‘America’s Next Top Model’: The contestants try to stand out in a crowd

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This week’s “America’s Next Top Model” reminded me of those group assignments in high school. Remember that unique teen torture? I hated them because inevitably I’d end up with at least one person who wasn’t carrying his or her weight. You’re then left with a decision: Do you step it up, so that you get that A anyway, or do you simply do your part and hope not to fail? That’s the decision some of the young women faced this week, and their chances at being a top model depended on how they would answer it.

Posing coach Benny Ninja was joined by “America’s Best Dance Crew” judge Lil Mama and the show’s first season champions, Jabbawockeez, in the first challenge. The girls broke up into groups of three and were asked to choreograph a dance number that expressed four emotions while wearing masks. The goal of the challenge? To teach the girls how to express emotion with their bodies. Turns out good ‘smize’ just isn’t enough.

Of the three groups, the one that had the most difficulties was the one consisting of Erin, Ashley and Nicole. By now we all know Ashley (who was discovered in Tyra’s talk show audience) is a dancer. I feel like Tyra has some unrealized dreams of being a ballerina or something, because she constantly picks on contestants who are dancers. According to Tyra, dancers have the hardest time adjusting from dance poses to modeling poses. That may be right, but it’s more fun to think she’s bitter about not being a dancer. Isn’t it?
Ashley’s group should have had this competition in the bag ...

if it weren’t for Nicole, who with her Prozac-like personality and bloody eyeball fascination is officially the most bizarre of the bunch. To be fair, I think Ashley would have rocked this challenge, but she had to totally simplify the routine to make up for Nicole’s shortcomings (pun intended). In the end that was their downfall. Jennifer, Rae and Kara’s team ended up winning the competition and $17,000 in jewelry designed by Rhonda Faber Green.


Already having a crisis of confidence after being in the bottom two last week, Ashley took the loss pretty badly. She called her mother, who wasn’t about to let Ashley wallow in her despair, for support. Afterward, she seemed like she was ready to come back fighting.

For the photo competition, ‘ANTM’ whisked the gals off to Vegas, where they found themselves in the trippy world of Cirque du Soleil. Mr. Jay reveled in the opportunity to don a frightening costume, wear the makeup of a tranny clown and perform a crazy skit that ended with him being dragged into the sky by balloons. All that to relay a message from Ms. Banks: She loves Cirque du Soleil. Another riveting “Ty-spiration.”

When the photo competition rolled around, the contestants found out that, once again, they would have to work in groups. This time, not only would they have to deal with the competition from the other girls, but they would also be posing with creepy Cirque du Soleil performers. The styling on this shoot, though, was probably the best of the cycle, so far: big hair, fringed gowns and smoky eyes. Not sure how any gal couldn’t feel confident looking that faboo. In each group, Jay Manuel had his favorites, but of course he also identified the duds.

Now, while she may not be a dancing queen, Nicole usually rocks the photo shoots. This time, though, it seems Nigel’s suggestion last week that she try not to contort herself so much in photo shoots left her confused as to what to do with her body. Twisted (obviously) is her comfort zone. Jennifer was like an overcooked noodle – limp and lifeless. And despite her mom’s pep talk, Ashley just couldn’t summon the confidence to stand out in her group. Then there was Kara, who couldn’t seem to control her fear of being eliminated, which kept her from really connecting in the shoot.

At the judging panel, Tyra (looking like a hot Stepford Wife in a 1950’s-inspired black dress with fringed sleeves) explained how the weaker models compromised the quality of this week’s photos. Petite model Josie Maran joined the panel and helped name Brittany, Rae and Jennifer’s photo as the challenge winner. They made it clear, though, that Jennifer was saved by her teammates’ fierceness.

Kara and Ashley were banished to the bottom two. In the end, Ashley, who should have been a front-runner in this dance-themed episode, was sent home packing. Let’s hope, for her sake, that she’s a better dancer than a model.

— Jethro Nededog (follow me on Twitter @TheRealJethro)

Top photo: From left, Laura, the eliminated Ashley and Kara pose with Cirque du Soleil on ‘America’s Next Top Model.’ Credit: Mike Rosenthal / Pottle Productions Inc.