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So we’ve finished another season of America’s Next Top Model, and Bankable Productions has a fan for life. During this cycle, we had three girls who each represented different parts of the modeling spectrum. Kahlen has a classic beauty with classic proportions and she photographs great, but meeting her in person does not give the same kind of energy. As a spokesperson, Keenyah is your girl. She wows you with her presence, but at the same time sometimes leaves a little to be desired in her pictures. While she isn’t fat by everyday standards, her weight and inability to control her appetite is becoming a problem. Naima has edge and flavor and takes good pictures, but her potential is masked by a subdued demeanor that at the same time is begging to get out.After a little time with a few penguins, the girls get their chances to see Tyra face to face. I don’t know about you, but I hardly recognized Ms. Banks. She didn’t have any makeup on, or perhaps just not as much, and it wasn’t that she was unattractive, just different and something I didn’t expect to see. All three get to have some one on one, and the first one to go up is Kahlen.
These sessions with Tyra are always good to see how the girls are feeling, and they really seem to open up in a different way than they do in front of the cameras when they are doing their “diary” recordings. Last time Tyra had her mom along, but this time she was dispensing the advice solo. Kahlen talked about how she was never girly, never tall, and people said she had nothing unique. In this competition she can see that has all changed. Although this time is for the girls, Tyra always takes time to mention how she went through the same thing in some way, the girls cry, and then they move on.
Naima came in next, and when asked what she took away from the experience, she said that she had learned so much about herself. She used to have such issues with her image, hating her face and her body. She says now that she knows she has no room to hate herself. Tyra was impressed that in a competition where there is so much critiquing and so much talk about image, she could come away learning about self-esteem and being proud of what you do.
Then we came to Keenyah. Some people may think that I have been piling it on Keenyah over these last few weeks, but what am I supposed to do? Even when she isn’t taking great pictures, she has the diva attitude. I like her spunk, but in this competition, some humility might motivate her to improve herself, and yes, that includes eating well. Keenyah is very focused on the competition, saying that she isn’t doing anything that would potentially help others. She does eventually talk about her weight, saying her problem is she doesn’t know if she’s actually hungry or she just wants to taste something good in her mouth. Well, if all you needed was to put something in your mouth, Keenyah…oh, I’m not going to say it; that was too easy. Tyra tells her that although she should never feel like she has to be unhealthy, she has to realize that at her age, she is going to have to work harder to keep a figure more suited for high fashion.
For the first competition, the girls go to a warehouse, for what appears to be a runway show. One of the things I was surprised about this season was that there was really no runway component other than modeling some items with Miss J at Kmart, where Naima battled Rebecca for queen of the catwalk. Kahlen was excited at first because she loves the runway, but then got that defeatist look on her face when she learned they would actually be shooting a commercial. Could you imagine what would have happened if Kahlen was, like, a firewoman? “That cat looks pretty high up. I’m not good with ladders, just let it die.” This wasn’t just any ordinary commercial either, it was going to be for CoverGirl, the company that is going to give them a contract if they win.
I’m sure you probably already guessed, but the making of the commercial was quite humorous. These girls have taken some lessons, but that does not mean that they are polished. Everybody had trouble delivering their lines, and Kahlen started talking about milkshakes, and not makeup. There was a portion where each girl had to walk down the runway, a portion where they spoke a few lines about the product, and a portion where they feigned some sort of disaster backstage. Kahlen was worried that she would be judged too much on her performance in the commercial, and she clearly felt she did the worst. Keenyah, in love with herself as always, really started to play it up for the cameras, giving a little Right Said Fred wink every time she was about to make her turn.
As important as the commercial was, there was potentially an even more important shot that was happening just after – the CoverGirl close-up. Last year I was completely stunned by how well the girls did, and it was no different this year. The girls were looking to make it a very difficult decision. Here are their pictures:
During the first elimination, I was very tense. It’s no secret that I have been pulling for Naima to win this thing, and while I am sure that I continued to tell myself that the sun would come out tomorrow if Naima didn’t make it to the finals, I was still a nervous wreck.
Naima was the first to be critiqued, and overall the judges were very impressed by her CoverGirl shot. Nigel said that it really embodied the “sparkle” that you look for in a CoverGirl, and even Janice, who hasn’t really had a lot of good things to say about Naima, paid her a compliment. While the close-up impressed the judges, they were completely floored with the way her personality shone through during the commercial. They said that she was the one that sort of set the tempo for the entire piece, so they asked her why they hadn’t seen that yet before. Naima started crying a little bit, and even though we have seen her grow before our eyes, it was easy to see that she still had some problems with her past. Janice said it was O-V-E-R, and she can now forget that past because she is starting over for herself. What they didn’t like from Naima was her walk, and they let her know it.
Keenyah was next, and we all know that she is never lacking in confidence. The judges were also impressed with her photos, but the said that during the commercial, she looked very fake and rehearsed. Kahlen was the last to be evaluated, and they were completely floored by her picture, saying it gave off a radiance. Janice said she would stop at that picture and look at it in any magazine. Kahlen still needs to work on her confidence though. Nigel said that during the shoot he was constantly looking at her even though she was always in the background.
Now for the moment of truth (or at least the first moment of truth for the night). Naima is called first. Yes! Tyra gave a spiel about how Naima opened the door by opening up her heart and her spirit. Whatever, I’m just glad that I am not going to have to have a pacemaker for at least another thirty minutes or so.
Choosing between Kahlen and Keenyah, Tyra pulled off one of the patented ANTM moves. You know, the “Each of you represents two different parts of modeling” type of thing. And this time there was a little twist: she had the girls face each other and then told them the qualities the other possessed that they each needed. For Kahlen, it is the personality. She is sexy on camera, and has that goofy tomboyish little smile thing going on, but you couldn’t call her engaging. Keenyah has all the personality you could need, but when it came to the pictures, she just wasn’t able to compete with Kahlen’s ability to mimic any mood or character she needed for her shot.
Although I thought it would be a slam-dunk for Kahlen, I was not holding my breath, as I feel there have been some really big surprises during this season during eliminations. My gut reaction was correct, and Keenyah was eliminated. Her departure was very tearful, but I think it has been about five weeks in the making. Keenyah’s confidence is very powerful, but her confidence alone is not going to make her pictures great. In fact, it seemed as if her confidence in winning people over with her personality almost hurt her, because she thought she was so good and therefore didn’t need to work on anything. Was there a lesson to be learned in all of this? There was for Keenyah, who said that nothing is going to hold her back…unless she gets fatter. In the end what did her in was the notion that she was not high fashion.
So we are left with Naima and Kahlen, two girls who are just about as good of friends as you could expect any two people in their position to be. They were both happy to be competing against the other, but weren’t going to let their friendship get in the way of their focus. After a trip to Tabletop Mountain to take in the great view of Cape Town, they were ready for their final challenge, and yes, it was going to be on the runway.
The two found Jay Manuel, and the butterflies were really starting to get to them. It’s that nervous energy when you know you’ve worked so hard at something, want to do well so very badly, but want to get it all over with at the same time. Last year, the girls were thrown a little twist for their runway show in Japan when they had a catwalk with four sides square, and were forced to be a little subdued in their walk. In Cape Town, fierce was going to be the word of the day for their show, but there was more. The runway was going to be submersed – yes, submersed. Underwater. Splish splash and all that stuff.
OK, it’s not like it was four inches underwater, but it was still underwater. Kahlen and Naima were having a hard enough time seeing the runway in the daylight. At night, with all of the people around, the cameras and the lights, it was going to be very difficult indeed. Miss J. came out once more for a little bit of instruction, and he said they had to stomp that water like it was the last thing they were going to do.
The actual show had three different designers, so each girl got to have three chances to impress on the runway, and I cannot believe the job they did. It was the first fashion show for either of them, but when they stepped out, it looked like they were pros. They worked it, and let it all hang out. Naima stomped through first, and was so fierce that Tyra even gave a little shout. (As Naima turned and walked away, we got a nice little ass shot that made J-Unit shout.) Kahlen said that the adrenaline got to her and she was imagining stomping out not only all of the girls that didn’t believe in her, but the also girl who didn’t believe in herself.
For the last designer, the girls were going to be lined up against each other. Describing the competitive nature of the night, Naima said that when she got out there she would look Kahlen in the eye and say, “bitch, this is what I got.” All of the models came on for the encore, and since everybody wasn’t wet enough, there was a little cascade of water at the entrance to the platform. Naima and Kahlen were both so overcome with the emotion of the event that when they got to the cascade, they just broke it down a little bit and worked out a little something extra for the crowd. After the show, Kahlen jumped on Naima, and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Fierce rivals and best of friends, they were going to make it very difficult for the judges to decide between the two of them.
The final judging has all of the panel looking back on the entire portfolio of work. Overall, Kahlen took the best pictures, but in the last couple of days, Naima came on very strong. I thought one of the best moments of the show was when each girl was asked why they think they should win. Kahlen said that she had been overlooked all of her life, and she never had to be that girl in the corner anymore. Naima started crying and said that she hated herself for so long, but when she walked in front of the judges that night, she felt beautiful, and she wants to keep that feeling.
I was a wreck for the last part of the show, because it was really up in the air who was going to win. Both of them looked like models. Naima came on strong late with that fierce presence, but Kahlen had a body with great proportions and one of the strongest portfolios ever on Top Model.
The winner was announced and it was Naima. Kahlen was devastated, because she really thought she did well. Again, she is able to transform herself in front of the camera, and after she was on the runway for the last competition, she finally took that feeling of confidence into the panel with her. But it was not to be – the girl who was always overlooked was passed over once again, and was left crying in the corner. Fear not Kahlen fans, her natural beauty may not have made her a top model on this show, but you know she has the potential to be in print or on the runway.
The night, however, belonged to Naima. She wasn’t quite as emotional as Eva from last year, but you could see by the look on her face what it meant for her. During the first elimination of the episode, Tyra was impressed by how much of a journey Naima had gone through as a person. You can always say it was the editing, but I think there was always a sense with Naima during this cycle. She suppressed her emotions so her past wouldn’t take control of her, but ended up stifling a lot of her best parts as well. The judges never saw her personality, but her inner presence propelled her to CoverGirl of the Week for the entire span of the season. Naima summed up her journey the best. She had always tried to figure out what the judges wanted to see from her but “what they wanted to see was me.”
Tyra says she is uniquely beautiful and undeniably edgy. When talking about the win, Naima said it was important to her because of what she represents. She represents a black girl, a Mexican girl, she’s part Irish, part everything. She’s America’s Next Top Model.
So ends the journey for this season of ANTM. Was Naima the right choice? Did Kahlen or Keenyah deserve to win?