After a pretty lackluster season, America's Next Top Model came roaring back last night with a fresh crop of beauties vying to stand atop the catwalk.

Last night's two-hour show was a series of cuts. The top 34 girls in the nation were brought to Las Vegas to be further whittled down to 13. (Talk about downsizing.)


There's a whole goddess theme for the first round of cuts. Blah, blah, blah. Tyra Banks greets the girls with an entourage of Roman soldiers. (Major cheese!) She tells the girls she was looking for a successor to her throne. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Almost immediately, the claws start to appear. Enter Angelea, the drama queen. The 22-year-old from Buffalo gets into a slight altercation with our hometown girl Sandra! Don't worry ya'll, she doesn't make it into the top 13. The scary thing is that Sandra does. (We learn in the second hour of the show that she's not all sugar and spice…)

The 21 girls are further cut into the top 13 girls, who wind up moving into the Top Model house in New York City.

The group includes:

Allison, 20, an artist from New Orleans. She's got haunting eyes. She's also very strange -- she's obsessed with nose bleeds.

Aminat, 21, a student from Union, N.J. She has a huge Afro and striking African features. She's also 6'1".

Celia, 25, from Cynthiana, Ky. She's the oldest of the contestants. She also says she feels the most beautiful at this time.

Fo, 19, a student from Albuquerque. She calls herself a "Blaxican" because she is of black and Mexican heritage.

Isabella, 19, an aspiring model from Barboursville, Va. She also has epilepsy.

Jessica, 18, a student from Bradenton, Fla. She's originally from Puerto Rico. She says she's never been called ugly. Miss J clarifies that she's never been called ugly to her face.

Kortnie, 24, a nonprofit organizer from Houston. She's also the lone plus-sized model -- and the former girlfriend of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

London, 18, a student from Arlington, Texas. She is a "street preacher" who goes around the world spreading "the word" of Jesus Christ. (I'm not making this up.)

Natalie, 19, a student from Palos Verdes, Calif. She admits to being from a wealthy family.

Nijah, 18, an aspiring model from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Miss J Alexander says that her skin is flawless.


Sandra, 19, a student from Rockville, Md. She is very confident. She's also proud of her dark skin.

Tahlia, 18, a student from Phoenix. She is a burn victim who has had 14 surgeries since being injured at 8 months.

Teyona, 20, a loss prevention representative from Woodstown, N.J. She's a self-professed "Country Girl" with the confidence to boot.

The second half of the two-hour special features the first elimination from the New York City finalists. But first, the girls go to the Empire State Building, where they meet up with Judges Nigel Barker and Paulina Porizkova. They give them the key to the house, which is very swank.

In the house we really begin to see Sandra's nasty side. Celia is given the keys to the house, which means that she gets the first choice of bed in the house. She chooses the same bed that Sandra eyes. Sandra pulls a diva fit about it. She really starts to turn off her competitors. (I predict there is much more to come from "Sinister Sandra.")

There's a childhood game theme for the first elimination photo shoot.

Surprise, surprise, Allison is judged the winner for her double-dutch photo. She's got those haunting baby doll eyes, which probably gave her an immediate advantage.

Isabella is the show's first casualty after having a poor showing during her dodgeball photo shoot.

I can't quiet put my finger on it, but this season of the show feels better. And for some reason, I think that this group of contestants look more like traditional models. Maybe I'm just glad for this small sense of escapism. Whatever it is, I more enthusiastic about this season.

I can't wait for next week's makeover show. It's always one of my favorites! Which model is going to cry? Which model is going to make an about face? We'll have to wait and see next Wednesday.