Finale wrap-up: “America’s Next Top Model”

Battling ennui from the worst season yet, Tyra Banks whips out some extra-large fake eyelashes and crowns a winner!

Topics: Tyra Banks, Television,

Finale wrap-up: "America's Next Top Model"

Sometimes you just have to model through it. That’s the advice Tyra Banks once gave the girls about a particularly tough photo shoot, but it applies to every one of life’s little challenges, whether it be conflict in the workplace, head lice or a particularly crappy season finale of “America’s Next Top Model.”

During the eighth cycle of the show, which ended on Wednesday night, Tyra and her staff seemed to be modeling through it most of the time. The judging discussions weren’t heated or contentious, the photo shoots lacked flair, and the aspiring models were missing brains but they were never humiliated (a “Top Model” tradition) or called to task by Mama Tyra for their bad behavior. Even when Jael harassed 50 Cent at a “glamorous Hollywood party” until he threw her into the pool, and then mumbled her typical consonant-free, garbled excuse, the judges could barely work up the indignation to scold her. And that’s not to mention Brittany, who threw a big, ugly temper tantrum and blamed her taxi driver when she was disqualified from the go-see competition for being late. Where was finger-pointing Tyra, who so memorably berated Tiffany for having the audacity not to weep big salty tears when she was eliminated during cycle four? Who knew we’d miss that woman? Tyra’s patience has grown with the length of her enormous fake eyelashes, and the show is much worse for it.

Wednesday night’s finale really could’ve used a sadistic photo shoot or an egotistical outburst to liven things up. The three finalists seemed to be picked for entertainment value alone, since the judges and staff lost their religion weeks ago: There was amusing Russian immigrant Natasha, who often appeared confused and awkward but made overconfident announcements that she was “the best competition” and if the other girls didn’t like her — you guessed it — they were just jealous. (It had nothing to do with the fact that she appeared to have phone sex with her husband in the same room with them, just for example.) There was Renee, who took good photos but was also roundly hated by the others, so much so that during the regular “Let’s talk about our feelings” session with the girls, Tyra encouraged everyone to tell “Nene” what they couldn’t stand about her — you know, out of love. And there was Jaslene, a rabidly enthusiastic Tyra worshiper who sometimes looked fantastic in photos and other times looked like a victim of a bad Glamour Shots session at the mall.



The less-than-festive festivities began with the traditional season-ending Cover Girl commercial. Enter CariDee, last cycle’s winner, to coach the girls through their shoots. (Why are former winners so strange and creepy? It’s as if they’ve been run through the professional-image machine until every ounce of soul is wrung from their limbs.)

The girls are asked to ad-lib a commercial. Renee begins hers by saying, “I had a baby nine months ago and I thought that my life was over!” Oh, yeah. That’s the perfect Cover Girl opener, right up there with “Last week my boyfriend dumped me for my best friend, and I thought I would never get out of bed!” and “I have this itchy sore on my inner thigh that really concerns me, and my lab test results aren’t due back until Friday!”

Jay Manuel interrupts Renee immediately. “It’s like, you want to talk about things in a positive way?” he instructs in his helpful, questioning tone. So Renee whips out her best CariDee impression.

Renee: Little old Renee, you know, wife and mother! I just feel easy, breezy and beautiful!

Jay: OK, that was, like, so disgustingly good.

It was? Really? Afterward, Renee is feeling appropriately overconfident: “I think it’s just going to be up to the judges,” she says, sounding uncharacteristically diplomatic. “But I would hope that they don’t let Natasha do the final runway, because she walks like a pigeon-toed duck with a piece of poop hanging out of her ass.” Ah, there’s the Renee we all know and hate.

Later, though, the judges agree that that “little old Renee” looks a little too old in pictures, so they cut her. Renee appears completely shocked and angry that the judges would choose a pigeon-toed duck with a piece of poop hanging out of her ass over her. Her final comments are less than gracious: “Apparently I look old?” she tells the camera. “OK, that’s fine. I would rather have wisdom in my eyes and knowledge in my head than just be blank and stupid and not have anything there.”

She makes a good point, but no one cares because it’s time for the Big Fashion Show. Clearly being prompted to express strong emotions by some stooge behind the camera, Jaslene says, “I’m definitely surprised that Natasha’s here and Renee’s not.” That’s not dramatic enough for them, so she adds with a smile, “If Natasha wins this competition, I’m-a pull off all her hair!” OK, we’ve picked our winner.

“I feel like I’m doing this for myself, but I also do it for my baby,” Natasha says. “If I win I’m gonna be happy, and of course my babies don’t want unhappy woman to be raising them.”

Yes, and we don’t want unhappy woman to be hosting this show. Why does Tyra seem so blah? Is she just tired from working on her talk show, or from applying those foot-long fake eyelashes?

The final fashion show has an “evolution” theme, which is a little bit better than last season’s abominable horror-themed costume drama, but it means that Natasha and Jaslene have to dress like Betty and Wilma from “The Flintstones” and act like backup dancers in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. They look equally ridiculous, crouching and looking around dramatically, as if they’re being stalked by saber-toothed tigers.

When they can finally stand upright, though, they both look reasonably good walking down the runway. No stumbles, no mistakes, just professional model behavior. Natasha’s skirt falls off, but instead of reacting, she just steps out of it and moves on.

“I did better than anybody else on the runway,” Natasha proclaims afterward, giving us another taste of her humility.

“I think I bring fierceness on the runway,” said Jaslene, who seems to be reading off Tyra’s cue cards by accident.

At the final judging, Jaslene, Natasha and Tyra are all dressed like extras from Cleopatra’s palace in “Rome.” Miss Jay appears to have stolen the ruffles from several circus dogs, and now he’s wearing them all around his neck in a great big pile. (Each ruffle represents a dismissed model.)

“When you came out as the animalistic early-woman stuff, you were beautiful,” says Tyra to Natasha, demonstrating that top models really don’t need to string a coherent sentence together to be rich and famous. Nigel calls Jaslene Bond-esque. Twiggy blinks sweetly. Can somebody wheel the coffee cart in here? Attempting to stir up a little good old-fashioned ethnic clash, Tyra pronounces this “the battle of the accents.”

We look back at Natasha and Jaslene’s photos, but for some reason stop short of the shots from the last few episodes, which included what had to be the lamest photo shoot in “ANTM” history, in which the girls huddled against the wind and rain with some sorry-looking aboriginals in a scrubby clearing in Australia that looked about as exotic and visually appealing as a state campground in West Virginia.

Finally, the judges struggle with their decision: Natasha is hotter, but she talks like she’s from Mars. Jaslene is really sweet, plus she might kill herself if she doesn’t win.

In the end, they do the merciful thing and pick Jaslene. Natasha, of course, acts like she’d really prefer it that way: “Now I’m just so happy to go back to my home and see my family.”

“Every little girl has a dream to be something,” Jaslene says, already rehearsing her first Cover Girl TV spot. “To be here, I’ve overcame so much. I didn’t make it the first time, but now look at me, I’m America’s Next Top Model! I’m a Cover Girl! And I think that shows, so all young woman, if you have a drive, keep going!” OK, I’m sure they can fix that in post. That’s a wrap! Way to model through it, Jaslene.

* * * * For more coverage of the season finales of your favorite TV shows, click here.

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>