America's Next Top ModelNicki Minaj Season 17 • Episode 1
Well, isn’t it fitting that this DREAM of a Top Model season opens with just that? Dreams, Tyra’s dreams that is — or maybe nightmares. Clad in girly yellow pjs and a matching eye mask, Tyra tosses and turns, haunted by ANTM alumnae who are begging for another shot at the title. (Of course, in these little pop-up dreamscape vignettes, it’s Tyra dressed up as the ghosts of cycles past.) Then, without the cold sweat, poor Tyra wakes up all aflutter and ACTUAL PAST CONTESTANTS ARE IN BED WITH HER, writhing and pleading to come back on the show. Mind you, we haven't even gotten to the Girls Gone Wild reference in this recap’s title yet. But, gosh, the show sure means business.
Serious business, indeed. In the frantic monologue that follows, Tyra explains that this cycle is not just about finding a model — it's also about finding a “star” with the “power” to build her own “brand.” That’s why some of the returning contestants are over 30 and, to be blunt, not even remotely viable models in the first place. (Surely, the joke’s on the fashion industry, at least to some extent, because the winner will get a spread in Vogue Italia.) To prove their skills in the self-branding arena, the would-be All Stars will have to rap, design their own fragrance, and audition for a cameo on CSI, among other ludicrous challenges. They might also have to booty dance with YouTube star Keenan Cahill, but that could just be Tyra having fun on her own dime.
Though the full cast was leaked a while back, the contestants are, once again, introduced as they move into their snazzy Beverly Hills mansion. All of the models fall almost exclusively into one of four categories: bitches, crazies, quirkies, and LGBT folk. And, of course, the most populous group is the bitches. (There’s also Shannon, who’s bordering on Victorian.) But, they barely have time to begin the no-doubt crazy antics that are expected of them — which includes the now-tired “fight for your beds” routine — before Jay Manuel is telling them about their first high-end photoshoot in the backyard of their rented showhome with a dubious photographer wearing a baby-pink, feathery fascinator. Never change, Top Model, never change. The girls are all re-creating their character-types from their first outings on the show, as a clever and immediate reminder of what’s expected of them if they’re to succeed on their second time around. Shannon has a slight tantrum when asked to wear lacy granny panties, because the only people allowed to see her in underwear (other than anyone who’s ever watched the first cycle of the show, of course) are her husband and Jesus. This is only noteworthy because, in a prissy confessional, she says she’s not used to this kind of treatment “because [her] agents in Chicago respect her.” Yep, her agents in Chicago.
In this cycle, the contestants’ popularity, if not infamy, is also a factor in their success, so the first judging panel takes place outside and in a crowd full of crazed Top Model fans. They cheer for everyone except for poor Alexandria, who gets called some nasty names and then tears up a bit. And, really, far more worthy of jeering is Nigel Barker’s new and disturbing “Just For Men” dye model’s hairdo. As this week’s photos are examined, André Leon Talley labels Isis a mermaid (that’s a good thing) and says Sheena’s jumpsuit is the "most edgy, off the chain" garment a girl can wear. Somewhere, Jennifer Lopez is smiling and nodding to herself. The best insight comes pretty consistently from guest judge Nicki Minaj, who seems to get along famously with ALT, too. (That may explain why she’s now front-row besties with Anna Wintour.) Prepping for the elimination in the judging “chambers”—Tyra having decided this cycle is too grand for just a room, clearly — the judge's insight becomes apparent. Creepy-chan Allison is winning the initial popularity stakes and is considered to be a good, all-around model hopeful. Also getting good feedback is HBIC Angelea (calling her as the winner right now; book it, as she might say) and her “more controlled” face — which just must be veiled snark aimed at her Botox. Less liked by the judges are Lisa, who’s deemed too vulgar — and, yes, too Girls Gone Wild for André Leon Talley — and Brittany, who André finds abrasive. It was that hoarse “It’s Brittany, bitch” cheer at the public runway that did it, but who’d have thought that ALT wouldn’t be a Britney Spears fanboy?
While the show’s whole handing-out-photos schtick seems particularly silly in this “more than just a model” context, it continues, nonetheless. Isis (see here) gets the first call-out for a contorted bikini-clad pose, and falling to the bottom are Alexandria and, yep, Brittany. It’s Alexandria who lives to model for another day — because of her polarity. (Magnets, how do they work?) Tyra’s explanation is thus: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. And when you have people that love and hate you, well, that is the definition of a true star.” So there you go.
It seems cruel even by Top Model standards to dangle some of our faves before us and then whisk them away again before we even get the chance to gawp at them properly. But, then again, even the briefest of glances at the circus is better than not seeing the clowns at all.
And, because too much is never enough, see more ALT in the video below!