'America's Next Top Model' back with smaller contestants

I guess Tyra Banks is hoping that the saying "Big Things Come In Small Packages" will work to her advantage this season of America's Next Top Model. This cycle, the host and creator of the show has opened up the competition exclusively to women 5'7" and shorter.

The publicity stunt might work to her advantage. Just because these women are pint-sized they are already showing they've got the same catty demeanor and dramatic antics that their taller, starved models.


After we get a quick snapshot of the contestants during a little face-time with Tyra and her trusted sidekicks Miss J. Alexander, and Mr. Jay Manuel, the group of 32 semifinalist is whittled down to the top 20. There is one contestant (Simone) from Hagerstown, Md., but she falls to make the top 20. Oh well.

The girls find out if they make the first cut if they find a garment in their garment bag. (Ouch!)


After the dust has settled, and the undesirables have left, Mr. and Miss J lead a runway competition. The girls have to basically pose for the cameras at the end of the runway.
Sundai was horrendous: Her pose of taking one arm and pulling it over the top of her head was tragic. Amber – who winds up making the top 14 only to leave the competition for "personal reasons" -- chose not to take advantage of the five-minutes the contestants were allowed to put on makeup. It didn't matter. Her bird-like features pleased the judges.

During the next cut, which takes the group from 20 to 14, Tyra – who looks absolutely stunning with a part down the middle of her bone-straight golden hair — says that she has to hold back tears because she understands how hard it is for the shorter models to make it in the fashion industry. (Try not to laugh too loud.)

During the second part of the two-hour season premiere, the models get down to business with makeovers and their first themed photo shoot. The makeovers, which are named Ty-overs, go as expected. Many off the girls are ecstatic with their new looks. At least one – Bianca – throws a fit over the fact that her eyebrows do not look good. (Give me a break!) The biggest surprise is that Lisa, who was not selected to the top 14, is chosen to replace Amber.

After the "Ty-overs" the girls get to see their new house, which has a doll theme. There is plenty of over-sized furniture to accentuate just how short the girls are. (Talk about shoving it down our throat.)

The photo shoot is an editorial interpretation of each of the contestant's baby pictures. Erin does a good job because she "lucks" into the shoot, according to Mr. Jay. Rae has to wear plastic ballerina point shoes with an 8-inch heel. (Ouch!) She makes the most of the shoot and turns out a "stunning" photo, Mr. Jay said. Lisa is pretty lack-luster. Mr. Jay isn't that pleased with her effort. Bianca has a horrible attitude on set because she is not pleased with her makeup. Mr. Jay said that her attitude carried over into her photo. (Not good.) Brittany's first two-thirds of her photo shoot looked pornographic, according to Mr. Jay. She was able to tame it down by the end. Mr. Jay gushed over Ashley's shoot, saying that she made the picture look expensive. Sundai disappoint Mr. Jay. He said she fell flat. Nicole turned out "hot" photos, according to Mr. Jay. Kara does a great job. Jennifer also does pretty good.

During the judging, it becomes apparent that there will be no permanent replacement for fired former judge Paulina Porizkova. Instead, there will be a series of celebrity guest judges to fill the fourth judging slot this season. This episode, uber super model Chanel Iman fils that role.

Tyra informs the contestants that the winner this cycle will receive a modeling contract and management by Wilhelmina Models, a $100,000 contract with CoverGirl cosmetics and a cover and six-page spread with Seventeen magazine.

Rae's ballerina photo is deemed the best. The bottom two is composed of Bianca and Lisa. Bianca is scolded for her attitude. Lisa just has a bad photo.

Here's a brief breakdown of all the contestants:

Jennifer An, 23, Philadelphia – 5'5" Jennifer is the oldest competitor. She's probably one of the most feisty. During the interview process, she admits to fist fighting another girl who kissed her then-boyfriend. The judges criticize her for being overly sexy in her photo. During the makeover her long, flowing jet-black hair is cut slightly shorter.

Lulu Braithwaite, 19, Brooklyn, N.Y. – 5'7." Lulu is a self-professed lesbian. She's given a bang and a long weave during the makeover.

Courtney Davies, 22, Plantation, Fla. – 5'4." Courtney is on crutches because she broke her foot during a cheerleading competition. When Banks announces the top 14 finalists, she tells the contestants that "Top Model" does not discriminate. (Give me a break! Haha!) She gets an edgy punkish spiky hairdo for her makeover.


Rachel Echelberger, 18, Woodland, Calif. – 5'5." Rachel has the biggest eyes—EVER! They're huge. But unlike Allison from last season, Rachel's eyes don't make her look all that crazy. The judges say that she looks like an anime character, which is spot-on. They also love her face. She has one of the best makeovers of the group. Her brown hair is dyed black, which really makes her eyes pop even more. I predict that she will do very well in the competition.

Nicole Fox, 18, Louisville, Colo. – 5'7." Nicole is very pretty. Her long, red hair and strong bone structure make her stand out. She's extremely quiet and reserved, which is off-putting to the other contestants. She's also weird. She admits to bringing a rusty wheelbarrow to school instead of a book bag. And why does she go around telling people that they were born with a bloody eyeball? Her long red hair is thickened. It's very high fashion.

Ashley Howard, 22, Chicago – 5'6." Ashley was picked out of a crowd at a taping of The Tyra Banks Show. (Talk about a plug!) During the makeover, she is given a large part down the middle of her head.

Laura Kirkpatrick, 19, Stanford, Ky. – 5'6." Laura says she's a country girl who's also high fashion. (I don't know about the high-fashion part. But she's definitely country!) In all seriousness, Laura has a fresh, pretty face. (She has really cute dimples!) She should do alright in the first couple of weeks. She brags about being able to being able to castrate up to 100 cows in a day. Laura gets blond highlights.

Sundai Love, 18, Bakersfield, Calif. – 5'3." Sundai is the shortest competitor, and she is spunky. She admits to being battered, adopted, and living in an orphanage when she was younger. Her long, thick weave is chopped and shaped into a Rihanna-inspired bob.

Brittany Markert, 21, Livermore, Calif. – 5'5." Brittany is a self-proclaimed book nerd who has been doing math since she was three. During the makeovers, Brittanys' blond hair is dyed dark brown.

Bianca Richardson, 21, Columbia, S.C. – 5'7." Bianca attends my alma mater Howard University, which is known for its fashion. In fact, during the show, Miss J says that there is a Howard walk for the runway. Who knew? But getting back to Bianca. She's pretty, but appears to have a horrible attitude. She moans and groans about her makeover, which only required her to get her eyebrows dyed. And during the photo shoot she pitched a fit because she didn't like her makeup. Strong photo or not, Bianca needs to improve her attitude if she hopes to stay in the competition.


Kara Vincent, 19, Fort Wayne, Ind. – 5'7." Kara currently lives in Costa Rica, and admits to being a free spirit. Kara has such an unusual, strong face. I predict that she'll become a movie star after the show if she has a shred of stage presence. Kara gets her brunette hair lightened. It looks really good.


Erin Wagner, 18, Kenosha, Wis. – 5'6." Erin says that she does not like to put on lip gloss and go shopping. (I predict trouble ahead.) Her brown hair is dyed platinum blond.

Ashley "Rae" Weisz, 21, Rochester, Minn. – 5'6." Ashley is a mother of an 18-month-old. She also admits to being abducted and sexually assaulted. The judges are concerned that she looks more like a fitness model than a fashion model.

Lisa Ramos. 19, Queens, NY. Lisa is given a second chance when Amber mysteriously drops out of the competition. Her reprieve is short-lived when she's the first one sent home. At least she got a free haircut during the Ty-over.

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