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'America's Next Top Model': An ode to Isis

September 10, 2008 | 10:28 pm

Tm11_16_2 I'm tired of "America's Next Top Model." I think I'd much rather watch its spinoff, recently developed by me, called "Isis: American Girl." Sure sure, we're falling into lockstep with your average "ANTM" season.  Small-town girl is horrified to be called "racist" and you almost feel sorry for her.  The former dancer tries to tone down the hootch (you know she has a heart of gold because she tells the truth: Her boobs ARE fake!)  A little sexual exploration, and then posing coach Benny Ninja comes along to make things a little more fabulous, and blah blah blah. 

However, I have been warily impressed so far that Isis King's story is present in the show without it being thrust down our throats. This is probably because her story, as a pre-operation male-to-female transgendered wannabe model living in a house of girls doesn't really need that much hype.  Last year's winner, Whitney Thompson, needed to remind us of her struggles as a plus-sized model because we all knew that after the show she'd at worst go home and be a beautiful girl. Other girls have had to repeatedly remind us that they have had difficult lives in order to keep them apart from the other legs in stilettoes that have marched by onscreen. Isis, however, will probably have challenges to face whether or not she wins this competition, and it's fascinating to watch the things she must tend to just to keep herself together, from modely stuff like her face losing its beauty (and to some extent, femininity) when she forgets it while posing, to the painful-looking hormone injections she must maintain for her transition (three cheers for Analeigh for keeping her company during them). It helps her appeal, too, as the girls pointed out, that Isis appears way more grounded and self-aware than your average "Top Model" wannabe. The girls' cattiness towards her seemed to roll off her back, whereas Hannah compared being called a racist to being "gang raped" or just "gang violence."  Hmm.

I don't think by far that Isis is the best model on the show, but she's the most naturally compelling contestant the series has had to offer in a long time -- maybe ever -- and hopefully the show will treat her with the respect she seems to command.

In other news, Nikeysha Clarke was eliminated for a.) announcing she had to pee during the posing competition which b.) she failed and c.) she largely failed the hot-air-balloon photo shoot. But what really got her the boot was the fact that she wouldn't quit yammering back at the judges. In a first, Tyra Banks had to tell the loser to shut up for a second so the runner-up (Isis) could enjoy her moment. But at least the producers, showing a rare flash of wit, let Nekeisha have the last word, talking through to the last minute of the show.

-- Claire Zulkey

photo: the CW