Makeovers week is always the highlight of the early rounds of Top Model, all those PYTs with great clumps of hair around them and tears streaming down their faces. I did think it was a bit gratuitous when they callously handed Lauren her ponytail (see above) – but it was she who underwent the most dramatic transformation, and while she was initially mortified once she got over the shock and realised what an improvement the look was (from next-for-the-chop to top eight) it elevated her performance no end.
But while the makeovers were, on the whole, both relatively subtle and rather good, they did have the unanticipated side effect of leveling the playing field somewhat. Which is to say that the girls with disastrous hair were pulled up close by those with lovely hair. And thus Aafreen, one of the stars of the show prior to now and possessor of thick, luxuriant locks, got sent home. But not before Colin had his fun with her one last time:
Aafreen (at CMJ’s behest): “Mirror, mirror on the wall, I’m the hottest Indian of them all.”
Mirror (played by CMJ): “No you’re not, it’s still Colin.”
That was my favourite Colin of the series so far, even if it seemed a little cruel in light of subsequent events. Still, the joke was on Colin’s face at the end of the show. That was one truly awful beard:
Anyway – rankings:
1. (LW: 2) Courtenay
The thing about this year’s competition is that it’s really, really f***ing tight. Any one of three or four girls could plausibly claim the top spot this week, and the top eight or so are all fantastic. Last year there was a much greater spread, so ranking was easier and picking the eliminated was consequently a far less arduous task. That being said Courtenay’s here on merit alone – she took the rather drastic shearing in her stride, came out looking like a true professional, and with a sharp, modern look to contrast the occasional doe-eyed clichés she verged on in shoots gone by. She will be there at the business end for sure.
2. (LW: 3) Elza
The novelty/sideshow element is still there – the way they gave them the same haircut and outfit played into that – but there is so much more to the twins than that. They are now the show’s emotional core, and Elza’s panic attack at her conflicted feelings toward her sister had resonance beyond the ‘oh-no-I’ve-had-a-haircut’- tears you see more often on shows of this nature. But they did beautifully at the mingle, and have a very engaging, innocent impact on the camera. When they finally cull there won’t be dry eyes on either side of the fourth wall.
3. (LW: 1) Michaela
She slipped from the top without doing anything demonstrably bad… But there’s the sense that on the personality front she’s not got much else in the hamper apart from ‘I’m-a-christian,-me!’. Which is fine and dandy, but when there’s the ineffably sweet set on the one hand (the twins, Lara, Courtenay) and the mad and mean on the other (Dakota, Holly, Amelia) those in the middle end up looking a little bloodless. The judges rightly called her photo “boring” (the bird shitting on her leg probably didn’t help her passion for the job either), and she needs to wake up to power of her opposition to avoid suffering a similar fate to Aafreen’s accelerated exit.
4. (LW: 7) Eva
“There’s history in her eyes,” said CMJ, and he’s right. This girl has some true magnetism in still images, that untrainable quality which gives her a huge advantage over her contemporaries. At other times she can seem gigglingly immature, but as soon as the lens is on her all that evaporates. And because this show, ultimately, comes down to photographs she’ll be very hard to beat.
5. (LW: 4) Danielle
She’s still got that Kawerau attitude. But I’m starting to tire of it a little. Or rather, tire of the judge’s fawning over it. She took her shoes off for the mingle (one of the more excruciating set pieces of the series thus far), which was cool, though after her wobble on the catwalk it was perhaps more self-serving than the her “take me as I am” allowed. But had that been any other girl she would have been destroyed by the judges for her actions. At some point the apologies and allowances have to cease, and she’ll just have to fly on her own. And while the photos are often great, she’s hardly the only girl for whom that’s true. Step up, or step off.
6. (LW: 11) Nellie
“We have a pet cat that’s both male and female. She’s a bit screwed in the head,” said Nellie. “You talk to birds, aye?” said Elza to Nellie. It’s quotes like that, along with the uncontrived purity of emotion that pours off her, which make me a HUGE fan of this pair. There’s almost a fairytale quality to them, like they’ve been plucked from another time, when kids stayed kids and sexting and ‘tweens’ hadn’t been invented. The photos carry it through too, I can imagine them both in Lula as forest nymphs and it not making you want to be sick. The sweetness of her concern for Elza, and her complete obliviousness to the camera, her perpetually sunny disposition – all this stuff and more is why the twins rule the school.
7. (LW: 12) Lauren
What a difference a bob makes. With a few snips she was transformed from a pudgy faced elimination waiting to happen to an impossibly cute contender. Pairing her with the maniacal fever of Dakota was a great hand to be dealt with hindsight, as it allowed her sweet shyness to be contrasted with one of the great meltdowns of our reality TV history, really. There was no filmed evidence of whatever won her the challenge, but once she got over the trauma (overplayed really, crying for an hour is one thing, all fucking day quite another) of her makeover she certainly seemed to blossom. What remains to be seen now is whether she can turn this success into a habit, or if it’s just a blip.
8. (LW: 8) Amelia
Amelia’s just sort of lumbering along artlessly. She doesn’t ever totally tank or shine, but consistency is a byword for survival in the early stages. Maybe the highlight of the week was noticing that, as Matthew commented last week regarding Aafreen, they’ve started playing wispy Oriental-style muzak when her shot comes on screen. Plus her comment about the Langham hotel being “known for being amazing” was quite amazing in itself. Ultimately though I’m not convinced she’ll get much beyond the Michael Hill Jeweller-type challenge – the competition is just too talented and fierce for that. But in the mean time just simply by not screwing up she’s getting by.
9. (LW: 6) Lara
Continuing her slide Lara shows that her early promise and sparkly masked a major one-dimensionality problem. Her only look is that startled panda, she deploys it every time. And being shocked by the appearance of a camera while you’re hanging out with your bird and your costume jewelery is frankly implausible. Unfortunately for her she is stubbornly holding onto the confidence gained from her early successes – her tearful incredulousness at being in the bottom three jarred hard against her ordinary performance. This means she’s not taking direction from the judges and is in dire danger of departing this week. Because as much as those below are screwing up royally, they are never less than entertaining – Lara needs a great photo or some zingers to keep her train on the rails.
10. (LW: 9) Dakota
Where do you start? This girl is clearly full-blown batshit crazy. Her reaction to the attention at the ‘mingle’ was so extreme as to raise real questions about her ability to function amongst other humans in what we like to call ‘the real world’. She was manic and unhinged, grasping for business cards and mugging like she’s in the background of a mid-period Lil Jon clip. The quotes were outrageous – you could select almost any part of her episode transcript and it’d be gold. Some favourites: “They’re not paid actors. They’re actually the sponsorship big people.” / “This is my glory train!” / “China the vagina.” / “I owned the whole thing.” Rarely has there been such a disconnect between a competitor’s true performance and their own perception of it. She was just drunk (wasted) on the attention. Troublingly she still doesn’t seem to listen to or take on board the judge’s feedback. BUT all that is counteracted by an ability to channel her extreme self-belief into great photos and the fact that half the audience now is probably watching to see what she’ll do next. How can you send that home?
11. (LW: 10) Holly
It was another innocuous week for Holly. Alexandra Owen’s catwalk clothes were basically horrid matronly disasters, extremely age-inappropriate for most of this young team. But they kinda worked for Holly’s angular ’80s look. That was the only thing which went right for her, though – the photo produced another hard, vacant expression, and her place in the bottom two was entirely justified. She has the same trump card as Dakota – bitchiness – but to a lesser extent, so it might not play as well or as long. Despite all this, though, I can’t help but wonder if she embraced a classic American approach a la Jerry Hall, and really owned it, she might find it a niche which works for her.