America's Next Top Model recap
Cycle 5 of America's Next Top Model started out with a bang--a two-hour episode that at times felt like The Real World and at times felt like...America's Next Top Model. The first half of the two-hour episode was devoted to narrowing down the 36 semi-semifinalists to 20 semifinalists and, finally (ha!) 13 finalists. As you'd expect, this portion of the show was filled with many girls acting crazy and crying as Tyra, wide-eyed and head tilted, nods, with that "I feel you, girlfriend" look, which really means, "crazy girls equals huge ratings." The 20 semifinalists walked in a runway show, and the 16 non-semifinalists were forced to watch them--which seemed like cruel and unusual punishment to me, since most of them were just sitting there crying. After more "I feel you, girlfriend" one-on-one interviews with Tyra (many of which felt like promos for Tyra's daytime talk show), they narrowed the bunch down to 13 girls. Cue more crying and "I'm going to be a model no matter what--it's my destiny"-type proclamations.

In the second half of the episode, the girls were given a bizarre where-the-stars-live tour of Hollywood by Robin Leach, who then escorted them to their new home, an ugly '70s-era split-level house that's decorated to look like a department store. Because that's where models really live. Anyway, the girls' first test was to walk in a Life & Style magazine fashion show; some of the girls are not so bad, but one girl walks like a dude and another fell--twice (more on them later). The next test was to "pose like a superhero" on cables with...crazy wardrobe, hair and makeup! Yes, it's not an ANTM episode without a totally outlandish photo shoot. While most of the girls seemed to be nailing their shots, more than a few turned out some pretty bad photos, although I felt the judges were pretty easy on them for the most part--Nigel Barker, J. Alexander , and Jay Manuel are back, and instead of Janice Dickinson, '60s supermodel Twiggy is there to provide former-model feedback. I think I'm definitely going to miss Janice's bitchy--but often accurate--opinions, but Twiggy has that model-godmother thing going on, which is kind of nice for a change. Ashley, a Florida buyer, was the first to go, for no good reason other than that's she's too pretty and the judges felt she was kind of bland. But pretty. Right. So here's my assessment of the remining 12 contestants:

Bre: is young (19) and a Harlem native; at times, I think she kind of looks like Eva (cycle 3's winner), which could count against her. Also, she's a bit sassy, which is fun.

Cassandra: is from Texas, a former beauty pageant queen and young (19) but short (5'7"). Since she publicly defended George W. Bush on national TV, I'm loathe to say anything nice about her, but I will allow that she photographs well. But I think she's going to annoy the hell out of everyone (read: this season's Yaya).

Coryn: is really striking, and she's had a hard-knocks life, which we all know Tyra loves. The King Tut eyebrows need to go, but after that, I think she'll be a serious contender.

Diane: is this season's plus-size contestant, but she's not all "I'm big and beautiful, woo-hoo!" like, oh, Toccara was. But we all know what happens to plus-size contestants on this show. Still, she seems cool--like a girl you want to have a beer with.

Ebony: is the youngest of the bunch, and she's a bit on the crazy side--she has a motto, which is "Don't get it twisted." I don't know, she seems too smart and ambitious to be a model. But that could be her strength.

Jayla: totally reminds me of Norelle, my favorite girl from cycle 3. I think she's really cute, and I bet she can look both "pretty" and "edgy." Um, and I like her haircut. And she's got a model name already.

Kim: is my favorite, for reasons I can't really explain, but look at her profile--how can you not love a girl who lists both US Weekly and The Economist as her favorite magazines? So, she kind of looks like a dude (she's a lesbian and has already made out with Sarah's DSL) and she certainly walks like a dude, but I think she's really cute and unique-looking.

Kyle: has a hilarious Michigan accent, which reminds me of summer. More importantly, she's nice and tall (5' 10"), although I have a feeling she's going to get those "too commercial" comments from the judges, on account of being bubbly and blonde.

Lisa: kind of looks like she got hit with a bag of fugly, but she photographs really well, dresses cool, and seems to have the favor of the judges already. She's kind of old (24) and short (5' 8"), but I bet she'll stick around for awhile.

Nicole: was already getting on everyone's nerves by 8:15, so god knows what's going to happen in the next few weeks. I think she's really pretty--she looks like my coworker Heidi--although we know how the judges feel about "really pretty."

Niki: is the one the judges have already pegged as the "secret weapon." She photographs well, and she seems to have a pretty even disposition. At the same time, I don't see a ton of personality. But that can change.

Sarah: is young (18), blonde, and in possession of some very huge DSL (which lesbian Kim had the pleasure of kissing already). She's also the one who fell (twice) on the runway. But even if she learns how to walk, I have a feeling that those DSL are going to come back to haunt her--cue the porn star comments.

So that's my non-mathematical handicapping of the contestants. In next week's episode, the girls get makeovers at Louis Licari, and we can assume at least two girls are going to flip out about their makeovers. My money's on Cassandra for one...

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