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Friday, June 02, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Six #9

What's going on? Nnenna doesn't talk on the 'phone to her boyfriend. Joanie smiles properly. Jade goes a full hour without mentioning that she's the next undiscovered supermodule. Is it Armageddon? No. It's the Love You Long Time episode of America's Next Top Model.

I used to like Nnenna. Back in the olden days (like, as far back as episode two, even), she was a classy, quiet, regal girl with a pretty smile and a shiny head. Now look what's happened. Nnenna says (without irony, laughter or dry-retching) "Jade is my favourite person in the house", and the two pal around as great chums. I just can't have any respect for her now. It's like when two Ginger people become a couple - their choices are their choices, but buggered if I'm going to sit by and watch it.

Furonda practices her walk (I love that phrase - a bit like saying "Millicent rehearsed her blinking") by strutting up and down the Model Mansion hallway in heels and the ubiquitous pink fluffy tiara, looking a little like a pair of chopsticks holding a pink crayon. And struts. And struts. And complains afterwards that her "legs are burnin'". That's not sore muscles, honey. That's the acid in your empty stomach burning through the intestinal wall and eating away your flesh. Eat something, for f*ck's sake.

Daniele is fretting over whether or not to close the gap in her teeth after Tyra's catty instructions last week. She might not be able to model, but her future whistling career is practically set in stone. She considers the gap her trademark, and in the first of a goldmine of 'Gator-quotes, doesn't want to fix it "In case it looks jank". I don't know what that means. But I love it.

The modules are squeezed into and pushed out of their Model Tarago and go to visit Rachel, a media trainer. Rachel gives them some tips on effective interview technique, and embarrasses Nnenna by asking some probing questions about her boyfriend, at which point we're AGAIN shown footage of Nnenna kissing the male model, and I start thinking about carpet so I don't fall asleep. The girls are then sent one by one to a mock interview with George Wayne, a Vanity Fair columnist who I think, despite his macho job description, might be gay. He gives it to the girls with both barrels, with a bit of napalm thrown in for good measure. Echoing what we've all been thinking for weeks, he says to Jade "So what's with the head wrap?". She answers "It's the Jade look", and again reading our minds, George says "I don't know.... you seem like an arrogant b*tch to me". I think I want to keep this man as a pet. Jade continues to gush "I'm an exotic bi-racial butterfly", at which point I want to close her neck in a vise. After Daniele describes herself as "cantankerous", George asks her to spell it. She can't, but I'm pretty sure she deserves some props just for using the word, especially after using the word "jank" mere minutes before. George tells Joanie she's not pretty (Yep - he's gay), and asks Furonda if she's the Queen of Sheba, to which she replies that she's never been to Sheba. What? You've never been to a biblical kingdom now quite possibly buried under the sand on the southern Arabian peninsula? Are you sure?? George has a go at Daniele's accent (but not her gap, surprisingly), tells Nnenna she's a snob, and repeats the oft-dragged-out Sara-was-found-in-a-mall-and-doesn't-want-to-be-here mantra. Nnenna, despite sounding like a beauty pageant contestant, wins the challenge and picks Jade to share in her mystery spa treatment prize.

Daniele agonises again over her to-gap-or-not-to-gap dilemma, and calls her Momma for a pep talk. As she says, "When I'm trippin', I call my Momma". What a good Momma she is, too - after a few crackly, well-chosen words, I wanted to catch a plane to the deep south myself just to have this woman serve me milk and cookies. In the dentist's chair the next day, Daniele agrees to narrow the 'Gator Gap, but not close it completely, so where a semi-trailer full of sumo wrestlers could have fit through before, now there's only room for a thin midget on a postie-bike. Now she can say to Tyra "There. I've had my gap closed. Now what are we going to do about your massive shiny forehead?".

Now for the Worst Dramatic Set-Up Involving Bad Puns Award. The modules sit down for dinner in a restaurant in a familiar scenario that usually involves a 'surprise' Tyra visit and gee-up. Suddenly a drag queen dressed and made-up as Tyra bursts into the room, and it takes a full minute for me to notice any difference. It was all there - the dumb waxy hair, the 'My-Make-Up-Artist-Has-An-Astigmatism' pancake, the ridiculous costume jewellery and the intolerable shouting of a person who hasn't had the concept of a microphone properly explained to them. Uncanny, except for the Adam's apple, which the drag queen didn't seem to have. The 'real' Tyra (and I use the term loosely) enters soon after, and the two Tyras have a hammy, badly-scripted argument about who is the impersonator and who is the impersonatee. The argument gallops clunkily towards its climax with each Tyra shouting "I'm Ty!", "No, I'm Ty!", and explodes with the embarrassing pun "We're all gonna be Ty, because we're goin' to THAILAND!!!" I'm glad I wrote that down in my notes, because my brain keeps rejecting it as unworthy for storage. The overseas trip has been a feature of all six series of ANTM, with the first four groups of likelies being packed off to the obvious fashion centres of Paris, Milan, London, and Japan, and last series' mob going to the slightly less obvious not-quite-fashion-mecca of South Africa. Despite the girls possibly being disappointed about being sent to the culture-rich but fashion-poor (despite a thriving bootleg knock-off industry) Thailand, they all excitedly gush to camera about their impending jaunt. Daniele even forgets her recent dental angst with "Forget the gap, sucka! You goin' to Thailand!". Jade's to-camera rants are decidedly sedate this week. It's amazing what a good maternal fluffing-down can do. Joanie excitedly exclaims that her only overseas trip so far has been to Canada, and Furonda wonders whether Thailand is "ready for Furonda". Depends on what you can do with ping-pong balls, my dear.

After a strange animated representation of the modules' plane trip, they arrive in Thailand and are picked up from the airport in a luxurious pink panel-van and taken to their shiny new Bangkok apartment. The girls study up on their basic Thai phrases and customs in their Lonely Planet guides (I assume Jade just looks at the pictures), although Furonda focuses mainly on how to say "How much?" and "That's too much". She's extremely wide-eyed and excited about having 3,000 baht, which she doesn't seem to realise will buy her a couple of t-shirts and a stir-fry.

Nnenna and Jade discover that their challenge prize is a day-spa including a massage, and the other girls discover that they'll be doing the massaging, which seems to disappoint all present. It must be hard to anticipate massaging Jade without indulging in a couple of bludgeoning-to-death fantasies, or at least a brisk mouth-gaffering. Furonda curls her lip and says "They're gonna be naked? I'm not happy with the whole touching thing", and, while the other girls proceed dutifully to oil and knead, Furonda uses one finger and a pained expression to rub Nnenna's calf. After the "massage", Joanie comments that "Furonda is just doing her own thing, not giving a rat's arse" (her effective use of the phrase only endearing her to me more), and Furonda sighs "Now that's over, I can go wash my finger". The girl used to work in a phone-sex call centre, but can't touch another person's calf with more than one finger. There's some kind of glaring double-standard or childhood trauma thing there that I really don't want investigated.

PHOTO SHOOT: Our modules meet Jay at the floating markets, where they're told they'll be dressed as mermaids and suspended upside-down over the water in a fishnet-cum-harness with seaweed and some dead fish, to advertise suntan lotion. You know - just another humdrum day at the office. The newly-dentisted Daniele is first, and looks fantastic, an illusion almost ruined by her disgusted, twangy, classic complaints like "Is that fish juice I just felt?", "I just threw up in my mouth a little bit", and "My uterus is flat as a pancake right now". Jay advises her to "Work with it, girl". Nnenna was a boring, flaccid mermaid with all the charm of a beach-strewn lungfish, her excuse being that she wasn't 'feeling it' due to her lack of mermaid-esque hair. Oh, blow it out your gills, woman. I'm sick of you. Jade (wait - I just have to stab a fork in my thigh) does a really good job, and even manages not to look like an angry powerpoint in a couple of shots. Sarah, whose interestingness is becoming more and more comparable to a ream of A4 paper, does an adequate job, and is turned off by Furonda's "diva attitude" when she-of-the-constant-tiara comments that she would rather be in an air-conditioned trailer. Furonda grimaces with harness-induced pain and complains that "her womanly space is hurting". Sweetheart, if you're going to be a model, you need to learn to become one with your hoo-hoo. Joanie looks like a gorgeous, bona fide glamour-mermaid, and also shatters this illusion by claiming, upside-down, that she feels like she's going to throw up her morning coffee, punctuated by a bit of a gurgly burp. She recovers and takes some excellent shots, all the time worried that her inverted knockers are going to escape her bikini and offend the Thai women she's precariously suspended over.

JUDGMENT: A Tyra-mail announces the impending elimination, causing Jade and Nnenna to discuss how upset the world might be if they were eliminated. Relieved and content in the fact that the cosmos has an innate sense of justice, maybe, but upset? No. The modules file into the new Thai Judgement Temple and are greeted by Tyra and her ridiculous hairstyle, both of whom introduce the judges, starting with Spunky Nigel, whom I would use more than one finger to massage. The elimination mini-challenge involves each girl stepping forward and 'selling themselves' (thankfully not in the traditional Bangkok style) to the judges with a quick two-minute sales spiel. Joanie compares life to Little Athletics and beauty to a sword, Sarah gushes about how intelligent she is, and Furonda says very little, allowing her inappropriately sparkly frock to speak for itself. Jade announces that you should never judge a book by the cover, that her versatile face allows her to transform herself into all types of ethnic backgrounds (perhaps ignoring the existence of the entire Scandinavian region), and that her body is very 'proportionable'. Nnenna drones on and on in a tedious monotone that would put a Ritalin-testing lab-rat to sleep, and I find myself wishing there was enough lint in my belly-button to get me through it. Daniele is just herself, and the judges almost dissolve with relief when she chats like a normal (albeit Amazonian) human being.

The judges deliberate, Spunky Nigel giving Jade a jab by noting that "sometimes the cover is more interesting than the contents", and Twiggy cowers at the end of the desk, just saying "Jade frightens me. Please don't ever leave me alone in a room with her". The modules are called back into the room, and have their names called one by one until only Nnenna the Boring Nigerian and Furonda the Funnelweb remain. Tyra and her hair start in on the Weekly Wrist-Slitting Invitational, telling Nnenna that her initial potential is now fading into a big boring nothing, and informing Furonda that, despite her recent improvement, she's no model. I must admit I agree with the Furonda comment - whoever she's been sleeping with to get her this far must be both powerful and desperate. Despite Furonda's uncanny resemblance to a pimpled crack-monkey, she makes the cut, and Nnenna is sent packing. Bye, Nnenna! Don't call your boyfriend on the way out.

My amended picks for the final two are Daniele and Joanie, because they're beautiful, personable, and don't need slapping.

Next week, more Thai adventures, temper tantrums, and eliminations. Curry Puff. Catty Huff. Good enough?

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