After a not-so-long cycle of lectures by Tyra, increasingly absurd photo shoots, and varying levels of fierceness, it's finally come down to the final three girls. The last one standing will win some impressive-sounding prizes, and then go on to annoy us next cycle with terrible My Life as a Covergirl commercials before fading into inevitable obscurity and non-Supermodeldom.
Will it be Chantal, who has coasted into the final three with a deadly combination of average photos and masterful presentation at the judging panel? Or Saleisha, whose connections with Tyra have allowed her to rise above her Tootie haircut, giving her a likely lock on this competition (barring some sort of disastrous final commercial or runway show)? Or will it be Jenah, who is also weighed down by terrible hair, plus a bad attitude, but has taken by far the best pictures of the three? Oh, the suspense!
The night before their Covergirl shoot, the girls revel in their final three-ness, but worry about the first elimination. Chantal wisely points out that two of them will be in the bottom two, but one of them won't. Wow, Chantal. You just blew my mind. In the morning, the girls meet up with Jay, Covergirl Commercial Guy, and Jaslene, who's there to pump them up for the Covergirl print ad and commercial shoot. The featured product is some sort of "fruit spritzers" lip gloss, which sounds more like a perfume to me, but whatever. Also, this commercial is weird. What do fortune cookies have to do with lip gloss?
Chantal, to her credit, does a great job with the commercial shoot after a little coaching from Jay. She's well aware that her natural bubblyness fits in perfectly with the Covergirl image. Jenah...freezes up completely and almost needs cue cards, pulling it out at the last second. And is wearing so much bright pink blush that I can't even focus on her line reading. Jay warns her to keep her insecurity from coming across as snottiness. Wise and probably prophetic (knowing our editors) words, Jay. Saleisha, as orange as Jay, also has trouble with her lines when nerves get to her. She walks off set to calm down for a minute, and comes back with a more than passable line reading. In fact, one might almost call it perky. At the photo shoot, Saleisha does a much better job, Chantal really does look exactly like a Covergirl, and Jenah's teeth get bigger and hair gets rattier with every frame shot (yet, as always, I'm sure she'll end up with a great photo).
Qi Gang, a couture designer whose show the finalists will be walking in, is the guest judge at panel. Tyra starts things off with a little interrogation about who has the most and least potential out of the bunch. Saleisha says she has the most potential (duh), and Jenah has the least, because of her personality. Well-played, Saleisha. Chantal says she has the most potential, emphasizing her love for the industry, and says that Jenah has the least potential, calling her out again on her attitude. Jenah says that she has the most potential, choosing to defend her "laid-back" attitude rather than emphasize her great pictures. Bad call, in my opinion. She says that Chantal is the most amateur of the bunch.
Saleisha is first up for judging, and her commercial is average, in my opinion, but Nigel praises her for the mythical "smiling in your eyes" trick. Tyra dings her inflection, and brings up Jay Manuel's comments that Saleisha's readings were robotic, and it took 20 takes to get it right. Her photo is great, but Tyra points out that she lacks multiple kinds of smiles, or something. Is Tyra just trying to prove that she hasn't been propping Saleisha up through this whole competition?
Chantal's up next, and her line reading is poor, but the judges praise her natural charm. Her photo is fine, but not outstanding, like every other photo she's ever taken. She gets great notes from Jay Manuel on her relatability and believability, though.
Jenah's commercial seems fine to me, though her styling is terrible and she lacks in perkiness a bit, but the judges use it as a jumping-off point to go after her attitude, saying that her line reading made it seem like she was making fun of the commercial. Hmm. Maybe. She points out that she shouldn't have to be obscenely perky for people to like her (Chantal), and then all these family issues come out and she starts to cry. Tyra appreciates that she's being real. The judges really like her Covergirl photo, and that she's able to tone down the fierceness when necessary.
In deliberation, the judges praise Saleisha for her photo and her improved performance, but Tyra points out that she's not really a high fashion girl. They appreciate Jenah's honesty at panel, and acknowledge that her photos are by far the best. They love Chantal's photo, but agree that she's more amateur than the other two. Chantal gets the first photo. WHAT?!?!?!?!?! Okay, seriously, what's going on here?
Tyra points out that Saleisha's experience didn't serve her well in the beginning of the competition, but she improved throughout. Jenah had hardly any experience, but takes amazing photos, and has "connected to who Jenah is." The second finalist is...Saleisha. Okay, I'm calling BS here. Fine, yeah, Saleisha has the connections with Tyra and a better personality and personal appearance, so I kind of knew she'd get picked over Jenah, but Jenah takes incredible photos! Why on EARTH would Chantal get picked over her? Chantal has officially worked the judging panel better than anyone in the history of this show. It's the only possible explanation. But wow, with the two most talented girls eliminated now (Heather being the second), I could reeeeally care less who wins at this point. Although I think we all know it'll be Saleisha.
The undeserving duo head over to do the requisite "in case you win" Seventeen Magazine photo shoot while I stew in my bitterness. Later, they meet the Jays at the runway location, next to the Forbidden City. The concept is taking the Qing Dynasty (most models) into the future (Saleisha and Chantal, as if). Jaslene will be opening the show, which is just as dramatic and bizarre as we've come to expect (though nowhere near as insane as the Ghost Bride show from cycle 7, to give you a benchmark). After the judges are formally seated and some folks on stilts come out to line the runway (?!), Jaslene starts it off. Saleisha is actually really fierce, while Chantal seems a bit stiff, though she gets positive comments from the watching judges. Then, DISASTER. Chantal's third outfit has a long train, and gets caught on one of the guys's stilts, totally knocking him down. And even worse than throwing a man to the ground? She breaks character to look back, concerned, about it. Not Good. Though she doesn't stop to see if he's okay or anything, so it could've been worse.
At the final panel, we get the usual portfolio review. It's depressing, given how great it could have been with Jenah and Heather in the final two. The judges try to be positive, and review far less photos than usual, showing just three from the whole cycle. Hmm...I wonder why? In the runway review, Saleisha gets mad praise, and deservedly so. The judges think that Chantal's nerves got in the way a little, and do her the favor of moving past the "taking out a dude on stilts" incident quickly. After the quick fake-out criticism of Saleisha (something about her shoulders), Tyra slams Chantal's stiffness.
In solo deliberation, Tyra says, "Listen, guys. I really need us to give this to Saleisha so that I have a great inspirational story for my TZONE Foundation. Let's pretend to argue for a bit, and then we'll get this over with and head out for pizza." Okay, I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure that's what happened before they turned the cameras on. Miss J points out that Chantal is more high fashion, and Twiggy likes her body. Nigel says that Saleisha is more in control of her body, and is already polished. Tyra says that she thought both girls would be going home early (yeah, right--though that is what I thought), and that she's not looking forward to crushing one of them. I say that this is the worst final two ever.
After a brief speech that neither girl is really listening to, the Magic Screen reveals that Saleisha is America's Next Top Model. Um, surprise? To no one? Chantal is bummed, because she didn't realize that the show was obviously fixed from the beginning. I mean, I'm happy for Saleisha and all, since she seems like a perfectly nice girl and really is good at some aspects of modeling (though I'd peg her as the weakest winner since Naima, and maybe even ever), but this is absurd. Absurd to the point where I'm going to start an irresponsible rumor: Twiggy totally quit in protest of this result, you guys, not because they wanted someone younger and possibly meaner. Totally. And now I'm going to start an irresponsible conspiracy theory: Jenah was totally eliminated first tonight to avoid a head-to-head portfolio comparison between herself and Saleisha, which would have put Saleisha's portfolio to shame. Totally.
Well, best of luck to you, Saleisha. Again, nothing personal--you're naught but a pawn in Tyra's master plan for world domination. (As are we all, friends. As are we all.)