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'Top Model': The three true contenders

162113__joanie_l

162113__joanie_lSo with only nine women remaining on Cycle 6 of America’s Next Top Model, it’s becoming pretty clear that there’s only three true contenders in the bunch – based on the four criteria that really count: beauty, runway strut, and quotablity.

Not surprisingly, Danielle remains the front-runner. Her rock-star photo shoot was so sizzling, she might want to reconsider giving up her childhood singing dreams. After all, who says you need to carry a tune to hit today’s charts? And, as she’s proven every week, the girl gives hella good sound bite. ”I would home-school my child before they went to Jade’s class,” Danielle snapped after discovering her surly rival had aspirations to become a kindergarten teacher (gah!). Equally amusing was Danielle’s response upon discovering that this week’s photo shoot involved five shirtless male models: ”I’ve been cooped up in the house with these women who are nagging, PMS-ing, fighting. So to see these men walk in, I’m like, ‘Thank you, Jesus.”’

That said, both Nnenna and Joanie (pictured) stepped up their games this week. I’ve always suspected there was some hidden sass in Nnenna to balance out her sweetness, and sure enough, it arrived this week in a single sound: Click. As in Nnenna hanging up the phone on her clingy, jealous boyfriend. Mind you, I didn’t adore her photo this week, but the fact that Miss J isn’t able to see the chemistry major’s model potential tells me that someone should stick with runway coaching and leave the judging to the badly missed Janice Dickinson. The original supermodel’s cameo appearance teaching a posing class was a bizarre highlight this week, especially since it offered a thoughtful take-home message – ”Rule No. 1: We never rat out our bitches!”

As for Joanie, she reminds me a little bit of Cycle 4’s Kahlen, only with enough inner fire to have a shot at the top spot. Not only was Joanie the only girl this week who completely captured the character she was asked to portray (the hot housewife), but she also proved she’s got a sense of humor, observing that the male model in Nnenna’s shoot ”totally pitched a tent while they were in Africa – and not the kind that you camp in, either.” The fact that Joanie provided the episode’s funniest moment – despite unintentional comedy from Tyra (who wants to ”raise strong women”) and male model Lawrence Zarian (who apparently doesn’t appreciate the irony of Blue Steel in a post-Zoolander world) – speaks volumes.

As for the remaining six women, maybe one or two can break through next week – especially now that we won’t have to focus on the embarrassingly vacuous Gina – but honestly, they’re running out of time. Who do you think is most likely to become America’s next top model? And who’s likeliest to get the axe next week?

Originally posted March 30 2006 — 9:04 PM EST

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