Welcome to High Fashion, and Cycle 15 of America’s Next Top Model. Tyra Banks is back to help a group of young women overcome serious issues – bad hair, fierceness deficiency, eyes being used for sight instead of smize. The theme this cycle is “high fashion,” so it might as well just be “modeling” since the importance of high fashion has sort of been a running theme all along. But no, this time it’s elevated – America’s Next Top Model is on a fashion tightrope, and if you are still shopping at Kohl’s, pray there’s a safety net.
The girls arrive at the airport with literal and figurative baggage, getting on a bus to Palm Springs. Names, ages, and hometowns come at us like they’re being shot from a fire hose. Some highlights: Chris and Terra are sisters. Kayla has incredibly curly hair. Kacey cried in Cycle 11 casting, but raps this time instead. Ann labels herself the quiet, nerdy one. Speaking of labels, there’s one on everybody’s seat. We find out later they are each seated with their direct competitor. Awkward in retrospect, huh?
Tyra appears for the first time at a lemonade stand. Everyone screams and screams. The winner will receive a contract with IMG Models, a $100,000 contract with CoverGirl cosmetics, the cover of Beauty in Vogue, and a photo spread in Vogue Italia instead of Seventeen Magazine, which is kind of like switching from Highlights to The New Yorker. It’s game on this time around – editorial style. This is BIG. Tyra repeats something like this approximately 459 times throughout the episode.
Ms. J and Mr. J organize the first runway show with Cynthia Rowley fashions. This is done by category – Quirky, Sexy, Strong Bone Structure, Blondes, and Brunettes. Not much comes of this, except everyone now has another label, which we assume will later be removed, as this show has long claimed to challenge people’s perception of beauty. Except...labels are so convenient!
The interviews are always a cycle highlight, because so many begin the same way – with a deafening squeal of delight. Tyra tells the two Js that this time it’s serious – serious and editorial and Italian and Vogue. They have to be certain about the girl they choose. What exactly has gone on these last fourteen cycles? Some interview highlights: Liz has a baby at home. Sara does the second rap of the show. Rhianna can pose like plants (really well). Lexie had a rough childhood, which might explain why she spends her time stirring the pot. Esther's breasts are a size 30G. And then there’s Ann, who has already gotten Tyra in trouble by having a tiny waist. After a preview of this interview was released to the public, Tyra issued an apology saying that the sneak peek might have been misleading. Watching it now, the whole thing seems (even more) ridiculous. She’s friendly, tall, and thin. It’s OK to like her despite these horrible offenses.
There’s more clapping and screaming. It matters not for what. There are 32 place cards on the table. Only 20 are invited to the Cynthia Rowley party, where they do photo shoots in pairs to help narrow the list down. The girls who don’t make it are, as expected, sad. Rowley talks about the importance of “types.”
Tyra, Mr. J, and Ms. J debate. Tyra wishes she could combine Chris and Terra into one person, which seems like something she really could do. She brings everyone to an outdoor runway. They must “go past the type” – the driving force of the episode – “and ride that hype.” The final 14 girls are called in this order: Anamaria, Kendal, Rhianna, Chris, Jane, Chelsey, Liz, Sara, Lexie, Esther, Kacey, Kayla, Ann, and finally, to maximize suspense, Terra. She and her sister Chris scream and do something what’s either a very fun dance or a scary convulsion, depending on your perspective. Come to think of it, this entire show falls somewhere in between the two.