There was a chorus around the internet saying that first episode of cycle 2 of NZNTM was a little underwhelming (or at least Katherine is Awesome said as much, and her commenters agreed – probably not technically a chorus, but nevermind). And while I certainly didn’t have that problem with the first installment – feeling that it had more than enough of the jaw-dropping reveals, regional accents and (mostly) unintentional host humour to work – the second was a different story.
Because it just coasted for the most part – the Glassons set up was a good premise squandered by a couple of fairly wooden company reps; no one had the abject fear-of-heights they were clearly hoping for up the bridge; and Rob Trathen was too competent and non-sleazy to get that train-wreck shoot going. Still, amidst the ho-hum there were embers which will flame out in the coming weeks, not the least of which was the astonishingly breezy enmity of the youths toward one another. This is a generation schooled on ‘reality’, even more so than the last, and while they mightn’t be able to walk in heels or strike a pose, they can certainly tear strips off each other without appearing remotely concerned with human emotion. And that is good television, folks.
1. (LW: 1) Dakota
Last week our nearly-nude model sat atop the power rankings, and while she was cute and sassy and had a great story, it felt meaningless – how can you read a thing into the first week of a competition this long and grueling? But now, with her nonchalantly striding to the bridge to take the first shot? That’s the alpha-female-style. Then she gave us an effortlessly poised shot in the harness. Between those two ‘technical’ achievements she managed to be bitchy but charming at the same time. The upshot is that despite being more hot than she is cool, and it being a long road to Next Top Model, she’s at the top 0f these entirely irrelevant rankings for the second straight week.
2. (LW: 3) Aafreen
She squeaks up a perch by virtue of a more active role in proceedings, because her shot, while great, was merely the equal of Michaela, her South African rival for the first place in Dakota’s slipstream. And the reason for the rise is contained in her prominence. She just has a weirdly compelling way with words, a sense that she might already be a star, and this merely her first vehicle. They called her 9th at the judges table to keep this princess from getting too precocious, but on form, despite her looking a little limp at times, she is a sure-fire late-rounder.
3. (LW: 2) Michaela
If it were based purely on looks and shots I would have Michaela at the top. She was called second, her shot was incredible, and she has this way of drifting through episodes that makes her seem ambivalent about the entire process – a disengagement entirely different to Danielle’s, because it’s borne less of fear or ambivalence than of her certainty that she will make it regardless. This means she doesn’t have to play those damn games, but it also means she’s provided precious little worthwhile copy thus far. Right now she can coast and not worry about this petty BS, but in the coming weeks the judges will light a fire under her with a bottom two near-miss. My guess is that’ll unleash the lion, but for now she’s too good to need to worry about any of that stuff.
4. (LW: 6) Eva
On video Eva is kinda irrelevant. She looks like a girl you went to school with. Not only that, but she looks like a girl you went to school with (but didn’t pay any attention to) did when she was in school. And I last went to school with girls when I was like 12 years old. Which is a (semi) polite way of saying she looks ornery and young 90% of the time. The rest of the time her photo is on camera and she’s looking like a porcelain doll, so fragile a sigh might snap her tiny neck. Which, on balance, probably makes you a model. She still has a touch too much emotion, and is a shrinking violet, but her angles are right – Rob called her ‘shot of the day’, inna cricketing style – and that alone gets you near the second half of the comp.
5. (LW: 5) Courtenay
OK so there’s not much movement at the top despite the doubling of the evidence for the prosecution. Either I was right (the judges also called her 5th, that appears to be her consensus spot right now) or these girls happened to have two straight good weeks. Whatever. Courtenay has this cuteness which is hard to deny. Or rather, when she’s smiling you think the world’s alright. When she’s falling through the planks of the trapeze it’s less easy to forgive. She had a quite ethereal, well-composed shot too, which bodes well, and I have to concur with Isaac – her photo was outrageously good.
6. (LW: 9) Danielle
The year’s great enigma rises on a tide of goodwill, the product of some genuinely amazing photographs (she just hits those marks without ever knowing why) and a personality which continues to defy belief. You can imagine the casting people losing their minds with her every line: there’s just no attempt to play nice or engage with the preordained process – when she went to cry after the shoot she had no compunction with drawing the curtain across for privacy. Because for her this is not about television. That makes her magnetic and dangerous. If (when?) she realises how high her stock is with the producers (top 3 if not top) and can loosen up she’ll be very much the contender. So long as they don’t continue to cover her in make-up which makes her look a lot like she’s been in a mean as fight down the pub…
7. (LW: 7) Elza
She always (after two episodes, could I be more ridiculous?) seemed the weaker of the twins, and if neither might have made it on without their blood relative, Nellie is consistently the more engaging. But in a mirror of last year’s sibling non-rivalry (Elza is Lucy and Nellie, Olivia, if you weren’t already aware), Elza’s fashion-sense is winning out over her sister’s personability. She won the styling contest, smiled a lot more than last week, and dropped the most innocently scandalous line of the night on us: “When I was hoisted up it felt like I was giving birth to a dinosaur!”. For mine, as Murray Deaker would say, that was second only to the vanquished Estelle’s “leaving home in the first week is really guttering” for cheap laughs.
8. (LW: 14) Amelia
I need to presage this by saying that I have zero respect for Amelia as a model. She’s quite awkwardly large (for a model), where the cliche about Asian women is how fine-boned they are. But more than that her mixed heritage has, as it can from time to time, been something of a curse. It means she looks like a great Farmers catalogue mannequin, the kind of girl who if you brought her home your friends they would be hi-fiving you in the men’s room. But she’s not really a model. Plus she’s a total bitch. Like unconscionably awful: “I’m not your mum” to poor, innocent Lauren. I feel like she’s an early casualty, but sometimes they tend to keep the cold-hearted killer around forever, so who knows?
9. (LW: 4) Lara
Week upon week, some must rise, and some must fall, regardless of their general merit. Lara, for all her naive charm, is this week’s sinker. She’s blond, and slender, and has this mooniness which only a fool would pretend immunity to. BUT she doesn’t thus far appear to have that strange magnetism which takes you deep into the bushy thatch of the competition, and as a result she might be one of those cute kids who pass without much remark, and in years to come you might struggle to recall their name. A spine would change all that, but for now – luggage, as my friend Luke Adams would say.
1o. (LW: 10) Holly
In truth, she probably had a better week than the one just passed. She dominated screen time, had as many words in a single 10 minute between-ads slot as real contenders like Michaela and Eva had in the entire episode, and didn’t take the worst photo of the bunch… But she is a horrible person, which is hard to go past at times. When Colin noted that the eminently forgettable Anna Fitzpatrick was “arguably one of New Zealand’s most unique models” (double qualifiers because he and I both know CMJ is the eternal winner of that category) one person no one considered is Holly. Because she’s just a regular blonde. Nothing wrong with that, but nothing astounding right, either. And without her psychopathic lines (sample lyric: “She’s dead to me. HAHAHAHAHA.”) we would be just watching the clock til she vanished. As it is, she won’t win, but her palpable hatred of the less secure (she’s a classic bully) will keep her around til the competition’s in single digits for sure, and maybe further.
11. (LW: 7) Nellie
Don’t mistake this ranking for a prediction. Because while I might’ve equated Nellie with that early-homer-sister Olivia earlier, she’s actually the prettier of the two twin models. And regardless of many elements to the contrary, this is about prettiness on some level. And despite her looking like she was, ahem, ‘on the toilet’ at times, and having a week of no real consequence, this is a girl with spark and charm and the chance to go top five if she grits her teeth, gets down amongst the proletariat, and plays the Goddamn game.
12. (LW: 12) Lauren
So this week’s rankings ‘surprisingly’ correlate well with last week’s – maybe I’m playing favourites already? Or maybe Lauren’s really out of her depth. I actually think this is a very cute girl with a fantastic, well-adjusted life ahead of her. BUT one thing I don’t see in that mystical future CV is ‘contestant deep into the late rounds of NZNTM cycle two’. And that’s not just because the very idea of such a line is ludicrous beyond, say, 2011. It’s also because Lauren is, right now, at 16, too emotionally fragile to make that leap. Other girls might froth and hiss -“She’s not pretty on the inside”; “you think you’re better than everyone else”; “it’s actually disgusting” – the latter surprisingly not about Chris Sisarich – but meek Lauren is inheriting nothing so much as a TV death sentence at this point.
13. (LW: 11) Jamie
Newsflash: I’m actually a fan of Jamie. She has this toughness to her which makes me think she’ll roll further than we think. She seems like he archetypal girl they threw into the pit early to shake her up, the same way you take your kid down to Megamags to return the Mountain Bike magazines you lied about being in the five for $20 promotion where they threaten you with prosecution for what you see as straight bargain hunting (THANKS MUM YOU MEAN MUM). But she did make bottom two today. She will not go home next week, but she’ll need to start playing the game, rather than getting played, to advance much further in this long and oddly nasty comp.