America's Next Top Model recap: Semi-Tough

After a hissy fit with Whitney, Dominique embraces her inner masculinity in a pose-off but then gets soft in head shots; plus, Marvita isn't ready for her close-up
Ep. 05 | Aired Mar 19, 2008

GENDER BLENDER Dominique felt at home in the House of Ninja.

I realize it's hard to follow an episode with wearable meat — ''meatkinis,'' as my colleague Annie Barrett referred to the wardrobe for last week's America's Next Top Model photo shoot — but this episode just felt like filler. Even with Benny Ninja, a supermodel throwdown, and accusations of racism.

Some of you like the drama in the house, but I still think it's futile. (1) I couldn't care less what Dominique and Whitney think of each other. (But for the record: Whitney accused Dominique of being uneducated, while Dominique said that Whitney is racist toward, well, everyone.) (2) These girls, who spend 24 hours a day together, don't really seem to know each other well enough to make those kinds of claims. Ergo, we won't get enough information in a 30-second clip to be the jury. So let's skip that lukewarm mess, and get to the Great Battle of the Poses.

So Benny Ninja (somewhat lacking in fierceness this season) enlisted the help of supermodel Vendela (host of the Norwegian and SwedishTop Model shows) to teach the girls about the three C's of posing: commercial, couture, and catalog. What we actually learned: Whitney's long blond weave has everyone calling her Anna Nicole, and Dominique has finally embraced her inner drag queen. (Eyeing the House of Ninja peanut gallery, she said, ''They were drag-ish, and they were all beautiful. And they all knew how to work it. And they were all the best posers in the world. I was like, 'This is where I fit in.' '')

Benny and Vendela divided the girls into two groups, then had them go face-to-face in pose-offs, two at a time. The girls moved from position to position until Benny yelled out one of the three C's, when they'd hit a pose matching that, um, C, hold it, and be judged. The winner earned a point for her team. The team with the highest score won a trip to a swag tent, and the best poser from that team got a bonus prize worthy of Vendela herself. Superfun idea, one great injustice!

It started out fine: Dominique vs. Claire was a draw. Both worked some nice lay-back angles. Perhaps, had one of them returned to such a contortion when Benny yelled ''Couture!'' they wouldn't have tied. Lauren officially kicked Marvita's ass. She hit the ground, lay on her stomach, raised her left leg toward her head, and grabbed her heel. Though she appeared to stay in that position forever, Lauren could have lain with her face in the ground and probably still have defeated Marvita. Though Anya struck some fierce catlike poses (while Stacy-Ann did Jazzercise), Anya got served when Benny yelled ''catalog!'' Whitney earned her win by topping Fatima in that category (and for not smacking Fatima when she invaded her personal posing space). But here's where I yelled at the TV: Katarzyna did not best Aimee. Their final pose was couture. Aimee struck a beautiful lay-back position, with graceful outstretched arms — and held it. Katarzyna bent forward at the waist in a runner's position. Her left arm said couture, but the right arm, resting on her head, said Modeling 101. At the very least it should've been a tie, which would have forced a sudden death. Each team could've chosen a girl to face off one last time. That would have been good TV, my friends. But alas, the team of Claire, Marvita, Stacy-Ann, Whitney, and Katarzyna took the title (and free purses, clothing, guitars, etc.). Claire also won a trip to Bora-Bora, which Whitney thought she was owed for doing splits. (Sure, and I deserved the Presidential Fitness Award in high school when the only thing I passed was the sit-and-reach.)

For some reason, this week's photo shoot reminded me of the cover of Duran Duran's Rio. It was a close-up of the girls, with Pippi Longstocking-on-safari hair and paint dripping down their faces and necks. (Some also had colored fashion eye shields.) Everyone was in it to win it but Marvita, who, I think, became so afraid of having the camera focused just on her face that she became immobile. Mr. Jay persuaded her to practice poses, but as Fatima noted, she just doesn't know how to act pretty. I wish Jay would've taken two minutes to stand there in front of that mirror with Marvita and tell her, ''This looks good, that doesn't.'' But the man had other things to do, like tell Lauren her shot was worthy of the cover of Wmagazine (there was something very Alicia Witt about it) and compare Whitney's mouth to that of a blow-up doll. This should have been Fatima's best shoot, since her face is undeniably stunning, but she blew it with no imagination and no razor. (None of the stylists who've worked with her on the prior shoots suggested she shave her underarms?) Dominique, meanwhile, should've struggled but didn't. Her shot was soft, with big, gorgeous alive eyes. I think she — and her third-person references to herself — will be around for a while. Damn it.

NEXT: Supermodel catfight


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