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'America's Next Top Model': Will pose for change

February 27, 2008 | 10:31 pm

Atalya "America's Next Top Model" has never been as strong as it thinks it is when it comes to exposing "issues."  Goodness knows Tyra Banks tries to make her series relevant to current events but the show's attempts at gravitas always come off as shallow -- beautiful crying, but fake. Viewers have seen models expound on the evils of smoking, eating disorders and tsunamis.  This week, Tyra demonstrated the serious problem of homeless youth by having the models dress up like they were homeless (screaming with joy on the way into the shoot), surrounded by actual homeless girls in haute couture.  The girls' post-photo shoot fate was never known, but Tyra did fill the models in on her close relationship with homelessness based on the one day she spent pretending to be homeless for her talk show.

Why the need for the "lessons"? There's nothing wrong with fashion being shallow: "Lighten up, it's just fashion," as Santino from "Project Runway" would say.  Ironically, though, when Kimberly, the blonde doll-faced girl, decided that fashion was too shallow for her, she was treated with scorn by the judges.  It's too bad, of course, that she took the place of someone else who might have really wanted to be on the show, but perhaps Tyra, for all her talk of girl power and strong decisions, should have respected someone who didn't waste further time in the competition and who made an executive decision about her life.  But then again, the girl did have a strong picture. On the other hand, she tried to justify her smoking and felt that "down to earth" is an antonym for "dumb."

Unfortunately, Atalya was not spared elimination despite Kimberly's untimely departure, thus rendering obsolete Tyra's unprecedented decision to include 14 girls in the new cycle.

Otherwise, the episode seemed to indicate that the show is actually returning to some legitimate fashion this season, with a runway show featuring the clothing of design heavies Badgley Mischka.  Meanwhile, Paulina Porizkova has replaced Twiggy as the resident seasoned model on the panel.  She seems to have more of an opinion than the Twigster, but is not as outspoken as the dearly departed Janice Dickinson. However, it can be argued that she just might be the most beautiful woman to ever appear on the show.  Sorry, girls.

-- Claire Zulkey

(Photo courtesy The CW)