ANTM Cycle 15, Episode 1, "Welcome to High Fashion" Recap

Perhaps, like me, you have long felt that America's Next Top Model is just another platform Tyra Banks devised to remind people that she is relevant. Perhaps you, too, tire of watching Tyra don ridiculous costumes, adopt terrible accents, pretend (on more than one occasion) to pass out, and arrange both sadistic make-overs and overly intrusive heart-to-hearts that imply she is paid per tear for the damn show. Or maybe, the consistent choosing of girls utterly incapable of being the sort of model implied by the show's freaking title is the sort of incongruity up with which you will not put. I have indeed felt all of those things. This is why I have taken to watching Australia's Next Top Model and Britain's Next Top model, both of which take the industry for which they are grooming stars much more seriously and both of which are not afraid to be brutally honest with the contestants. However, I was lured back (as if I ever really stopped secretly watching) by Tyra's insistence that this season would be legit or, as the first episode drilled into my head, ad nauseum, “elevated.”

The new cycle opens with Tyra asking, via voice-over, “When does a model become a real top model?” Contradicting each and every time she has used the excuse “this is what makes a real top model” to induce the hamsters into engaging in some asinine photo shoot or pantomime, she answers, “When she lands on a high fashion magazine cover.” This both explains why being featured in Seventeen magazine and ads at Walmart never made any of her top choices into top models and makes a lovely segue into a hard sell for Vogue Italia, which has replaced Seventeen as the magazine component of the prize. Viewers are informed that Vogue Italia launched the careers of Claudia, Christy, and Linda. I would like at this point to inject snark about how that was 20 years ago and a more recent name might be more appropriate, but Christy Turlington holds the key to my heart and any mention of her makes me go all gooey. We, as the viewers, are simply meant to take away that the inclusion of Italian Vogue and the myriad of legitimate fashion superstar designers, photographers, and experts means that Tyra and the gang will actually be using this cycle to find a model and not to trot out some woman incapable of becoming a top model in order to highlight some discrepancy that they find socially unjust.

Elevated, you say, does that mean that Tyra will stop acting the fool and making each of her appearances little more than an excuse to talk about herself? Umm...if the four minute segment in which she reenacts her model discovery complete with school girl uniform on the campus of Immaculate Heart High School (tell me this is fictional) is any indicator, I am going to bet on no. The story is odd in that the role of a 14 year old is being played by a 5'10”, 37 year-old woman and because she says that she was asked if she was a model (implying she was discovered) but then spent the next 3 years being turned down. If being asked a question and then rejected counts as a discovery, then my sexual awakening occurred much earlier than I have been telling people. I totally though the first time you actually did something was what counted.
Finally, the hamsters appear on the scene. Buses are waiting for the girls at the airport and each seat bears a name tag. The ever astute Kayla, sporting a hairstyle inspired by both Charles II of England and Olivia Newton John in Grease, astutely observes, “I seen like my name, like they have something up their sleeve.” Clearly, she is getting the smart girl edit. The audience is also alerted that there are two incredibly loud, annoying sisters, Chris and Terra, who are competing for final fourteen. Miss Teen Minnesota, Vanessa, is on the bus and she is an utter bitch, a fact not helped by her terrifying resemblance to the gorgeous Megan Fox. West Virginian Emily notes that she is from “a good old country town. It's kind of a culture shock; we don't have as many different diversities and cultures.” The camera then pans to show a bus full of tall pretty white girls and tall pretty black girls. Poor Emily made the mistake of casting herself in the role of the bigoted hick. The editors are going to milk this dry. Kendal, from Alabama, will also be getting a small town edit, as she credits her ignorance about “what the Hell is Palm Springs?” to the fact that she has never left Alabama. Luckily, Kendal contains her general stupidity to geography (seemingly encouraged in the US) and avoids Emily's racist fate. Also introduced briefly are super-tall, super-skinny Ann, who is shy and nerdy; Kendal, a returning competitor from cycle 11 who insists on rapping in the bus; Jordan, a jaded hipster who is totally over 'petty bullshit” consumerism; and Lexie, who is totally over Jordan.

Upon arrival in Palm Springs, the Jays pop-up and explain that Palm Springs is “where fashionistas come to get away from the crazy hecticness of Los Angeles.” Sadly, this intro means that the presumed audience of this show is also unable to get out of Alabama and maybe Kendal doesn't look so stupid now. Neither does poor tumble curled Kayla, since Mr. Jay explains that the seating on the buses was deliberate (yes, you really can't get more deliberate than assigned seats). Each girl was seated next to her “direct competition.” Apparently models are grouped for castings into “blondes, brunettes, pale skinned, dark skinned, and alternative” categories. This seems to leave me an my red hair out in the cold again (thanks ANTM) and to slyly bypass the acknowledgment of race entirely.

The girls take to their rooms and question the reality of the hotel. Lexie tells her roommate, Kendal, that Jordan does not want to be there (cue the drama llama). The girls all gather inexplicably on the patio for lemonade when Tyra enters and the hamsters scream...and scream...and scream. Once again, she lets us know that this season is different “we don't want no cookie cutter pretty up in here, uh uh, we want to be editorial.” Apparently, her previous goal was to bring modeling to the masses. Well, that explains 14 cycles of failure. Modeling isn't supposed to have mass appeal. Stupid, stupid Tyra.

Miss Jay sends the girls off to change into Cynthia Rowley clothing and Mr. Jay calls them onto the runway based upon their groupings: quirky, sexy, strong bone structure, blondes, and brunettes. Once again, there is no acknowledgment of racial diversity which seems odd in an industry based entirely on physical appearance and one known for limiting the opportunities of models of colour. Sure, Vogue Italia did an all black issue, but that in no way balances the scales. If anything, the lack of acknowledgment only seems to highlight the absence. Vanessa points out the absence of another group, the group she is most used to: “I was known as the rich bitch. In high school, I was in the attractive girl group. I do think I am one of the most attractive girls here. I'm just used to getting what I want.” Oh Vanessa, I don't know if you'll get what you want, but based on this edit, you'll get what you deserve.

It appears that the drama llama has waited in the wings during the grand and glorious walk off and emerges as the girls sit down for a good old-fashioned gab fest. Kacey (not having learned her lesson talking shit at the cycle 11 season opener) ushers in the drama llama and makes it take a big steaming crap in Lexie's lap. After questioning the assembled girls about their feelings if, hypothetically, a girl didn't want to be there (the ultimate sin in ANTM because we all know the winner is determined by who wants to be there the most), Kacey gestures to Lexie. Lexie mumbles about Jordan until Jordan enters the room and the drama llama makes a stealthy exit during the quiet silence that follows. Before the segment can end, bitch Vanessa tells Lexie that she should focus on her own modeling and not worry about anyone else. Lexie sits silently and stares at the ground, while Vanessa's mouth slides to the side of her face and her eyebrow raises, allowing her to return to the Myspace face that she has assumed for this portion of the competition.

Next are the individual interviews, where it becomes abundantly clear who will be moving on. Apparently, there are still like 30 girls at this point, but I have only seen the same dozen or so over and over again. Some of the others just feel like extras. Tyra points out that her reputation is on the line along with the Jays for this elevated season. Uh....sure...ok. Reputation? Kayla is the first girl into the room and the panel rears back in horror at her Bad Girl Sandy mane. She is informed that her hair had better shape up and is dismissed from the interview until she can return with straight hair. It's about time. Kacey is next and we discover (unless we remembered) that she was mean to transgendered contestant Isis on cycle 11 and thus got the boot. I think the drama llama may have been her carry-on. Kayla returns and the judges love her. Rihanna, one of the alternative/quirky girls is next and she is awesome. In fact, she was my top pick at this point, until I saw her photo on and it is hids, so she may not translate to film. However, she tells the judges that plants inspire her poses and they shout out “CACTUS!” and “WILLOW!” and she poses. It is a-mazing. Next up is Esther, the orthodox jew with a 30G chest. Yes. No, really. Chelsey is next and has been modeling since she was 13. Apparently, Chelsey was told that she was fat and stopped modeling, but has returned to the industry for one last hurrah.

There is a break from these interviews, partially I imagine because Kayla is the only one to have cried so far (her mom was a single parent and Kayla had to sleep in a sleeping bag until she was 13) and Tyra needs tears! The drama llama has resurfaced and is following Emily around. Poor racist Emily. As if her culture shock comment wasn't grist enough for the editing mill, she not only wrote that she “almost got stuck with a black room mate. Ewww!” but she allowed the diary to be read. Oh my! De'Yana, who has only been seen once prior to this and is thus a nobody, makes certain she will be in this episode by confronting Emily. Trya has her tears, the interviews can continue.

Fresh off of her attack, Emily is called to the panel and, once again, questioned about the entry. Tyra hopes that she learned a lesson. She probably did: don't leave your fucking diary vulnerable on a reality TV show. Dumbass. Next up is Liz, a single mom with a “beautiful masculine face.” Jane follows and we learn that she was discovered on and that her parents have too much money. A rapping ball of blonde embarrassment named Sara is next and when she says that her baby is one fourth black, Miss Jay says that's where the rapping came from. Certainly, whatever black DNA got lodged in her came out with the baby? Is that even what he meant? I don't get it. Kendal, another find on Tyra,.com, is a 23 year-old virgin and, when asked why she abstains, says that she doesn't like semen. She specifically says that she doesn't like it on her hands. Tyra neglects to do the kind thing and pull this chick aside and explain the difference between intercourse and a handie. Anamaria takes her turn, explains her obsession with IMG Model Management (how convenient given that the winner gets a contract with them) and she is followed by Ann. Ann is 6'2” tall, obscenely thin (cue eating disorder rumours), and too sensitive to last long in this shame factory. The White sisters, Terra and Chris, face the panel and choose to talk over one another, laugh maniacally, pose with sound effects and generally bug the shit out of me. Jordan takes a breather from breaking the mold and tells the panel of her intolerance for ignorant, fake people. That should go over well in the industry. Cue Lexie, who vents a bit more of her spleen regarding Jordan. The panel next meets with Lexie who tells them of her “less than ideal' childhood and leaving home at 15. They seem to like her and Tyra senses the tears that could potentially be unleashed from such a contestant. Vanessa finishes up the interviews by being a raging bitch.

With the interviews at an end, the girls are told that some of them will be attending a party with Cynthia Rowley and some of them will not. Vanessa does not move on. Apparently, she was to poised and pageant-y in her own estimation. She neglects at all to accept that constant projection of bitch face coupled with having the personality of a Heather might be the issue. The twenty remaining girls are paired off with their stiffest competition and forced to take photos. In theory, there would be ten pairs that the audience would see, instead, we are shown 7 pairs, specifically highlighting the girls who have been highlighted the whole episode. The final 14 will not be a surprise. Additionally, the pairs are titled again and we are treated to the persona these girls are meant to have in this elevated season. Anamaria and Chelsey are blondes. Esther and Sara are Sexy. Kacey and Kendal are browns. Yes, I know. Chris and Terra are sisters. Is this a common modeling type? This comes up a lot? Ok. Jane and Kayla have bone structure. Ann and Rhianna are quirky, as are Lexie and Jordan.

The staff at ANTM is taking no chances with the audience mistaking the character assigned to each girl. However, I will list each girl in the final 14 with what makes them memorable for me.
  1. Anamaria-Well, fuck. She is blonde. They really only gave us this and used her to plug the IMG contract.
  2. Kendal-She hates semen on her hands.
  3. Rhianna- Mr. Jay wants to call her "Willow" as a nickname after her awesome plant posing. However, he fails to say it with the goat voice that I expect when people say "Willow."
  4. Chris-She is Terra's sister. They are both lovely...and bugsome.
  5. Jane-Her parents built a barn and bought horses when she said that she wanted to ride. She also goes to Princeton. Cue lots of comments about how she doesn't need this and she thinks she's too smart.
  6. Chelsey-In her mind, she is editorial because she is blonde, has freckles, and a gap in her teeth. In my mind, daisy dukes and a gingham shirt paired with that description make her the sexy girl on Hee Haw.
  7. Liz-She is gorgeous, but the panel accused her of man face. I sense a terrible make-over in her future.
  8. Sara-She needs to never rap again. Seriously, never.
  9. Lexie-I wonder who she hates now that Jordan didn't make it?
  10. Esther-She has what Rock of Love girls term "clown tits."
  11. Kacey-She is the returning girl.
  12. Kayla-Thank god they made her straighten her hair. As the episode wore on, it became more and more severely pulled back from her face. Excellent!
  13. Ann-She is going to be accused of not eating. It happens every season.
  14. Terra-She is Chris' sister. Neither of them gets their own personality while the other is around.
Jordan did not make it and although it made Lexie happy, it made Jordan cry. This surprised Tyra, who said that she didn't think Jordan cared. That gets someone every season. Tyra made sure to remind Liz that this opportunity would let her care for her baby more than she had ever been able to before and to tell Ann, once again, that no one else had ever wanted her. It's like having an abusive boyfriend, Tyra isolates them and breaks them down. If they don't want her enough, she kicks them to the curb.
Next week, shit gets literal when the elevated theme means a catwalk in the sky. The previews also show people being lifted and other allusions to literal elevation. Man, they are going to wear that word out.

To watch the full episode, visit RealityTvFan.
To see Television Without Pity's projected winner, visit TWOP.
For more links, check Sir Linksalot.

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