“America’s Next Top Model” Recap (18.7): Kyle Butts In


The ladies are going to film public service announcements for Tyra’s B.I.O. campaign, which stands for “Beauty Inside and Out,” and seems to be Tyra’s anti-bullying project. Or something? It seems to have once been a then-trendy “body-image” project that has been rebranded. Far be it for me to say that Tyra has a tendency to take up popular causes of the moment in a shallow way, but this “big project,” though I’m sure it is very close to her heart, is already tough to find on Tyra’s website.

The models will be divided into – please, for the love of all that is good, sit down and have an oxygen tank nearby for your personal safety – two teams based on nationality.

Nigel hilariously gives instructions to a point just above and to the right of a camera lens, and then we cut between him and models shot at a different time to make it look like he’s talking to them. Each team has to make a 2-minute commercial, and they’ll be incorporating some young girls into the PSAs with them.

The winners will get to watch video messages from loved ones on their [product placement] phones! Every now and then I forget how much Modelland is like prison with more decorations and fewer visitation rights. Sophie wants that message!

The Brits confer and seem to be making some diagrams. Kyle talks to the Americans and thinks they should acknowledge that they all have flaws, but there’s something inside everyone that can shine. And wow, some editor reeeeeaaalllly hates Kyle, because after that fairly good moment we cut to her in an interview making a total snot face and saying that she doesn’t like the other girls or want to be friends with them.

Eboni says she was bullied by racist creepballs when she was a kid, and further made fun of because she grew up poor. We get a shot of Laura’s face as she takes in what Eboni is saying. Laura seems to have the self-awareness to know that that’s a particular brand of horrible that she herself has never had to deal with. And, wow, Eboni. Good on you for not being an angrier person.

Eboni interviews that this challenge is hitting her pretty hard, which I can totally believe.

Laura notes that she “hasn’t always shown others her inner beauty,” and wants kids to know that bad patterns can be changed. I can’t tell if Laura is saying she wasn’t always been nice to other people as a kid, or if she didn’t see her own value, and the edit seems to deliberately obscure that. Maybe a little of each?

The models have to paint their own backdrops for their PSAs, which is pretty much among the standard duties of any high-fashion model. That’s why they are so often paint-splattered and smell of turpentine on the runway.

The Brits paint demurely, and the Americans’ backdrop is all over the place. This heavy-handed metaphor for how the season is going has brought to you by the legendary Lead-Fists Jane, creator of metaphors that simply cannot be missed. Lead-Fists Jane: Metaphors to Suit Your Densest Loved Ones.

Oh, time for everyone’s cynical heart to grow three sizes. Each model gets paired with an adorable girl of about junior-high age. We get great shots of Sophie and Alisha genuinely hugging their new friends, and then one of Kyle giving her kid a stiff don’t-muss-my-hair hug. Nigel tells them to talk about what beauty means to them.

Sophie is winning a lot of points back this week: She seems to be genuinely good at connecting with the kids, really listening and not talking down to them. Sophie talks about going through her own unattractive phase, and then a remarkably self-possessed girl blows the models away by saying your inner beauty can’t be bullied. I bet that’s getting taped up on a few mirrors in Modelland tonight.

The Americans talk. Laura’s partner says that beauty is good grades and making her mom and dad proud and seems to hit Laura right in the heart. Laura talks briefly about growing up insecure with alcoholic parents and always trying to please them because she never felt like she was worth enough to keep them sober.

This ridiculous show sure swings wildly in and out of heavy territory, doesn’t it? We get a quick hit of “Wait, you WHAT?! and then suddenly it’s back to butt tutorials and pouring maple syrup on people. It’s like drive-by meaning.

Oh, no. Alisha’s sweet, pretty little girl bravely says that she thinks she’s not beautiful when she looks at the color of her skin and her hair, because when she looks at princesses, “they’re all pretty, and they have different hair.” Alisha almost can’t stand it. She breaks down crying more than the girl does, and totally gets where she’s coming from. Alisha’s really terrific with her – completely open about her own emotions, but not lost in them, and for just a few minutes, Alisha totally focuses herself on making things a little better for another human being. Which means she probably won’t win this show, but bodes well for the rest of her life.

Can I just say how much wished AzMarie had been there for this part? Couldn’t they have brought her in just long enough to drop some Zen wisdom on finding your own glittering beauty in your differences and then choppered her out? I guess not: The girls would have just broken the door off its hinges and gone forth to kick ass and no PSAs would have gotten done.

You know, those PSAs. The ones that are all over the TV and Interwebs? I’m sure they’ll be there soon enough.

The models design T-shirts with the kids and do matching face paint jobs. Laura interviews that they really got along with the kids, and, seriously, kudos to whichever producer matched them up. Everyone seems to be having a good time, and the models really seem to be identifying with the girls. Sophie practices and dances with her girl, and says she really wants to nail this.

The girls do their PSAs. Eboni interviews that she’s been trying to be present and spontaneous with her girl without completely losing it – her years of being bullied aren’t that far away, and they’re still pretty raw.

Laura’s girl says, “Beauty is freedom! And freedom is mold!” Laura laughs and points out that freedom is breaking any mold, but seems to do it in a way that doesn’t bum out her cheerful partner. She and her girl have matching hearts on their cheeks, which is sweet.

Aw, Kyle is stiff, and someone has given her girl a speech to memorize, so for a moment Kyle’s young partner is as stiff as Kyle. But then the girl snaps out of it and turns real again. Is that’s what’s up with Kyle? Is she always saying something she’s been practicing in her head? Now I’m sad again.

Catherine and her girl think that smart and funny is beautiful. I award Catherine 4,000 secret bonus points, then say a silent prayer of thanks that she is straight and thus not part of the competition for those smart, funny women.

Alisha does a back and forth with her kid. They are practiced and photogenic. Alisha wants to hear from her mom. Annaliese is professional and fun with her kid, and then slips into a moment of actual almost-unrehearsed fun.

Sophie and her girl are silly and spinny and very fun. OK, Sophie is fully back into my good graces.

Nigel really liked the whole project, as well he should have. He addresses the Americans, praising, oh, dear, the “simple words” they used, but says they didn’t seem to show their friendship with the girls as much as he’d have liked. Nigel thought the Brits were well rehearsed, and maybe too well rehearsed, which is a valid point.

Kyle speaks in a vocal fry monotone about her emotions and says she hopes the Americans win. The Brits win! They jump up and down and hug each other. Alisha, happy with her win and drained of sentiment, says she wants to see her mum and the Amercians should have worked harder. Wow, a certain interview room just got frosty.

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