and casting director (who must gather male models). Bonus: The girls get to use their new Virgin Mobile phones! No one is excited about product placement.

Cutrone gets pushy when the British girls look a little lost and disorganized, and reminds us all that fashion “is a cutthroat business” because, as we all know, fashion designers are just really eccentric serial killers with good taste. Patrick Bateman would have been a top-notch fashion designer.

The US team’s concept is “punk love,” or as Azmarie describes it, “London imperialism and punk culture meets love and luxury.” The UK team goes for something more obvious and simple with a 60s Mod theme. The challenge is actually more engaging than most of the typical photoshoots. Kelly Cutrone’s incessant shrewdness aside, watching the girls take on endeavors like casting, collecting props from Universal Studios, and figuring out how to stage a successful shoot is exciting.

The girls are forced to showcase their creative sides, and though it mostly seems like a ploy to create the perfect atmosphere for drama (sic a forceful Cutrone on the girls, make them work together under pressure), and it also doesn’t seem like this is task they’ll be undertaking regularly as models, it’s still engaging.

Azmarie emerges as a natural leader, and I’m already rooting for her as an early favorite. This week seems more confusing than usual, with Mr. Jay and Kelly Cutrone both giving direction while the team leaders must also direct their comrades; oh, and there’s a photographer calling the shots, too. Cutrone gets fussy when she feels the US team isn’t nailing “punk,” because she’s “represented all those top English bands,” by which she means that she once represented The Smithereens in her early career.

The US girls look nonplussed and slack-eyed in their shoots. It’s more heroin chic than punk, but Azmarie and Laura continue to hit the mark effortlessly.

The UK team’s shoot seems a bit too simple; their thinking is that they don’t need distracting props because the focus should be on them as models, which is clever in theory. Cutrone starts pushing Louise, who handles the pressure well and still gives an exceptional performance, though Annaliese does horribly and even with her attempts at jumping and skipping to breathe life into the proceedings, it all feels dull and lifeless.

I should take this moment to note that though the episode is titled “Cat Deeley,” there is exactly zero Cat Deeley in this episode until judging.

Annaliese’s photo is divisive, though plays better to the judges than expected. Sophie continues to be incredibly adorable, and her pixieish photo is a delight. Tyra gushes over Catherine’s eyes with, “Your eyes remind me of actually Princess Di.” Who is this Actually Princess Di? Is there a notoriously faux Princess Di? Princess Die, perhaps. Too soon?

Louise is praised, but things take a swerve when Nigel says she looks “mean.” Cutrone lashes out and accuses Louise of being rude on set; as we all know from the clever editing of the show, Cutrone was clearly the villain, planted on the photoshoot to push buttons. She wasn’t exactly horrendous, but she was needlessly shrewd. When Louise protests and accuses Cutrone of being the rude one, Cutrone shuts her down and Tyra gets snappy — apparently there is a hierarchy in modeling, and Louise should be more grateful and defer to the “PR Maven” because PR is like royalty (read: they make sure you get money, so who cares if they treat you badly) and models are just lowly puppets, whose only job is to look pretty and do as they’re told.

This is quite possibly the most offensive moment in ‘ANTM’ history. Sure, these girls know what they signed up for — the endless critiques from judges that seem impossible to please, the idea that if you don’t agree you’re just making excuses — and here we are at Cycle 18, where everyone should know by now that you should just lay down and take it with a smile because it’s easier than fighting it. It’s a completely gross mentality.

But there’s something so much more sinister in this moment because Tyra is flat-out telling Louise that she is beneath everyone else and lives at the bottom of the food chain, and she needs to graciously serve at the altar of someone who speaks to her as if she’s an incompetent moron. Nevermind the fact that any of these girls could go on to be majorly successful, earning serious cash for these PR people. And nevermind the fact that PR people are hired to work for companies and people, and in this case, models, which means Cutrone should exhibit a little more grace.

Louise breaks and runs out of the judging room, with Tyra maternally assuring her little lambs that everything will be okay. Louise stands out in the parking lot, throwing a fit and demanding to go home. And I totally cosign her decision to leave. Godspeed, Louise. You were too good for Modelland.

Tyra perkily continues the judging, and reminds everyone that ‘ANTM’ criticisms are “constructive, but tough.” Someone needs to remind Tyra that oppression is not constructive.

Judging continues with Azmarie taking top picture of the week, and Tyra spitefully judging Louise anyway. As expected, with Louise gone no one gets eliminated this week, and instead they’re all praised for being able to take criticism.

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