'America's Next Top Model': Sink or swim

tyrabanks_topmodel13.jpgClearly the photo-shoots on "America's Next Top Model" are for entertainment value more than the real modeling industry. We have seen the girls imitate their baby photo, pose like Drag Queens on a horse, bend their bodies like Cirque Du Soleil dancers, fly in the air like a Ninja, pose with metal and wrap scarves around their heads and bodies like mummies, among other weird things.

This week's episode started with the Short Model House being condemned by Tyra, who has wrapped red "Danger" tape all around the house and inside of it. The house is a disaster, a pig-sty and Tyra claims that Sundai's suitcase is an explosive clothing pile, which would make a good home for a rat. The girls are embarrassed, and Laura is anxious to start cleaning up but Tyra has other plans for them. She is declaring the girls can not live in the house anymore.

She directs them to the backyard, where Tyra slips out of her "condemning outfit" and is now flaunting herself in a bikini. As the girl huddle on the patio they take notice that the backyard has transformed into a tropical paradise. With ass-shaking girls in grass skirts and half naked men flinging fire sticks, fruit galore and sand to play in, Tyra announces the girls better get packing because they are going to Hawaii, and they all squeal!

Sundai can't believe it, she has never been anywhere, she says. You know, except for Los Angeles for the show since she's from Las Vegas.

Next I hear Tyra's voice-over saying "welcome to Fierce Airlines," and I think, "Are you effin' kidding me?"

Off the plane and into their new pad, the girls are walking into a gazillion dollar home (or that is what it looks like), the grass is so green you want to cut it and add it to a salad and eat it, on the spot. Jennifer's CoverGirl commercial is playing in the living room, the bathroom, on another plasma near one of the six pools and waterfalls.  

Tyra Mail has arrived. It reads: "If you want to catch a break, you're going to have to go get it."

Nicole ventures a guess that they'll be fishing. Nope it's surfing. A surfing photo challenge awaits.

topmodel13_surfchallenge.jpg Sink or Surf.

I immediately think of the movie "Surf's Up," with the penguins, I love that movie.

The girls first have to learn how to ride a board, at Surf camp with surfing champ Buzzy Kerbox. Each little fishy has her try of falling on their face while trying to land a good balance on the surfboard. Their outfits were really ugly and not flattering. It was not a Jessica Alba bikinis in "Into the Blue," it was more like little models on big surfboards trying not to drown, while wearing over-sized boyshorts.

Riding the board doesn't look easy; none of them ride the wave that well. I worry for a shark to bite their arm off or worse. Now imagine doing a photo-shoot on a surfboard, while trying to keep your posture and poise and watch for sharks at the same time, because that's what happens next.

Don't worry the girls have professional surfer boys helping them catch the wave, and get their stance. The models just have to quickly get into a pose that looks pretty without falling off the board, as they glide.

Laura doesn't bend her knee enough and looks thick at the thighs. Later she gets very burnt from the sun and says she felt like a "piglet in a skillet."

Sundai couldn't get a good connection with the camera nor her pose and it results with a shot of her back to the camera.

Nicole looks sexy actually and poses with a nice arch to her back. Jennifer stretches her arm to keep her balance and looks Egyptian and I gave her three stars out of a five.

With the help of the surfer guys, Brittany gets her balance and lifts her arm toward her head creating a nice sensual pose, and Erin leaning back into the surfer dude also looks Sports Illustrated.

Erin wins this surf photo challenge. Her prize: A helicopter ride around the island. She gets to pick two friends and picks: Brittany and Nicole. Ironically Brittany had been previously shown talking smack about Erin and her immaturity. Maybe it was the editing but I wanted to tell Brittany to behave!

Erin is  delighted to win something finally, but after the helicopter ride she mentions how she would have rather won something tangible like jewelry. Her voice is full of snot  and all the girls notice her unappreciative manner.

Help! Tyra has the camera again!

Next we see the girls in a heavy duty van being driven into the grasslands and jungle-like atmosphere. The van stops and out of the woods comes Tyra and Jay.

Tyra is transforming the petite models into biracial models. She is shooting it as well. She teaches the girls the meaning of the Hawaiian word for "being mixed" or "Half and half," Happa.  Tyra makes it so dramatic. I didn't think being biracial was that big of a deal. I mean aren't many of us biracial at this point?

Still, I feel nervous listening to Tyra tell the girls which two nationalities they each will portray for the forthcoming shoot.

larastone_frenchvogue.jpgTents are set up, and the itty bitties are covered in an interesting brown foundation and I can't help but think of the French Vogue controversy over the black face model Lara Stone recently.

It's National Geographic meets a sad commercial for donating a dollar a day to feed children in poor countries, photo-shoot.

The girls are wearing the outfits that fit the vibe of the cultures they were representing, but with their hollow looking faces and expressions it's sadness I felt.

We are the world.

Tibetan, Egyptian, Greek, Madagascar, Mexican, Malaysian, Japanese, East Indian, and Native American, the list goes on. The girls should have been shown some images ahead of time of people from these cultures to get inspired. But no. Instead they are winging it, with Tyra as their non-explaining, frustrated photographer, who is having a terrible time shooting the girls. The little models obviously have spirit for the cultures they are trying to give props too. Sundai clings to a walking stick; Jennifer's necklace is almost bigger than her. Laura's legs are crooked and bent, and my eyes zig-zag down her body, but her eyes manage to have a glow. Brittany doesn't look as determined as the Pocahontas she is trying to portray. Erin's covered with too much makeup, and has a huge frock of wheat on her head, and although her shoulder forward and space between her body and arm gives her length, we lose the life in her eyes, but her dark haired wig looks nice. Nicole is looking off into the sunset perhaps, and has a long neck despite the chunky necklace. Nicole makes a statement within the theme and looks the most "into" the shoot, like she is on a mission to win this cycle.

This week's petite guest judge is supermodel Kirsty Hume, but she doesn't help the pee-wee models out with any tips on being a short model. I don't think this day will ever come, but I watch each week hoping one of the guest judges with represent shorter models and give some helpful hints to the hopefuls.

brittany_topmodel13.jpgNigel has been on Brittany's side all this time but not tonight.

Erin and Brittany are last at panel. Erin stands up to Tyra and tells her she is upset that she is constantly judged. I get the vibe she is upset because the photo team doesn't give the models enough information about the shoot and they struggle often clueless.

Brittany is going home.  Tyra tells her it is because she has been "too commercial," which is ironic because commercial print modeling is where petite models can find opportunity. Obviously on America's Next Top Model it is not about learning how to take what you do have an apply it to the modeling world, however I am still wondering when the girls are going to model "something", like a product, a high heels!?

I think the photos of the girls in the ad and promo spots on the CW website are so much better, more usable, than the ones that are produced on the show.

Contemplating how this show has been running for so long, why does America like it so much? Please do tell?


Isobella Jade is known as one of the tiniest working models out there. She is also the author of "Almost 5'4"," her modeling memoir. This fall her graphic novel "Model Life: The Journey of a Pint Size Fashion Warrior" will be released. Daily, Isobella gives modeling insight and advice on being a shorter-than-average model on her blog, Petite Modeling Tips. Despite her height she has modeled for Marshalls, Victoria's Secret, Easy Spirit, Macy's, Bon Appetit, Time Magazine, TLC, Women's World, and many others. You can find her at www.isobelladreams.com and follow her on Twitter.


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