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'America's Next Top Model' recap: From Wal-Mart to Rodeo Drive

October 13, 2010 |  9:05 pm


We’re six eliminations into this cycle of "America’s Next Top Model," which, as any ANTM devotee can tell you, is when things start to sizzle. Competitors who looked like sure things lose their footing, and those who had previously incurred the wrath of Mr. Jay begin to look like camera darlings. And that’s what happened this episode -- the dark horses are nudging ever forward in the race. Most of the obvious chaff has been eliminated, leaving oonly those with some sparkle -- or at least some attitude. 

After a heartfelt confessional reel by Ann -- that unfortunate picture of her slumped over, holding a bacon sandwich had to get some camera time to balance out her barnstorming the last four challenges -- the ladies were whisked away in their model-mobile and plopped squarely in a Wal-Mart parking lot, where Nigel Barker awaited them with his shark-like grin. The opening challenge was to sell a crowd of assorted strangers on Covergirl’s new product, a task that some of the models took to more readily than others. Most of the audience was elementary school girls, who seemed more in the market for LipSmackers than complicated eye makeup, but I’m guessing they just pulled a group out of Aisle 5 an hour beforehand. The girls pitched and primped, and afterward -- surprise! -- the tall, dapper gentleman in the front who was taking notes in the front turned out not, in fact, to be an overeager cosmetics salesmen, but a fashion journalist there to interview the crowd about the ladies’ performance. Ann did dismally, Chris oversold it and Kacey, along with teammates Esther and Kayla, nabbed the prize: a shopping spree in the cosmetics aisle of Wal-Mart which, after last week’s reward of designer jewelry, seemed sort of chintzy. 

But lest we forget: This cycle is all about high fashion, which Wal-Mart does not exactly offer. So the photo shoot had to be over-the-top glamorous, and indeed it was: The models were all styled by the pattern-crazed Lori Goldstein, and photographed by the bushy-browed Jacques Costeau-accented Patrick Demarchelier while traipsing down Rodeo Drive. Plus, the male models! (Does it seem to anyone else that they’ve been relying on the boys rather heavily this cycle?) In terms of Top Model challenges, it doesn’t get less harrowing than that. Tyra even appeared, bedecked in an Annie Hall-homage outfit, to chat with Demarchelier and show off her wiggle walk. I actually thought that this was the most delightful part of the episode -- seeing Tyra interact with a photographer she obviously respected was a treat, and she’s clearly a consummate professional, whatever her vamping at the judge’s table might otherwise suggest. 

On Rodeo Drive, the underdogs shone: Chris, Jane and Kendall, who had been lurking in the shadows for the last couple of episodes, all turned out fabulous photos. Chris was particularly charming, if not very high fashion. “I’m not a diva, but I feel like one,” she declared. Liz and Ann faltered, as did Kayla, who was the victim of ill-fitting shoes. 

When it came to elimination time, Andre Leon Talley -- cloaked in what appeared to be a burgundy curtain -- declared that Kendall was “almost like a gazelle on one foot,” which gives me hope that she might end up sticking around another few episodes. Ann, whose nerves and general shyness seemed to portend poorly for her photo, turned out another gem, and brought home the best picture for the fifth episode in a row. Quoth Tyra: “Ann, you’re making this so not interesting.” No kidding. Kayla’s grimacing shots placed her in the bottom along with flat-faced Kacey, but she survived to walk another day. With Kacey gone, it seems like the house might actually be villain-free, at least until the models stage a coup against Ann, whose streak is beginning to take the fun out of things. Here’s hoping that the next shoot gives her less to reign over. 

Tyra weave watch: Again, nothing too drastic. She seems to have the sleek look going for the earlier shots and favor the va-va-voom curls for judging. And really, what is with this one-shoulder dress streak?

Best Tyra quote: “You think that modeling’s about you, but it’s about the product. It’s about feeling the pain and complaining between shoots to yourself.” -–Oh, the infinite loneliness of Tyra!

-- Margaret Eby

Photo: Tyra Banks with photographer Patrick Demarchelier

Credit: Mathieu Young /The CW