TV Recap

Goodwill Hunting

On the season premiere of ''America's Next Top Model,'' the girls tackle a thrift-store challenge, survive boot camp, and make (mostly) memorable first impressions

America's Next Top Model | INSECURITY BREACH Jael was unsure of herself, even though she won the first challenge
Image credit: De Yonker
INSECURITY BREACH Jael was unsure of herself, even though she won the first challenge

''America's Next Top Model'': The new beauties

Hello Top Model revelers.

I will be your new TV Watch host for ANTM. Your previous writer, Whitney Pastorek, gave me her blessing over a pint of Stella, so I will do my best to fill her incredibly large Chuck Taylors. Now, on to the models in Cycle 8 — who probably shouldn't be filling their tummies with beer calories.

The two-hour premiere began with a welcome to the 32 semifinalists from J. Alexander and Jay Manuel at boot camp. A boot camp that was so random that I'm not sure the girls came out of it with any more physical or mental agility than they arrived with — although they learned that Carolina Herrera and Richard Avedon were names they should've already known.

Next, we had the first analysis of the girls by Tyra, J. and Jay, who seemed a little flabbergasted by the wig 'n' weave trend. Indeed, there were a few faux pas that were a bit much for both the eyes and ears. For instance...

· Crazy-haired Kathleen walked in, shrieking so loud over the utter beauty that is Tyra that the milk in my nutritious Frosted Flakes dinner actually curdled.

· Speaking of which, Brittany the bartender's decibel level was so high that she had a one-way conversation with Tyra. But I have to say I actually liked her for where she is on the Top Model Smart-o-Meter. (Just to be perfectly clear: It's not the side Jessica Simpson would be on.)

· The episode wasn't too big on names at this point, but the girl with the ''Little House on the Prairie meets Superman meets Wonder Woman'' outfit was memorable. Yeah, it was a tad over the top, but the fact that she also rates high on the Smart-o-Meter and has a friendly face and an infectious smile canceled out the strike Tyra gave her for the superhuman bohemian look.

· I thought tattoo girl was a total knockout — minus the flowers in her hair. She had that Angelina Jolie combo: stunning face and edgy guise. I thought she'd definitely make the cut, but what do I know? (Don't answer that.)

· Meanwhile, on the other end of the Smart-o-Meter, was a girl ''who really likes Audrey Hepburn,'' especially in ''Dinner at Tiffany's.'' Say what? ''I'm sorry, Lunch.'' Maybe she got confused because, like me, she eats cereal for dinner?

It wasn't long before the girls started clawing at each other, National Geographic-style. In the hotel room, they just about came to blows over burping and farting. Well, um, I'm not going there, but feel free to over-share in your comments below.

Next up was a party, where Jermaine Dupri happily checked out the newly downsized group of ladies, followed by Tyra taking the fun out of it with the announcement of the next cuts. Here's my analysis of the baker's dozen:

Natasha Earlier in the show, she just about broke into tears defending the fact that at 18, she had married a 40-year-old to come to the States. Translation: mail-order bride. But so what? We shouldn't make fun; we should hope that Mr. Natasha treats her well. And, hey, there's nothing wrong with dating an older man. (By the way, Bradley Whitford, are you still married?)

Kathleen Ms. Crazy Hair is not the sharpest tool in the shed, but let's give her an E for effort by way of a Brooklyn shout-out.

Sarah She's a photographer when she's not trying out for modeling shows, and though she comes across as a know-it-all, she's a nonthreat so far.

Cassandra It turns out that she was the bohemian girl. See evaluation above.

Renee She's the mother of a 7-month-old baby — and hot damn! Her abs are amazing. Post-preggie flab, I hear, usually ends up being more stubborn than the actual kid you bore. Sign me up for whatever program she's on. (Or maybe I should just fight my beer-and-Frosted Flakes habit.)

Samantha So far, she's a charming Southern girl — but give it time.

Dionne I can't remember: Was she the talker? Talked and talked and talked and talked?

Whitney and Diana Perhaps it was the unflattering photos of Tyra that surfaced in the tabloids or just the industry's new policing of ridiculously thin models, but for the first time in ANTM history, we have two full-figured women. Meet Whitney and Diana. I have a bit of a badonkadonk myself, so I heart them already.

Brittany She was the loud talker with the equally loud red hair mentioned above. She's cute and civil and can make me a drink. I'll take a rum and Coke, hold the Coke, please.

Felicia I don't really have any strong thoughts on Felicia; what did you all think of her?

Jael Just for the record, we all have insecurities. You. Me. And these girls. And as the episodes continue, a variety of those layers will be peeled back. But Jael definitely struck me as being the most insecure out of the bunch. I loved that she was being nice to everyone — that's a rarity in a competition like this — but it seemed that she wanted to be liked in a way that validated her existence. That's not healthy, and I hope Tyra helps her with that along the way.

Jaslene Homegirl triggers flashbacks to my native El Paso, Texas, where the Latina spice can be a little ghetto fabulous. Pero it's okay, porque ella mira superrrwow.

Moving right along...I thought the Goodwill challenge could have had a few more twists. In any case, the ''One woman's trash is another woman's treasure'' motto is certainly one I subscribe to. As a matter of fact, I once found a great pinot-noir-colored corduroy jacket for $15 at the Goodwill. Score!

As for the first photo shoot, the theme was representing various political views — which is a fab idea — but since when has fashion been, as Jay put it, a ''really political world?'' Yes, there's the fur issue. But aren't issues of abortion, the death penalty, gay marriage, and the right to bear arms relevant for all people? In all industries, not just fashion? That bugged me. I think Jaslene, Felicia, Brittany, and Cassandra did the best, while the other girls seemed sort of detached from the soul of the project and, for that matter, the camera. In the end, the judges made the right decision. Kathleen is beautiful and has a ton of potential, but she has a bit of growing up to do. Her naiveté was a little hard to bear, first on the subject of fur (''I believe that if the animal is alive, you shouldn't kill it to make a fur coat or anything''), then on not understanding the concept as a whole (''I know, right? I didn't...I don't want to seem slow, like I wasn't catching on''). Enough said.

See you next week.

XO, VJ

PS: I condone drinking alcohol while eating cereal for dinner only when it's done moderately and responsibly.

PPS: What do you think? Did the judges made the right choice in cutting Kathleen? Will Tyra help Jael get over her insecurities? And who are your early favorites?

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Originally posted Mar 01, 2007