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‘America’s Next Top Model’ Review: “Kelly Osbourne”

America's Next Top Model
CW

It’s been several long months since Cycle 17 (aka ‘All-Stars’!) culminated with the upsetting (and sort of scandalous) victory of Lisa D’Amato over fan favorite — and my personal all-time favorite — Alison Harvard. Fear not, readers! Tyra Banks has returned with Cycle 18 of ‘America’s Next Top Model,’ and this time she’s bringing some British action, pitting Brits against Yanks in what she’s termed a “battle royale.”  Side note: I’m not so sure Tyra knows what a battle royale entails, but if she does, this season will most definitely be the fiercest ever.

The season kicks off with deflated Katy Perry clone Kyle from Magnolia, Texas giving the best summation of the last 18 seasons of ‘Top Model’ with one question: “Wait. These girls are from London? They’re not even American. Is this a joke right now?” Kyle, you must not be familiar with this show; you’ll be asking that question a lot in the weeks to come.

Little does Kyle know that by merely calling into question the fabric of the circus tent that surrounds her, she has directly challenged the show to answer her rhetorical question in the form of a “Fierce Parade,” the end of which sees the girls in a runway throwdown.

Laura, resident bisexual, reveals herself to be the token hot mess of the house when she declares herself the type of lady who likes to get drunk and take off all her clothes; this appeals to Azmarie (several pauses later, I now know her name is not “Asthma-ree”), the beautiful and androgynous lesbian from Milwaukee.

Scottish Ashley is a total doll but her accent throws everyone off; luckily she’s still able to communicate that she, as well as the other imports, were contestants on ‘Britain’s Next Top Model,’ providing an extraneous twist — it’s a twist on top of a twist, you guys! Tyra’s been getting some mileage out of that ‘Inception’ DVD.

Things finally get under way as the girls are literally paraded down Universal City Walk in bandleader gear from Cher’s reject pile on gaudy floats. The girls are introduced and made to march down the runway, Brit vs. American, to see who has the best runway walk. The Brits have a cute little bounce to their walk, but Azmarie seems to be the most polished of the bunch — score for Team USA.

Proving that this show doesn’t understand the meaning of words like subtlety, restraint, or moderation, Mister Jay lays out the first photo shoot elimination challenge: the girls will pose in pairs (one Brit, one American, of course) as famous icons from their home countries, while jumping on miniature trampolines and having their photo taken by 60 different cameras simultaneously to create a 3D image. In other seasons you could cry foul on some of these girls for claiming the shoots are too complicated for them to focus on effortless poses and giving good model face, but this challenge seems tailor-made for disaster.

The shoot features the most iconic rivalries in American-British history, like George Washington vs. Queen Elizabeth I and Janet Jackson vs. Spice Girl Mel B (we may be in for a long season if they’re already dropping Spice Girls references twenty minutes in to the first episode).

We get our first tears when UK girl Alisha is reprimanded by Mister Jay for not finding that fine, nuanced line between spoof and fashion interpretation with her portrayal of Elton John. In the one-on-one interviews Laura seems to think Alisha needs to grow up, and I seem to think that no one has told Laura that crimped hair is only appropriate on children, and even then only on Saturdays  when they play dress-up while mommy takes her grown-up juice naps.

And of course, who could forget the classic match-up of Amy Winehouse and Andy Warhol?! ‘Top Model’ seeks to answer life’s most important questions, like who died harder for their sins and will we be able to interpret their essence gracefully on a miniature trampoline while a seemingly immortal, silver-haired stylist tells us we aren’t modeling right?

The photoshoot really runs itself off the rails when they pit Pocahontas against John Lennon, which is just silly because everyone knows that John Lennon wouldn’t fight Pocahontas — they’d smoke her peace pipe and unify cultures, man.

Judging day arrives and the girls’ lips are all painted like their country’s flags; coupled with what appears to be homemade patriotic t-shirts, the girls look suitable for trailer park living. Tyra introduces a new judge to replace Vogue mainstay Andre Leon Talley: Kelly Cutrone, whose title card just reads “PR Maven,” which I think means “really good at e-mails.” Guest judging this week is Kelly Osbourne because she’s British and that makes it fair.

The prizes this cycle include a spread in Italian Vogue, a guest spot as a “celebrity correspondent” on ‘Extra,’ a music single produced and released (read: manufactured) by CBS, and the winning girl will also be the new face of ‘Top Model”s fragrance, ‘Dream Come True,’ which is most likely just re-purposed Love’s Baby Soft with stimulating notes of coffee and grapefruit, and something that presumably also doubles as an over-the-counter amphetamine substitute. But that’s not all! The winner also gets the typical modeling contract as well as a $100,000 contract with Cover Girl.

The judging commences with the girls being beaten into submission for not perfectly impersonating their famous counterparts. Naturally, since TV shows and tabloids didn’t exist back in the good ol’ days, no one can really criticize the George Washington and Queen Elizabeth portrayals. New judge Kelly Cutrone makes sure to use every opportunity not to tell us her reaction to the photo, but what her reaction to the photo would be from the posh confines of her PR dungeon.

Plus size underdog Seymone takes the top photo of the week with her interpretation of Michelle Obama, who Tyra swears watches the show every week with the Obama daughters. Related: Obama’s ratings just went down by 12 points.

All the American girls make it into the next round right off the bat, leaving the British ladies to daintily tremble. In the end it comes down to Jasmia (John Lennon) and Ashley the Scot (Princess Diana); early favorite Ashley gets to stay and Jasmia gets the boot back to the Queen’s country.

Tune in with us next week for the best part of the season: MAKEOVERS! No, really — there’s little I find more rewarding than watching these girls cry because they think their hair will never grow back.

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