There were a half dozen ways Tyra Banks could've eliminated Sarah from America's Next Top Model tonight without making me want to slide down the wall in a (non-hoochie) combination of rage and defeat.
Tyra could've had Sarah standing there before her and explained that after seven weeks in the competition, she had yet to deliver a single photograph in which she resembled a woman whose future involved modeling — for Vogue, forGlamour, for Cosmo, or even for the local penny saver. She could've zeroed in on Sarah's body language in the judging room — shoulders slumped, arms hanging lethargically at her sides, legs planted in knock-kneed apathy — which was all the more depressing when paired with her glum facial expression. Heck, Tyra could've decried Sarah's disastrous decision to show up before the panel in a cacophonous combo of itsy-bitsy gray-plaid shorts and black high heels.
Or better still, our sage host could've smiled with her eyes and broken it down without any pretense whatsoever: ''Look, the so-called plus-size girl never wins Top Model, and, well, we figured this was as good a week as any to send you home. But hey, thanks for playing!''
Unfortunately, though, Sarah's elimination didn't play out in any of the scenarios above. Because it wouldn't be Top Model if someone got sent home for being less photogenic, or less physically attractive, or less articulate, than her competitors. And thus, Sarah got slapped around by the panel for coming into the competition as the plus-size gal, then losing weight and losing her plus-size status but ultimately still being too heavy to compete head-on with her size 0 competition. No wonder the poor woman exited sobbing!
What's crazy to me, aside from the fact that Sarah looked essentially the same size in her ''before'' and ''after'' shots, is the way every elimination has to somehow be connected to the wannabe's ''journey.'' I mean, do the show's producers think that, nine cycles in, we Top Model fans expect anything less than the deliciously superficial? Or is it because Tyra, in her ongoing quest to bridge the gap between theSports Illustrated swimsuit issue and Psychology Today, and prove that a onetime panty model can reinvent herself as the next coming of Dr. Phil, really believes that lessons in pop psychology and graceful crawling (''It's like I'm cleaning the floor — with my knees!'') will turn her ragtag hopefuls into future Gisele Bündchens?
Anyhow, though I wasn't thrilled with the handling of Sarah's exit, her elimination has felt inevitable for weeks. And while she probably deserved to outlast Chantal and Ambreal, isn't it better to get bumped on a week where the only challenge involves serving as a vampire vixen in a low-budget Enrique Iglesias video?
Sure, Sarah looked uncomfortable wearing what she essentially described as a fishnet body stocking with several large holes, but she still outperformed vacuous (yet wildly overconfident) Chantal. I love how director Jessy Terrero's instructions to start ''dancing, just be rocking, having a great time'' prompted Chantal to stand still, stare uncomfortably into the camera as if she were trying to suppress a burp, then meekly raise her glass for a half toast. Add to that her grammatically dubious boast that ''I was gave me this body and this face, like, to do this,'' and it's clear she'll need to do more than follow Tyra's advice to retain her ''sparkle'' and ''shine'' if she plans to last more than another week or two.
Lucky for Chantal, she's got Ambreal to provide a potential buffer for the low spot on next week's totem pole. Personally, I didn't find anything extraordinarily hoochie about Ambreal's shoot — or not any more hoochie than one could help being when one is asked to writhe against a wall and drop it like it's hot. A more pertinent critique of Ambreal might've pointed out that, as per usual, her face had all the expression of an untreated piece of lumber. Also, that unless she undergoes some kind of genetic metamorphosis, she's not really ever going to look model-y.
I know, I know, I'm not a nice person. And I understand how hard it must be for Chantal and Ambreal to give up their dreams in a competition where the front-runner is a head spin, some vomit, and a couple dozen expletives away from being a dead ringer for Linda Blair in The Exorcist. But in Heather's defense, a top model cannot survive on breakfast alone. How come the Top Model crew isn't providing these ladies with lettuce leaves, celery sticks, and water through the duration of their physically grueling shoots?
Still, despite Heather's on-set collapse and need for an oxygen mask (you know that's going to be a key accessory in a photo shoot somewhere around cycle 13), she gave one of the best performances in Enrique's video, and not just because her ripped-from-The Ring look was perfect for the vampirism theme. Based on the intensity of Heather's blood-lusty expressions, in fact, I'd put her in a three-way tie with Saleisha and Lisa as the week's top competitors.