It's Top Model Cycle 16! I really put the exclamation point there more out of habit than excitement. This season Tyra is totally shaking things up. There's a new curtain behind the judges at panel! Wild times. And the traditional casting week has been truncated in favor of an elaborate ruse in which no girls have to tell their tales of woe in front of a mini-panel, and the actual final fourteen think they've been eliminated early on. The nine minutes of misery that they are forced to endure during their faux-elimination is more than made up for as they realize they're actually standing not in a bus stop, but their own model house. Finalist Dalya falls over from the excitement, and generally there is a lot of wailing. Dominique and Alexandria quickly prove to be the primary irritants of the season, while adorable, baby-faced Jaclyn ensures that everyone in America wants to give her a hug.
The girls head off to a runway show combined with a backstage shoot, and shots of them getting their hair and makeup done will be their photos of the week. While the photo shoot itself is pretty uneventful, the runway show is of such whackness that it makes the days of the giant swinging pendulum seem relatively innocent. The girls must walk in giant confetti-filled hamster balls onto a twelve-inch runway that is placed in a swimming pool. It's a very glamorous kind of walking the plank, designed solely for our amusement. Though there are lots of awkward walks and a few stumbles, only Ondrei and Dominique actually fall off of the runway and are forced to nurse their head wounds while sloshing around in the ball and trying to make it to dry land. It's at times very hilarious and at times very troubling, much like this show in general.
At panel, in which supermodel Erin Wasson is a guest judge, several girls rock their first photos. Brittani and Monique remain lovely while makeup artists poke pencils into their eyes, while Molly, Alexandria and Mikaela also excel and get major kudos. The heretofore unmemorable Molly gets best photo of the week while stank, freckle-faced Dominique and pretty, bland Angelia land in the bottom two. Dominique's potential for causing drama ensures her retention, while Angelia packs her bags, but not before Nigel compares someone's mouth to a cat's anus.
Welcome back, everyone! It's Cycle 16 of America's Next Top Model. Don't you feel old? I sure do.
Tyra begins the episode by speaking directly to us -- us! Hi Tyra! -- and imploring us to come closer. We're apparently very eager and get way up in her grille, which she notes is, in fact, too close. She draws us near and then pushes us away. Is it any wonder we have such a complicated relationship? Tyra is dressed like an extra from >Newsies, which has kind of been her thing lately. I can't decide if it's better or worse than the jumpsuits. In any case, Tyra says that we probably think we're going to see a typical Top Model episode. You know the kind, where the girls parade in their swimsuits before Tyra and the Jays and talk all about their tragic illnesses and/or how poor or rich they are, and we get to make insta-judgments about who is pitiful, hilarious, dumb, or abhorrent. And then in their downtime someone pours beer on someone else's weave and it's really awesome. I love the casting portion of the premiere!
Tyra goes through the types of girl we usually see by Cindy Sherman-ing herself. First she is the dumb, desperate blonde who doesn't want to cut her hair, and then she is Angora Nylandra Tafatia Michaels, the ghetto girl who mysteriously wears a one-piece bathing suit and isn't there to make friends. And then she is the goth artist who claims that she doesn't want to be there at all and knows nothing about modeling. This last one gives us a chance to see Tyra's cunnilingual technique, which I must admit is pretty impressive. I imagine Naomi Campbell was the beneficiary of this at least once before they entered into their decade-long feud.
So, the casting special -- you love it and never would want to get rid of it, right? Well too bad for you, because the fourteen finalists of Cycle 16 are moving into the Top Model house in the next ten minutes. Casting week is done. I mean, it happened in some form, but was not the spectacle we're used to. How will we learn who has a disease we've never heard of before? Being ever courant, Tyra is going to take a cue from Twitter King and punk-master Ashton Kutcher. Really, she just wanted to show us that she still looks pretty in a trucker hat. Basically, the fourteen finalists are actually going to think they've been cut. Tyra says that they're doing this because it's time to get real. By doing a totally fake thing! It's like rain on your wedding day. Rejection is a big part of the industry, Tyra tells us. Even she was rejected by six agencies before she scuttled off to Paris at the age of 14! It's truly the hardest of knocks. To this day Tyra still has to deal with people saying no. How does she ever get through the day? If you want IMG, Italian Vogue and Cover Girl, she says, then you'd better have skin tougher than a leather Prada bag. But not literally.