America’s Next Top Model Cycle 20 Recap: Let’s Not Touch Our Hair

by Shilo Adams / August 9, 2013

america's next top modelThe Top Models of America have been asked to do many a thing over the course of 20 cycles: tooch it out to “Shake Ya Body”, pretend that Tyra is a coherent human being and not a Tickle Me, Catchphrase doll, give up their dignity for a shot at an industry that likely won’t accept them anyway. But tonight, Tyra and company asked the 16 children who got lost on the way to Real World auditions contestants of cycle 20 to do one thing that hasn’t been done on Top Model before: become superhuman.

Yes, Top Model served a little Spider-Man realness with a challenge that involved fiercely walking down the side of the building before shilling for Guess for what will be a long season of product placement, even for this show. As per usual with any Top Model-Fear Factor hybrid challenge, there are people who are pumped at the opportunity to dangle from a building in search of Kelly Cutrone’s approval (“southern rebel” Chris S., who has modeled since 14; Bianca, object of many desires in the house and another long-time model; Chlea, who will cut me if I say anything bad about her in this recap) while others are busy wondering if The Bad Girls Club is still taking participants (Mike, who needs some ice cream to calm down; PTSD-sufferer Don). The challenge, which will be the first of the season and judged on a 1-10 scale by the judges, including special guest Jessica Hart, offers no special rewards away from a trip to the Tyra Suite and Guess closet – and all that’s at stake is their lives. Sounds like a fair trade, because I would risk my life for a cute new jean jacket.

In a nutshell, pretty much everybody bites the dust at one point on the building runway; it takes a massive amount of core strength to stay perpendicular to the ground, while also projecting high fashion from your face and keeping stray quirks (stiff arms, wobbly walk, ugly crying) from seeping into your fierceness. Those who did the poorest are Mike, whose radiated stiffness through both the building exercise and the regular runway walk; Bianca, literally giving up after a certain point and poseting (pose + floating – see, I can make up words, too, Tyra) all the way to the ground; Chris H. and his zombie arms; and Chlea, unable to get solid footing and yelling stuff like “aw hell naw” while attempting to get her balance. But among everybody else, the only people who got it together long enough to make it to the ground and rip off their trenchcoats were Marvin, whose cheekbones deflected enough wind to keep his building walk smooth and powerful; Renee, overcoming an initial stumble to give pretty and sensual on the runway; and Cory, who didn’t get distracted by Jiana being a hot mess beside him. Ultimately, the challenge, was won by Renee and she took new BFF Kanani to the Tyra Suite, decorated in photos of and quotes by our fearless leader, and the Guess closet, though we don’t know what exactly they brought out.

Everybody comes home to find out their scores and while people like Marvin are sitting pretty with 9’s, Mike and Bianca are slumming it in the world of 5’s, though she doesn’t seem to care because Mike is cute and they like each other. Or something. Oh, and apparently there’s only one condom in the house and it expires the following week, so somebody needs to get on that. Marvin would like somebody to get on it (preferably Bianca), but chicks don’t dig dudes with 9’s and zero game. Sorry, Marvin, who nicknamed yourself “Five Minute Marv” for whatever reason.

Tyra maiiiiil!

Only, this Tyra mail is a Flixel, because this is who we’re advertising for this season. Basically, the mail is a still photo, except for Tyra’s hair wafting in an unseen breeze from an unseen wind machine. Personally, I tote my wind machine around, but that’s just me. The mail itself said something about commitment and knowing the geniuses in this house, nobody knew what the heck the challenge would be.

It’s time to get married, y’all! Throw on some Jagged Edge and let me two step.

I mean, the photo shoot is a Vegas wedding shot; Tyra says something about an “alternative wedding,” so you know this will be costume-y and themed. Which it turns out to be, of course, but nobody can complain, since Tyra is also doing the makeup this cycle. America’s Next Top Model: MacGyver. I’m thinking that cycle 21 will see Tyra also taking every photo, doing the catering, and acting as all four judges, only this time, the latter won’t just be in her head. And in case you didn’t know, there’s a whole lot of sexual tension in this house (except for Cory, who is not here for any of these fools), so good job on not providing a ton of condoms, Tyra. Chlea thinks Mike’s hot, there’s some type of ab contest judged by Nina, Marvin turns up the creep-o-meter on Bianca, and they’re trying to literally marry Chris H. and Nina off so that they can have weird, asocial babies.

Shoot time!

Jourdan and Jeremy are first up and they receive “nudist” as their theme. However, nobody’s actually naked and they end up posing in front of a tuft of fake grass while looking like a quirky vacation photo (Jourdan’s flowers on her head) rather than a wedding shot. Since Jourdan has no confidence and is all psyched out by having to relive the personal ‘nam that was her wedding, things are awkward and stiff between her and Jeremy, but after she gets done panicking, she gets much better notes from both photographer Douglas Friedman and Johnny. Mike and Alex have a shotgun wedding, complete with baby bump, two children, a stroller, and faux nerd glasses, and while Alexandra seems to know what she’s doing, Mike is still a shrinking violet, afraid of (or not knowing how to) go bigger in his posing or facial expressions and remaining very dull. Jiana (clad in a fitted pantsuit, chignon, and high fashion-y makeup) and Kanani (all snow princess-ed out), both of whom had their makeup done by Tyra, have a lesbian wedding and it goes decently enough. Cory and Chlea’s biker wedding, as well as their face tattoos, meanwhile isn’t so hot; Cory’s unable to shift to the more masculine side of his androgyny and doesn’t read as masculine as he should for this type of character.

Elsewhere, Chris H. panics about being in a gay wedding with Don, who would rather they kill the shoot than fret about what the theme is. While Chris goes a bit too over-the-top with the femininity, the two eventually settle into a nice routine and get the job done. Phil’s wedding features him and a TV remote, as he’s portraying a man in love with inanimate objects; Top Model can do camp and silliness with the best of ’em, but even this might be a little too much. Bonus points for the guyliner, though, which looks really good on him. (Side bar: I used to have a TV with that remote, so that was extra uncomfortable watching Phil almost licking my remote.) Marvin, Bianca, and Nina had a marathon of Big Love and threw them an American Gothic-y group wedding, where Bianca faded into the background. A grilled-out Chris S. and Renee were paired for a hip-hop wedding and I still don’t know if I’m offended. Like Cory, he can’t butch it up enough to really make the character believable, the scene around them (people “making it rain”) was awkward and vaguely racial, and Renee was just there. I dunno.

Skull maiiiil! No one is safe. Is Top Model going to go without immunity this cycle? Could be interesting.

While Chris S. is still thinking he takes amazing pictures, Mike is becoming a wino with a coffee cup he refilled, like, eight times, which he later accidentally broke. Also, Marvin is still annoyed that Mike is pressing up on “his girl,” even though Bianca wants no part of that. Oh, Marvin, your overcompensation is already killing my soul.

Panel! Bryanboy is wearing an old lady’s sun hat indoors. That is all.

Alex and Mike: She looks good and is extremely engaged in the shot, even tooching into Mike for added effect, but he’s stiff and doesn’t convey much of a story with his modeling, nor does he use the props (i.e. the kids, his glasses) allotted. She gets two 7’s and an 8; he gets 2 7’s and a 6.

Renee and Chris S.: He looks like the thuggest lesbian in the world and does the Top Model Hip Pop rather than holding himself in a masculine manner, while she might as well have been a mannequin, as she didn’t convey any sense of their theme. He gets two 6’s and a 5 and she gets a 5, a 6, and a 7.

Kanani and Jiana: Kanani looks cute, but she’s extremely safe and doesn’t really seem present in her shot; Jiana may have fierce styling, but her posing is very chin-y and seems strained. (The judges don’t call it out and seem to love her.) The former gets two 7’s and a 5, while the latter gets a 7, an 8, and a 9.

Cory and Chlea: He actually has a good photo and a strong smize, but it’s not in line with the shoot theme and what was expected of the character. Meanwhile, Chlea gets chewed out by Kelly over an incident that happened at the Guess challenge (basically, Chlea thinks that the tone in which Kelly delivers her criticism is awful.) and then petulantly low-balled with a 4 by the supposed PR professional after an extremely rude critique. Cory ends up with a 6, a 7, and an 8, while Chlea has an 8 and a 7 to go along with her 4.

Phil: Low social media love for a photo that looks very creepy spokesmodel-ish vs. model-esque. Also, it reads the most joke-y out of the entire collection and gives him a 5, a 6, and a 7.

Chris H. and Don: A pretty strong first photo for both. It’s not spectacular, nor is it anything that belongs in the Top Model Pantheon, but it stands out amid all the first-week photos due to how confident and self-assured it is. Chris earns a 10, 8, and 9, while Don picks up two 9’s and an 8.

Jourdan and Jeremy: She’s the classic “resting on pretty” model of the cast, though social media (predictably) loves her vacant All-American look. He easily steals the photo from her with an innocent, virginal approach to the nudism, but his inexperience could make this a fluke shot vs. something where he knows what he was doing. She gets a 6, 7, and 5, while he has an 8, 6, and 5.

Nina, Marvin, and Bianca: While Nina’s photo is mostly okay (5, 6, 7), Tyra gives her a pointer about how her profile looks more striking than a straight on shot. Bianca’s unremarkable in her shot (6, 7, 5) and doesn’t seem to know what to do with her body. Marvin, meanwhile, is very strong in the face (9, 10, 9) and brings a certain amount of creepy confidence that works with the character.

Top Model Leaderboard: You Won’t Remember Half of These People By the End of the Season
1. Marvin – 42.1
2. Don – 39.1
3. Chris H. – 39.1
4. Jiana – 37.5
5. Alexandra – 36.7
6. Cory – 35.6
7. Jeremy – 33.6
8. Renee – 32.6
9. Nina – 32.2
10. Jourdan – 31.9
11. Kanani – 31.9
12. Chlea – 31.6
13. Phil – 30.9
14. Mike – 30.2
15. Chris S. – 29.4 Eliminated (Not a strong enough presence. Also, short.)
16. Bianca – 29.2 Eliminated (Faded in front of the camera.)

Average male score: 35.0
Average female score: 32.95

Additional thoughts and observations:
-So, the opening credits are kind of cute, right? At least they feature close-ups of every model and names plastered for every contestant, because the last set of credits they did didn’t have either. Small victories and whatnot.
-I’m curious how long we’ll be doing double eliminations and whether there’ll always be a bottom three. This season will likely be going into November again, so there can’t be too many, considering that we’re starting a few weeks before last season did. It would have been nice for Tyra to be more forthcoming about how the heck this cycle is supposed to be structured. That being said, this episode was way overstuffed and buckled under the weight of having 16 people; it was felt most during panel, which featured really quick judges comments and zero shown deliberation.
-So, Mike dropped out of college, toured with a band, served ice cream, and is now on Top Model. Living the dream, man.
-I want to love Marvin, but I don’t love Marvin. While he’s probably a sweet kid in real life, editing has done him no favors, whether it be the forced ladies’ man act or the amount of times he mentioned that his father was a janitor last week. (Side bar: did you know that Marvin’s dad was a janitor?)
-This is the type of week that I hate on Top Model, only because it was a gimmicky shoot that doesn’t tell you much about who these people would be as a model and a challenge that was not based on model skill whatsoever. If you do this in a later week, fine, but to have these people deal with stuff like this in their first week is ridiculous and not a good note for the cycle to get off on. In recent years, Top Model has tried to make a play for legitimacy and while they’ll never make it, they can do much better than this game show mess.
-Is it a fashion thing for male and female models to be SUPER SENSUAL on the runway when they’re together? (Especially for something like Guess.) I got some major secondhand embarrassing when they showed these people at the end of the way during the Guess shoot and they’re nearly making out. Trying to have chemistry, okay, but nearly everyone was very over-the-top and put on.
-Jourdan’s wedding trauma is just bizarre to me. I get that her marriage was awful and that she was blinded by what she thought was love; I just haven’t heard of anyone that turned off by the idea of weddings after they get a divorce. Not just getting married again, but being in a wedding dress, being around people in dresses, posing with a guy in a birthday suit – get it together, Jourdan. Also, kudos, America, on picking the most All-American white girl to rally behind for the second season in a row. You never let me down.
-Who do you think will be the first in the house to hook up? Since it’s obvious that we’re building to that. I’d go with Marvin/his hand, but after that, the tension between Jourdan and Jeremy will give in.
-As much crap as I give the Top Model editors, the sequence of Mike kissing Bianca in confessional, Mike drinking and a little spit falling out in confessional, and Mike falling asleep in confessional was amazing.
-Do you consider the hip-hop wedding shoot as racist? I wouldn’t go that far, but it definitely made me uncomfortable. Thank the Fashion Gods that they didn’t put him in blackface, at least.
-Also submitted for your approval: Rob’s “I would have thought you were gay” comment about the Chris/Don photo was vaguely…something. Not homophobic, but it felt narrow-minded and ignorant. Feeling self-serving was the comments about the “courage” it took for Chris and Don to make that photo together. Like…stop it.
-I very briefly considered making this (too long) recap a diatribe about how toxic, non-constructive, hypocritical, and elitist I find Kelly Cutrone to be, how her petulance about Chlea was hideously unprofessional, about how she’s been nothing but a humorless Janice Dickinson the entire time she’s been on the show, about how the fashion industry would be much improved by an attitude that strikes down this idea that someone who might have talent or produce results can act however the hell the want just because of who they may or may not be in a niche industry. But then I decided not to.
-Next week on America’s Next Top Model: Makeovers! Also, it’s called “The Guy Who Gets a Weave,” so there’s that. Also also, I believe I saw a male model getting the ice blond treatment in the episode preview. Get ready, people.

   
Shilo Adams is a contributing editor for ScreenFad whose work has appeared on TVOvermind, TVHackr, and KSiteTV. You can e-mail him at sda2107@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @shilo_adams.