“Chinese go home,” said the man in the orange jacket*, and while at the time it just seemed like garden variety New Zealand racism, as events unfolded it took on the air of a premonition – albeit one which mistook Amelia’s ethnic origins. Actually it was pretty horrid, but I did quite like the way the judges drew a line between that kind of abuse (which sucks, but is part of life) and your friend dying in a car crash, the latest misfortune to be visited upon poor Danielle.
Amelia basically got told to harden up, and that’s something all the girls would do well to learn. Even by Top Model standards there were a lot of tears this episode, by my count at least five girls turned them on at one point or another. To be fair though, they all met Dave Gibson for the first time in this episode – which is an emotional experience for any human.
That anti-smoking thing was comedy gold, but between Dan Carter’s 4 Everyone water, the Herbal Essences conditioner and Not Our Future it was an episode which blended a little too comfortably into the ads. That being said, those scenarios did conjure up some pretty amazing moments – and violently re-shuffle the rankings – so maybe it’s not such a bad thing.
1. (LW: 2) Elza
She continues to surprise and delight with every passing week, and is rapidly becoming the highlight of each episode, a kind of sweet, innocent inverse of Dakota’s attention-seeking theatrics. She and Nellie were very cute when DC walked into the room, but more in a I-just-saw-a-celebrity way than I-want-to-jump-your-bones way – I’ve no paternalistic issues with teen sexuality, but the contrast between them and the affected worldliness of some of their housemates was pretty acute here. As CMJ said “I don’t think she realises what a magnificent creature she is”, and while most of the others are used to being the prettiest girl in the room the twins seem oblivious to their looks. For Elza at least, who threw an AMAZING pose in the anti-smoking ad, that’s turning into a huge asset.
2. (LW: 5) Danielle
I get that this is reality television, and you have to manipulate things to make the episodes really jump off the screen and so on, but I think TV3 might have overstepped the mark when they invaded Danielle’s dreams, then arranged to have someone killed. Bad taste? Oh well. Anyway, Danielle was incredible this week, handling a situation which would have had every one of the contestants (and all of the judges bar maybe Sara) heading home on bereavement leave. She was clearly rocked by it, but still turned in a ferociously good photo, and just increased the steely this-is-my-ticket-out aura around her. If she can handle this week, eliminations will be a doddle. Plus her “Hey, how’s your day, wanna buy some… stuff” line with Herbal Essences was best zinger of the ep.
3. (LW: 7) Lauren
It still staggers me that Lauren, the little mite making up the numbers from the first episode, has become this little pocket-rocket force of nature. She’s never worse than solidly mid-pack on every event now. In this field, that’s impressive, and add that to her model-ready body – Kate Sylvester, who’s not a fan of New Zealand models by-and-large, was very hot on her – and meek-but-strong demeanour and we have ourselves a real contender here.
4. (LW: 3) Michaela
She gave us a moment both funny and illuminating early on, when proudly professing her Bokker fandom to Dan Carter – a lot of 16-year-olds would have hidden that fact or changed their minds in the presence of the man, but she couldn’t lie and that speaks to the steel in her. The remainder of the episode was largely forgettable (that is, I think I’ve forgotten her contribution), but the shot, all pouting truculence in the face of cigarettes, was very, very good, and a reminder why she was coasting atop the rankings in the early weeks. She needs more like it, but she remains one of the keys to this year’s comp.
5. (LW: 1) Courtenay
She dazzled with mediocrity this week, at times looking like a pretty girl with a haircut, and little more. Obviously much of that might have been in the editing, but she appears only three times in my notes (which cover 15 -admittedly very small – pages) and the near-invisibility was a worry. Simply because by the competition’s climax every element of your character is scrutinised, and being so nice as to disappear into the ether is not a characteristic a man like, say, Colin Mathura-Jeffree is likely to warm to one bit.
6. (LW: 4) Eva
After the opening moments of the show I was convinced Eva was going to be atop my rankings. She was just in sparkling form with our nation’s injured first-five eighth, hence her selection as the face of his one remaining business venture that hasn’t entered liquidation. But the triumph was short-lived – she was a mouse selling the Natural Essences and then lost it completely at the anti-smoking thing. The tears were understandable – touching in a way (though not so much as her wrenching speech about her Dad at the end) – but the photo was neither. A wretched shot, it strongly suggested that high fashion’s all she can do. Luckily for her that’s what tends to decide this competition.
7. (LW: 11) Holly
She won something. It might have been the most inconsequential challenge of the day (promo girl – something they mentioned on the show and the way it was uttered it had all the connotations of, say, lap-dancer), but don’t under-estimate the chances of it providing a real boost to Holly’s confidence. My take on it is that Holly is generally an extremely self-assured young lady (hence all the naked exasperation with her house-mates) who, by dint of doing rather badly thus far, has taken a knock to that self-esteem. But the win changes all that, and a bit of swagger can carry you a long way on this show (just ask Hosanna). That plus her bad-mouthing Dakota and the as-yet unexploited missing-me-kid angle keeps her on for weeks.
8. (LW: 9) Lara
With every show I question why I was so enamoured of Lara’s chances. Those quirks and that general air of obliviousness which were once so charming now grate mightily – it’s like she doesn’t take the thing seriously, dammit! More troublingly for her the judges seem of the same opinion, and while she fluked (there’s no other word for it) a fairly good shot they’re itching to put her in her place – and that’s a bus back to Hamilton, probably in the next couple of weeks unless something changes radically.
9. (LW: 10) Dakota
Just when you think you’ve got her measure, and that her constant maniac screeching might be getting old, out comes another jaw-dropper. This week it was a tie between “cat’s arse” and “THC” – with the latter perhaps edging out because of the context – a Serious Interview about a Serious Subject. Her asking Gibbo to sing her a song was pretty fantastic too. But “this is harder to sell than crack” just felt like her playing up to the camera. If the latter sentiment becomes the dominant one in the audience’s mind, she’s doomed – especially given her complete inability to hear the judge’s increasingly irate remonstrations. But the promos are still all Dakota, so it’d cussedly hard to fire the girl who’s just fired their ratings up from 320,000 to near 400k.
10. (LW: 6) Nellie
She’s lovely. Maybe the sweetest girl to appear on a television screen. Ever. But that’s a handicap right now, sadly. She seems disengaged, resigned to her fate and Elza being the twin who goes off and fights for decency and talking-to-birds. The tears and the homesickness are the only storyline with Nellie right now, her performances and photos are merely average, and she clings to her twin for support. It makes you half-yearn for her ousting, just so she can get home for a hug and a cuppa. These are not the the kind of impulses you have for the winner of New Zealand’s Next Top Model. Sad but true.
* Imagine my surprise when the orange-jacketed culprit turned up on TV3 again less than 24 hours later – where else but Christchurch – during the the channel’s coverage of the Canterbury quake: