Mandi Bierly
February 23, 2008 AT 12:00 AM EST

Question: Were any of you worried that you might’ve OD’d on America’s Next Top Modelmarathons and rendered yourself numb to the pleasures of cycle 10? I was concerned myself after the premiere started with a countdown of the show’s greatest hits and none of the nine catfights moved me. But when the 35 newest hopefuls squealed their pretty little heads off at the sight of Miss J. and Mr. Jay, I realized I was still in it to win it.

So let’s start with an overview before we grade our finalists. The girls — and I feel fine using that term, since they squealed louder than I would’ve at a Hanson concert in 1997 — arrived at Top Model Prep ready to impress. Upon taking their school ID photos in miniskirted uniforms, they moved on to their first and only class: Runway 101. I’d like to think that Miss J. actually showed them how to improve their walks, but the only footage we saw was of him mimicking the horror. (But more on Lauren later.) Next came a bonfire in a football stadium, which featured five former Top Modelcontestants — Furonda, Jael, Joanie, and twins Amanda and Michelle — dressed as cheerleaders and doing a cheer that I have too much dignity to repeat. (Considering that sentence above should’ve read ”squealed louder than I would’ve at a Hanson concert in 2007,” that’s saying something. Joanie, you’re better than that!) Raising the level of discomfort further, Jay-J. announced they were going to crown a homecoming queen — Tyra, who came bursting through a paper wall ”in character.” Her ”pretty b—es” then moved onto the swimwear portion of the preliminary round, and following an elimination, posed for a classic tube-top-and-stole senior class portrait that would help determine who would still be in the running toward becoming America’s…Next…Top…Model.

And those women are…


Strengths: Apparently the 18-year-old from Waunakee, Wis., can be in two places at once; she said both that her hick town had no opportunities for modeling and that she had more experience than the other girls. (She also vowed never to return there, which is fine because I’m pretty sure they just canceled her parade.) Her sound-bite potential is promising — ”I am ready to annihilate the competition. I am a silent predator. They won’t know what [claw motion] hit them” — and I shall now be referring to her as the Annihilator. Weaknesses: Her overconfidence will result in hits (removing her jacket during the ID shoot) and misses (applying makeup for Asian-runway tears, the fake cry when her name was called, the testing of Tyra’s improv skills at the bonfire).


Strengths: The 21-year-old Somalian — and Iman look-alike — is the season’s most exotic beauty. She’s articulate, and the judges appreciate her cause: to end female circumcision, a rite of passage in her native land that involves removing the clitoris and sewing together the labia, which she underwent when she was 7. Weaknesses: The perfectionist runs the risk of thinking too much about her photos. She knows she’s got a winning look and thinks the other girls are intimidated by her. (Maybe they would be if she fixed her walk, which was at first too dainty, then more horselike than Natasha’s.) For someone with ”manners, education, and class,” she could’ve thought of a smoother way to raise her point with booty-shakin’ Shaya, Muhammad Ali’s niece, than saying, ”You guys are way too ghetto, like….You can be black and smart and beautiful.” What do you think of the argument that erupted? I took it as Fatima saying that you might not want to do or say things that some people could use to reinforce negative stereotypes (like eight-time Top Model reject Shalynda referring to herself as a bitch). But Shaya and Shalynda were saying that if you know why you’re doing or saying something, and it’s not negative to you, you don’t need to worry about how other people might interpret it.

NEXT: ”Sex on sticks”

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