America’s Next Top Model: Ya Wanna Be On Top?

[Ed. note: another day, another exciting announcement! If everyone could please join me in welcoming Gabe Liedman to the foldgum (gumfold? It’s a made up word, there’s no right answer). He is a stand-up comedian, and one half of the Gabe and Jenny comedy team with Jenny Slate. And at the top of that resume it states that he is Videogum’s Official Expert on this season of America’s Next Top Model.]

America’s Next Top Model is now in its lucky 13th “cycle,” a term I think they made up for “season,” but has nothing to do with “year.” What makes this “cycle” different from other “cycles” is the fact that in order to be eligible to “model” during this “cycle,” you have to be under 5’7″–or, approximately, the length of Tyra’s knee-Spanx. According to Tyra’s voiceover monologue on the subject, they changed the rules this “cycle” in order to “prove that fierce has many sizes” (still mostly size 0, no doy, except a short 0 is okay for now (now ONLY)).

Oh! There’s also another “theme” this cycle, which they always do (remember the sci-fi cycle when The Jays would beam in an out of scenes for no reason??!!). Tyra and The Jays are all about calling this cycle “Le Cycle 13 Collection,” which is fake French for “Hi, we’ve done this 13 times, and lots of other fashion people use the word ‘collection’ to talk about their stuff, and also so many of them are French, so this is us trying to do those things, but not trying very hard because our drink-y helmets are out of Pepsi Zero right now and we’re tired.”

“Le Cycle 13 Collection” is basically an excuse for Tyra to stumble in and out of speaking with a French accent whenever she damn well pleases (she is Tyra)–and despite the fierce acting skills she flaunted on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Felicity (HI FELICITY!!!!), her French accent is so fromage-y that it made me want to sortie my apartment via le window.

For the lucky [SHORT] hopefuls, the first half of this two-hour premiere consisted of a brief runway lesson by Miss Jay Alexander, individual sob-story-hour with the panel, and then two eliminations based on nothing. It was the girls’ opportunity to make a name for themselves on their terms, before the producers give them wigs to wear and force them to have hot-tub fights over who ate whose Shark Bites (SPOILER ALERT: Whitney from Cycle 9 ate all your Shark Bites, if you know what I’m saying (she was plus-size)).

The girls on “Le Cycle 13 Collection” proved themselves to be not only short, but also brilliantly self-aware. There’s Brittany, the self-proclaimed “book nerd,” who’s been “doing math” since she was 3.

Kara, (a dead-ringer for Kelly Bensimon, c-word voice and all) who makes a point of saying that she comes from an “upper-middle-class family” who “never had to struggle for money”.

Laura, a farm girl who, in her own words, is “a small-town girl who can reach outside her box” (LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL, her box must be huge if that’s a bragging point, am I right?!).

Nicole, the self-described “mature one,” who brings a “large, rusty wheelbarrow to school instead of a backpack,” “sits alone” all the time, and whose nickname growing up was “bloody eyeball” (uh…4real?).

Amanda, who lives in a pop-up FEMA trailer on the East side of New Orleans with two other people and goes #1 in the yard and #2 at MacDonald’s.

(no photo available, sah-wee).

Lulu , a fierce Brooklyn lesbian with her girlfriend’s name tattooed on her chest.

Bianca, a Junior at Howard University who’s so “sophisticated and mature” that she can “carry on a conversation with Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton” (“how fast do you have to type to be Secretary of State, and like, can you choose which state, because I really wanna go to Hawaii”–Bianca to Colin and Hill).

Courtney, who’s on crutches because she broke her foot cheerleading.

Sundai, who has the best name in history, and grew up in foster care, yet speaks exactly like Blake Lively.

And Rae, a 21 year old mother and rape victim (NOT funny).

And then there’s the show-stopping Amber, who is a model with a mission: “I am for Jesus Christ, and he wants me to help the world, and I will do whatever he wants me to do.”

Naturally, Jesus Christ wants Amber to survive on 29 calories a day, go on a reality show, and spread His gospel of smiling-with-your-eyes by never shutting up about Him: “I love talking about it, I can just be like [SINGING] Jesus, you’re my best friend.”

UNFORTCH, Amber, who is a nightmare genius, and would have made this cycle ridic-times-a-millie, had to drop out in the second hour due to “personal reasons” (Jesus made her tall, probs). She gets replaced by Lisa, who, according to Mr. Jay, has “flawless eyebrows” (he would know), who’d been sent home earlier in the episode for seeming boring.

Laura’s my early fav (sorry, sister, that means you’ve got about 2 eps left, tops, I’ve got BAD TASTE), mostly because during her interview with the panel, she described how to castrate a cow with your bare hands (she can “do” 100 a day): “you squeeze the nuts up their belly, cut the sack off, then you pull them down, and wrap them around your finger and pull it, and they just break off.” That’s what she…said? The panel was shocked, and Tyra couldn’t resist playing Christiane Amanpour for a second, asking “Does that hurt the cows?” NO TYRA, IT FEELS AWESOME, REMEMBER WHEN THEY DID IT TO YOU BACKSTAGE AT THE VICTORIA SECRET RUNWAY SHOW??

Okay, fast forward. The first two eliminations happen (bye Amanda, good luck in your FEMA trailer ?), then the girls move into their new house in LA. BUT FIRST, in a departure from cycles past, the girls get their makeovers right away, instead of getting to look like themselves for even one photo.

Top Model makeovers are general epic, and involve lots of crying. Not so much this year. Oh well? One weird thing that did happen is that three different girls (Bianca, Rae and Erin) get their eyebrows bleached albino blonde. Fiiiieeeerrrrccceeee. Oh, and instead of calling them ‘makeovers,’ this time they’re called ‘Ty-overs,’ which is a pun (not even kind of a pun) that only Helen Keller would find funny (and the empty Pepsi Zero helmets strike again). OH, also, because the makeovers happen right away this year, and the producers still wanted to have a big reveal for each girl, there are a couple of confessional segments in the middle of the episode where different girls have to hide their new hairdos (and eyebrow-dos) with weird chemo head-wraps, a la Little Edie from Grey Gardens.

And THEN, it’s house time. Because this is the season of short girls, naturally the house is decorated with oversized surrealist armchairs that make the models look like Alice in Wonderland characters, and all the mirrors are funhouse ones. Perfect.

FIIIIINALLY, it’s photo shoot time, and the girls are asked to bring a modern, high fashion twist to a baby picture of themselves. Like this:

The shoot goes smoothly, except for Bianca, who complains that she doesn’t like her makeup (hey, you should talk to Kofi Annan about that probs), and Lisa, who makes a very sad clown. Rae, Lulu, and Bloody Eyeball were clear standouts, as was Ashley, who was actually plucked from the audience of The Tyra Banks Show by Tyra’s wig-master Oscar, and given the chance to compete on ANTM.

The guest judge this week was supermodel Chanel Iman, who chose her stage name from a very short book about famous names in fashion. For the occasion, Tyra wore a darker wig and a midriff-bearing top. FANCY!

The judges give Bianca a hard time about being a complainer, but in the end, they send Lisa packing, for the second time in two days. Rae’s photo was judged to be the best, and Chanel Iman was so impressed with her pose (crucified on a ballet bar wearing point shoes with 8″ heels), that she said she’s going to practice it when she gets home. If Amber’s God is reading this: please let Chanel Iman’s promise turn into another celebrity death by embarrassing sex accident, please.

The premiere of “Le Cycle 13 Collection” was very long, which was a brilliant counterpoint to all of the models, who are very short. I’m excited to see how this unfolds. Prediction time: Laura is going to hand-castrate Mr. Jay by episode 3, and Lulu and I are going to become very close friends. Hi Lulu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!