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‘America’s Next Top Model’ Recap: “J. Alexander”

America's Next Top Model
CW

Following Louise’s explosive exit last week and the predictable reveal via the gracious Saint Tyra that no one would be sent home, the girls are soldiering on. They’re definitely starting to feel the pressure, though, like Eboni, who unceremoniously starts lashing out at everyone around her.

The thing with most models on ‘America’s Next Top Model‘ is that they’re typically at that delicate age (18-22) where, like teenagers, they think they’ve got everything figured out and you can’t tell them what to do — they have to learn the hard way. This makes them the perfect age for the show because they will be reprimanded and scolded for their failures, and eventually mentally worn down and beaten into submission. This show is all about failing and learning from failure, or, to put it more aptly: it’s about doing as you’re told, and no, no one cares about your excuses. Their age also makes them a goldmine for drama; they turn on each other as residual pressure builds from all the repressed protests they can’t get out during panel.

This week the girls will be using their absurd superhero “Intoxibella” names from last week, like “Excite-To-Buy!” in their learning challenge with Martin Lindstrom, a “branding futurist” (read: good at judging people). Their challenge is conceiving and creating their own TV commercial for a made-up product.

Sophie kicks off things for Team UK with a bubbly, perfect pitch for edible hand soap. I can’t help but feel that Tyra thinks these are legitimate inventions, and if given the chance, she could be solving some of life’s biggest problems, like, why does soap have to taste so gross? Other prize inventions: a hair dryer with a silent setting, a TV dinner (genius! Why has no one else thought of this?), and scented toilet paper. The latter is pitched by Scottish Ashley, who caps it off with, “So your bum will be smelling like, nice and fresh, in case you have a boyfriend.” Ashley is on-point, for sure.

Team US follows it up with glow-in-the-dark facial tissue, antibacterial trash bags, and teeth-whitening breath mints. They fumble quite a bit, especially Kyle, whose superhero model name is “Next Doorsia,” which means she’s supposed to be more relatable.

It’s like Tyra has inadvertently provided us with a thesis on statistics regarding the US education system and our aptitude for eloquence versus that of the UK. The Brits are well-spoken and postured, while the US team is awkward and stilted.

In a twist, Lindstrom (aka ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ villain) has brought in a focus group of average consumers to grade the girls on their performances. There seem to be negative opinions on almost everyone, with complaints like, “too ghetto” (Laura), and one man saying he didn’t like Alisha’s “African accent.” Many of the consumers agree that Seymone and Sophie have great personalities and seem more accessible. And although Kyle didn’t do very well in her presentation, the group like her anyway.

In the end it seems the focus group has worn most of the girls down, though. It’s a lesson in growing tough skin and internalizing negative critique as something constructive. Although I do find it hard to believe that anyone can internalize “I don’t like her African accent” in a positive manner, there’s still a lesson that I think is useful here in learning how to dust your shoulders off.

The photoshoot challenge this week involves the girls wearing fancy, avant-garde British hats while posing in front of and on lowrider cars. The drama between Eboni and Kyle feels like editing to build a rivalry, and it seems a bit too early for that sort of thing. The girls perform well, but Nigel has an issue with Seymone and reminds her that she’s wasting time and money (these are expensive cars, Seymone) by not giving him “enough.”

Azmarie and Laura continue to make it look effortless with their stellar photoshoots, proving that it doesn’t matter if Kyle and Eboni hate each other because they’re probably going home pretty soon anyway. Sophie doesn’t do as well this week, but she’s still a favorite and someone to keep an eye on.

The special guest judge on this week’s panel — in case you couldn’t guess from the episode title — is Miss J. Alexander, he of increasingly ridiculous hair. Sophie takes a hit at judging from Kelly Cutrone, who compares her photo to a maternity ad. Also taking flack on Team UK is Catherine for her bland photo and Alisha for her buff pose. It’s not all great for Team US, either. As expected, Seymone’s photo turns out sub-par and lifeless.

Most of the photos feature the models looking lost and aimless, but Laura is rewarded for her bold choice to pose on the ground, and she deserves it: the photo is beautiful and dreamy. Azmarie looks incredible in her photo; statuesque and intense, with just enough femininity to really sell the dress/fancy hat combo, and enough masculinity to gel with the lowriders in the background. Although Kelly Cutrone gives Kyle guff for her dowdy appearance at panel, her photo is anything but with her smoky, sultry eyes and perfect pose.

The winner of the week is Azmarie, naturally, who impressed the judges with her gorgeous androgyny once again. Kyle comes in close second. In the end it comes down to Seymone and Candace, who both gave the weakest performances of the week. Seymone is given a second chance and Candace is sent packing.

Next week: the girls go to Toronto Fashion Week!

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