Saturday, October 27, 2007


Wanna be on top?
Elated that season 8 of America's Next Top Model has started. Have always adored Tyra Banks and remember her modeling career first taking off. Even then she had her characteristic 'fierce' (the show's buzz-word) look. Mind you, any black woman with green/blue eyes will always stand out. I reckon her best pics evoke the spirit of Manet's 'scandalous' nudes, both "Olympia" with her brash, confrontational glance that affronts the viewer, and the brazen nonchalance in "Luncheon on the grass," producing the unsettling feeling that the (woman in the) picture is actually watching you. Likewise his "Bar at Folies Bergere" lends an eerie, disorientation that makes you wonder, "who's looking at who?" I get the same vibe from Tyra. She projects a commanding, direct, emotionally-loaded glare that almost intimidates viewers into submission. Pictures that not only look fabulous, but have power to move or alarm or shock with their intensity. That's "fierce."

I can't get over how stunningly pretty ALL the models are this season. Years of reading glossy mags has heightened my receptivity to beauty (or maybe that's 'years of celibacy'). Regardless, this'll be the most tightly contested season ever, imo. And the makeovers really worked this time. They've made some heinous calculations previously: e.g. girls with long, lovely, lustrous locks getting military buzzcuts, or short-haired lasses ending up with ratty, 50-pound 'wedding-cake' weaves. And the dye jobs were great, too. None of those ugly shades like cigarette-ash grey or undie-stain yellow. All their 'dos work. So, who is 'fierce'? who has 'it'? who is still in the running to become ANTM?

First the controversial stuff. I've one tiny peeve with the show. Every series there's at least one contestant with no front teeth, or a full-length bushy beard, or muscles bigger than Arnie. You just know they're never gonna win. It's affirmative action for ugly girls. When inevitably booted off, they gush in their exit speeches: "I'm so proud to have been in this competition to prove that even girls with 3rd degree facial burns can aspire to become supermodels." Please! This season Tyra proudly boasts, "For the first time in ANTM history, we have (not one, but) TWO plus-size models." They are:

WHITNEY: Her problem isn't that she has curves, but that she looks like a man, and a plain one at that. Her lacklustre photos don't help. She reminds me of Aretha Franklin... in a bad mood, about to deliver an almighty ear-blasting! There's "fierce" and then there's "just downright scary."

DIANA: A pretty face, but assumes a "European" look in photos (i.e. Swedish masseuse or Ukrainian shot-put champion.) Which isn't to say she doesn't have a career modeling. One can easily envision her on the cover of Power-lifter's Weekly or Wrestler's Digest. If the 'prison matron' look is your thang, then she's ya gal.

C'mon, Tyra! Enough of the feel-good social activism! Modelling doesn't cause anorexia. I watch the show religiously and have never lost my appetite. I'm sorry, but there's no way a normal-sized girl, or any model with even a molecule of bodyfat, will become America's Next Most Photogenic Toothpick. Just being honest, is all... and feeling sorry for those two lettuce-nibbling hopefuls who missed out. If by chance either girl does take the title, it'll make this reality TV show seem fake and contrived.

But those two anomalies aside, the standouts so far are:

SARAH: Just "wow!" and "oh dear Lord!" and "I love you!" Timeless beauty. She gets my vote. Has the abililty to stop traffic and hearts. Looks good blonde, looks good as a brunette. Looks good in pics AND walking down the runway. Would look really good walking down the aisle to exchange my marriage vows. [/ fantasy]

FELICIA: The prettiest thing I've ever seen since... the last prettiest thing. Epitomises the teen magazine model: a beaming lighthouse of youthful exuberance. So sweet and innocent. Arouses paternal feelings in me. I want to pick her up and adopt her like a cute, lost puppy. Unsure if that's a good thing. A strong resemblance to Tyra herself, only younger... and prettier. That's it, she's gone! Ms Banks will never tolerate that.

NATASHA: Started out blonde and dumb (what more could you want?) Now she's brunette and dumb, but still sensational. Resembles a prettier (if that's possible) version of Angelina Jolie. Sadly, her most potent weapon - endearing cluelessness - will likely be her downfall. "Fierce" and "pretty" are all well and good, but Tyra also likes models who can count to three and spell their names unassisted. Miss young Russian mail-order bride has a 40 yr old husband - dirty old b*stard. Hmm, giving me ideas... (can you order them by hair colour?)

BRITTANY: I'm speechless! This is why I watch this programme. To be awestruck by overpowering images of unbearable beauty. Brittany's an "effulgent goddess" on film. A classic porcelain doll who 'glows' in photos. It's almost hallucinatory. Perfect features make her an ideal make-up (close-up) model, imo. Anything highlighted (lipstick, eyeliner, blush) is set against an amazingly apportioned and symmetrical face that defies physics; even photons demur and bend to reflect her in the most flattering light. The Winner in my book. Just give her the dang title and be done with it!

JASLENE: Just kills me: androgynous, edgy, laser-eyes screaming "high fashion!" Lurrrv the unconventional ones, with striking, unusual, visually interesting features that coerce the eye, forcing it to linger longer over an image. Isn't that what advertisers want? Alas, it mightn't be enough. The ANTM winner makes a year's worth of TV ads to wax delirious about the ecstasy-inducing and life-changing properties of Covergirl cosmetics. Jaslene's "fierce" personified, but perhaps lacks Covergirl's broad wholesome appeal. Dunno if her thick Puerto Rican accent ["Do yo want luscious shiny leeeps like theees?"] can sell it. Gobsmacking photos, but missing 'gal-next-door' factor (unless your neighbour's the type to pull a knife on you in the subway while mugging you to feed her crack habit).

RENEE: Oh my, what a horrible vicious back-stabbing succubus! This season's witchy-poo has a poisonous yap that only stops bleating and snarling to cut, slash or bite another contestant. Annoying, revolting and hateful. Has there even been such a nasty vile cow in reality TV history? Or in TV history? Or in history? What I can't understand is how Pure Evil can have such a beautiful face? Say what you like, she's gorgeous and takes slammin' photos. So we forgive her.

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