Last week, America’s Next Top Model turned the show’s standard format on its beautiful head by bringing back one eliminated contestant (who, for the record, looks identical to one of the non-eliminated contestants), but this followup is a welcome addition to the classic ANTM archive. A self-scripted PSA challenge shot in dark tones and bright lipstick, coupled with a photo shoot in which the models dress up as famous icons? That has Tyra’s legacy all over it … literally.
The numbers have now gotten small enough — seven, including the return of Tash — and each contestant has built up enough of a portfolio that they’ve begun really assessing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I cannot even begin to explain how little I care about the personal conflict of one model eating two spoonfuls of another model’s ice cream; I do, however, find them sizing each other up as competition interesting. India and Tatiana each consider the other their main rival for the ANTM crown. Cody is intimidated by her twin sister Tash’s confidence, and Tash isn’t intimidated by anyone because she’s on an adrenaline high from earning her way back into the competition. Everyone thinks the challenges and photo shoots are constantly catered to Paige’s varied skill set, even though she’s been hovering in the middle all season. No one seems to be worried about Courtney, despite her cockroach-like ability to stay alive in this competition thus far.
With all that in mind, the remaining seven head into their challenge, led by supermodel-in-residence Ashley Graham. Beside her is lady-boss-in-residence Amber Rose, because, this week, the models are going to be recording PSAs for Amber Rose’s Slut Walk. Ashley and the contestants all note that Amber is the embodiment of the business-boss-brand package that ANTM has been pushing all season. And this is where I note that not a single contestant looks anything like Amber Rose or Ashley, the ambassadors of being a business-boss-brand.
But whatever, we’re all just here for a good cause! Amber advises that the Slut Walk is all about empowering women, which also happens to be the general theme of this week’s episode. The walk encourages women to stand up against slut-shaming, victim-blaming, rape, and sexual assault, and to remind women everywhere that they should have control over their own bodies. The models are split into two groups to create a 20-second PSA relaying those same messages in their own words via a group shot, individual shots, and, of course, a dramatic shattering-of-glass shot.
Team One consists of India, Paige, Cody, and Tash, and they’re confident that they’ll take the challenge since there’s no way that Courtney, Tatiana, and CoryAnne will work well together. And they don’t work well together. Perhaps because of Tatiana and Courtney’s annoyance with each other, though, they really buckle down on studying the materials and come up with dialogue that Amber Rose says perfectly embodies the Slut Walk message. Of course, they deliver it with about as much conviction as three gorgeous two-by-fours. Team One, on the other hand, is all confidence and energy, but they miss the mark on the messaging. Tash’s individual line is “It’s my body, my choice, his lucky day,” which has a ring to it, but definitely doesn’t capture the women’s sexuality is not defined by men mission statement.
So basically, no one did that great, but Amber Rose says it’s the Slut Walk message that’s most important, so Tatiana, Courtney, and CoryAnne’s PSA will be featured on the big screens at this year’s event. Cool! At this point, Tatiana has racked up some pretty high-profile post-ANTM coverage — but for the record, I’ve been keeping my eye on Gypsy Sport’s Instagram in the lead up to Fashion Week and no Tati yet.
Luckily, everyone will have a chance to redeem themselves in yet another challenge themed around empowered women. Stacey McKenzie is at the photo shoot to inform the models that they’ll be embodying some of the “most boss ladies” in industry history. Which is to say: Paige as Britney Spears, Cody as Grace Jones, Courtney as Madonna, India as Katy Perry, Tash as Tina Turner, Coryanne as Beyoncé, and Tatiana as … Tyra Banks. No pressure, girl.
Stacey tells them that the goal isn’t to impersonate the stars, but to be inspired by them, combining their own bossness with their inspirations’ bossness. That instruction, in addition to some sometimes-confusing direction from Drew Elliot, leads to a lackluster photo shoot for the models. For us, it’s still plenty fun to see them in costume. I would love for an ANTM superfan to compile the number of wannabe models who have been asked to pull a Grace Jones impression out of their ass throughout the course of 23 seasons.
The newest installment to that list would be Cody. I thought she did a pretty admirable job using her incredible bone structure to her advantage and striking dramatically Grace-esque poses. Rita ultimately thinks she gets the job done with her final photo at Panel, but Stacey and Drew report that on set, the poses felt robotic. Ashley advises her to not let having her sister’s return to the competition distract her from her own career.
The judges also felt that Tatiana might have been a little distracted, not by Tash, but by how well she’s been doing lately. She was given the monumental task of posing as Tyra Banks, Queen of ANTM, and her pretty boring photo indicated that she’s beginning to coast. Ashley gives advice that is crazy but also correct: Get naked and swing your hair around in the mirror. Be willing to get crazy — that’s what Tyra would do! It’s not so clear if Courtney is going to be able to take it to that level. Though her look as Madonna is some kind of fierce, inspiring Rita to exclaim, “Your features are the truth,” Drew reports from set that he was giving her direction after direction and she just couldn’t accomplish them. How much longer can this last?
Because Courtney’s isn’t the only face that speaks the truth. Of India’s perfectly playful Katy Perry, Drew says, “Your face is like a light — you’re immediately attracted to it.” Though Drew also advises her to be more conscious of her body while posing, it’s clear India has become the one to watch. But keep your eye on Tash too. (Especially you, Cody!) She looks fabulous and full of energy in her Tina Turner shot that seems to capture her mid-motion. Stacey says she came back into this competition passionate and hungry, and that’s what wins her one half of this week’s Best Photo; in a first for this season, she shares the top spot with India.
Even with two winners, someone still has to go. I felt for Paige, because I don’t think “act like this is the 12th time you’ve won this award and you’re kind of over it” is the kind of direction that’s going to get you a “boss” picture. But when the judges point out that Paige’s photos over the course of the season have all turned up one note … well, they’re right. She has the dynamic personality, but that isn’t coming through in her body of work. Whereas CoryAnne has turned out a few knockout photos, but she wasn’t able to take Drew’s direction in this shoot and serve anything close to Beyoncé. The judges wonder where her confidence has gone.
Apparently, they think she might find it once more, because Paige is the one sent packing. She gives just the nicest good-bye to the experience and her fellow competitors, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she pulled a nice Analeigh Tipton sometime down the road.