America’s Next Top Model
Despite Top Model’s best efforts to give its remaining girls fascinating emotional contours, we have in our final five models some flatly constructed personas, even for a reality show. Sure, they all seem perfectly nice and we’d absolutely split a plate of disco fries with any of them given the chance, but when Kyla, Khrystyana, Rio, Shanice, and Jeana are told that this week’s challenges are themed around personality, the girls don’t exactly inspire confidence. Cut to Jeana, who is immediately and hilariously devastated by the mere mention of personality, and we know to strap ourselves in for a boring ride.
This episode works hard to remind us of the established quirks these models have, because — even ten episodes in — they haven’t really stuck. We know Shanice has multiple personalities (“Sha-Nasty” being the most frequently invoked), and Khrystyana is some sort of Katy Perry Teenage Dream vision board come to life. The rest of the girls are otherwise mild and uncompelling. Rio is sunny but cocky, and Kyla’s deal is that she’s an activist with a learning disability, we think? Jeana has kind of just been a good model up to this point, whose behavior we’ve only recently seen develop for the camera now that there are only a few girls left.
The initial challenge, mercifully occurring right after Erin’s elimination, is for the girls to create their own avatar in the America’s Next Top Model mobile game and present them to both Law Roach and the app’s creator David Ortiz (not to be confused with the Boston Red Sox’s designated hitter and occasional first baseman — yes, we do contain multitudes!). They have 15 minutes to do this, which is not nearly enough time, and the challenge ultimately tests the girls more on how fast they can write down some fun bullshit than their ability to create a digital persona. But this is modeling, apparently.
The presentations are surprisingly fun for the most part, as each girl proves to be adept at representing themselves. Rio creates an alter ego that’s symbolic of her journey: a Detroit girl who becomes an L.A. woman who becomes America’s Next Top Model. She asks the game to render her brain surgery scar from her tumor removal to remind us all that she’s overcome dark periods in her life. It’s a charming and fine, personable presentation.
Kyla’s avatar is educated and for equality. By day she marches for Black Lives Matter and by night she’s “Paris Hilton,” according to Law, who pried into Kyla’s sex life in the previous episode. Shanice presents a Tennessee girl who is grounded and down to earth, but comes alive in the evenings to dance around as Sha-Nasty.
Since Khrystyana’s existence is similar to that of a real-life video game character, this challenge is a piece of cake. She throws in some fun catchphrases, like saying “Next-level fierce,” in Russian. She’s brimming with enthusiasm about everything and exudes so much natural charm that Law and David are easily won over.
Jeana tries and fails to lead with her “alien beauty,” but can’t respond to simple questions about her character’s personality and is therefore left without much to say about her own. Law and David write her off as too serious, wishing there was more attitude and humor to work with. Jeana pouts in the holding area, upset that she wasn’t told prior to the challenge that she should “act a fool” during the presentation, and maintains this pout for the rest of the episode. It’s bewildering to watch a reality show contestant go from nondescript to extremely unlikable in just seconds, but never underestimate Top Model in doing wrong by its contestants!
It’s when Khrystyana edges out Rio for the win that we finally get some idea of who Jeana truly is. She’s unable to process the fact that she’s performed badly, doesn’t believe it was her fault despite having received the same prompt as the other girls, and calls Law a “sassy little bitch” who “likes bitches,” delivered with a classic, dead-in-the-eyes Shannen Doherty face. Khrystyana wins a styling/image-architecting session with Law, which is good since she’s run out of clothes. And honestly? That little reveal is charming as well!
On the bus home, Jeana continues her tantrum and we kind of get it. She’s not winning the competition as it stands, with Khrystyana enjoying four wins so far and Rio not far behind with three. You can see the realization sinking in that she is no longer the favorite, and Jeana is clearly panicking. Later, a sympathetic Khrystyana takes the time to console her in the bathroom. Clearly, the criticism has really affected her, and how she chooses to move forward will ultimately reveal more of her true personality. Somewhere, a beautiful bald snake is eating its own tail.
The girls head out to a mansion the next day for a music-video shoot with Director X, whom Kyla has a cute crush on. The song is produced and created by someone named Maejor, and the goal of the video today is to show a lot of personality (read: act, emote, do literally anything) in the video.
In the first setup, the girls have to look bored at a fancy dinner, but like, act it. What Rio and Jeana don’t understand, that the rest of the girls do, is that there’s a difference between being bored and being bored in a music video. Rio and Jeana just aren’t schmacting enough! It needs to be bigger. They probably could benefit from Director X and Walking Eyeroll Drew Elliott giving a note, but they offer no feedback besides a few cursory murmurs along the lines of, “Do something else.” Even a “Be bigger,” or “Give me more actively bored,” would help, but to no avail. Kyla throws a grape and she’s treated as if she’s Nicole Kidman in Birth.
Next, the girls perform in solo sections of the music video. Kyla crawls seductively on a table and scowls decently. Jeana is dead-focused on giving ice-cold-bitch realness throughout all of her takes, but it just reads as one-note. Rio, meanwhile, gives nothing but agape mouth the entire time. Thankfully, Khrystyana is a star on camera and really takes her space in her shot, while Shanice is captivating enough even though we’re not sure if it’s her or the lighting.
There’s some drama surrounding a scene in which Khrystyana and Shanice are to have a pillow fight together and suddenly Jeana jumps in. Khrystyana and Shanice had been under the impression that this was their shot, not Jeana’s, and are confused as to why she would invade the scene. This follows a moment where Khrystyana’s heel breaks and she receives naught but an icy glare from Jeana, whom she had previously comforted. It’s weird. Maybe Jeana is in character as the Ice Queen at the Party, or maybe we’re seeing that she really is as fake as the girls have been saying all season. Khrystyana seems decided on her stance, as she calls Jeana an “undercover bitch,” which honestly sounds like a great movie no matter the genre.
Director X joins the panel to guest judge, and as a result we get a long moment hashing out Kyla’s schoolyard crush on him. This is, we guess, a way to keep Kyla memorable. The show obviously wants her to do very well, seeing as she probably should have been eliminated, oh, we don’t know, eight episodes ago? But she’s cute here and she definitely crawled on a table in the video, which might be the low bar she has to clear to keep earning her spot. And so, her crawling was good and she gets positive feedback. Law cancels himself yet again by uttering some nonsense about how, “All you needed was a man to bring out your femininity.” What? How did this make it past the edit? Who encouraged this person? Bye.
Khrystyana, who was styled by Law for the judging panel and thus has our condolences for having to spend an afternoon with him, is stunning in the commercial and is told so. She should win. You heard it here first, and also probably like ten weeks ago. We think we said it at some point. We don’t know, to be honest; it feels like we’ve been writing about this show for 15 years. At least Khrystyana has kept us company.
Jeana is read for just giving Jeana the whole time. There is no variety in her performance, or in her completely unabashed mean-mug during judging. Rio is also given bad critiques, but her performance isn’t as noticeably subpar as Jeana’s and her attitude hasn’t cast a terrible pall on the competition, so she’ll probably be fine. Meanwhile, Shanice looks stunning in the video but receives some florid comment about how she should be more of a model from the neck down. She gives face, but not body, says Tyra, who spent her cameo seated and hiding under a baseball cap.
There’s a bit of a she-said, she-said moment over Jeana intruding on Khrystyana and Shanice’s shot, but Director X clears the air to explain that it was he who pulled in Jeana at the last second. Backstage Khrystyana gracefully apologizes for misspeaking, but still takes Jeana to task for pushing her on-set. Jeana retreats into a sleeping bag that seemingly materializes out of nowhere, and Shanice and Kyla share a cute and catty little laugh over it. Khrystyana wins Best Performance, now leading the pack with five shoot-wins, while Rio and Jeana end up in the bottom two. Once Jeana gets the chop, Tyra sends her off with some overwrought bromide about being more than a bald model, right after Tyra calls her a bald model. We’ll miss Jeana, and we’re a little shocked at the show’s dizzying turnover in crafting and disposing personalities within the same episode. Oh Jeana, we hardly knew ye, probably because we weren’t given a real chance.