|by Syrone Harvey
As we move towards the end of America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 5, we can finally breathe a collective sigh of relief. It’s been a long, unbelievable journey. Tyra said it best, “This search for America’s Next Top Model has been a season of wild firsts.” From glam to not so glam, the search for America’s Next Top Model uncovered aspects of the fashion industry rarely seen. Out of the many thousands of entries, the quest was narrowed down to thirteen exquisite gems. Among them, only the three jewels that sparkled the most; Bre, Nicole and Nik would remain until the very end.
This final episode begins by looking back on each model and their progress of transformation. Nicole, the girl from Grand Forks, North Dakota proved she had more to offer than what was visible to the eye. Although many of her photos were flawless, the judges wondered if Nicole had the potential to offer more than just another pretty face.
Meanwhile, bold and brassy Bre had worries of her own. She ended up on the bottom two on 4 separate occasions. She surprised everyone; outlasting most top model predictions. She had a rough beginning but became stronger with every photo shoot. The judges wondered if her improvement would be enough to carry her to the end.
Nik, the quiet, soft-spoken girl from Atlanta, Georgia took everyone by surprise delivering only the fiercest of photos. After awhile, Nik became stuck in a posing rut, resorting to the same profile position with every shoot. The judges were concerned Nik wouldn’t be able to “serve it up,” and meet their expectations.
While the models are clearly jazzed about making the final three, they also realize how pivotal every shoot, pose and challenge will be from this point on.
The girls receive a Tyra Mail which says, “True beauty comes from a solid foundation. Be ready at 6:00 a.m.”
The next morning they meet up with Jay Manuel who excitedly tells them they are at the studio to do their Cover Girl photo shoot, and also a commercial for Cover Girl Tru Blend Make Up. This shoot will deal with “girls on the go.” He introduces the current Top Model, Naima, who offers gracious encouragement to the girls. “Think about how much you want to be the next Cover Girl and really transmit that in your photographs,” she says. Naima’s presence reminds them of their overall goal of becoming America’s Next Top Model.
Jay hands each of them a script as they go through hair and make up. Nik is nervous but determined to have the script memorized so she’ll nail the commercial with confidence. Bre admits she is also feeling nervous. Because Nicole did so well on her last commercial she is certain she’ll do a great job.
Sara Dunlop, the director of the Cover Girl commercial, places the girls in position and tells them to be playful, have fun and simply be natural. The second part of the commercial requires them to not only deal with the lights and cameras, but also deliver their lines in a comfortable manner. Dressed in a shimmering silver dress, Bre is first. Unfortunately, she flubs her lines several times. Jay tells her she looks flawless even though she’s messing up.
Nicole glances at Nik who is intent on memorizing her lines. She is certain she’ll manage the commercial with ease. On her first run through, Nik delivers an almost perfect performance. She says, “It’s really amazing because the commercial was what I was really terrified about. I don’t know where it came from; it just worked.”
Suddenly Nicole isn’t feeling quite as calm as before. The pressure is on. (This might be a good time for Secret Platinum.) Unfortunately, Nicole is rattled and struggles with the lines. She stutters and makes several attempts. Finally, she shakes her head and says, “I’m sorry but these lights are… blinding me kinda.” Jay tells her to focus through it like a ‘real” model.
Because of Nicole’s stage fright, Jay literally spoon feeds her each and every line. He knows this is something the judges need to be aware of.
Nik is determined to offer more of a variety of facial expressions as she faces the camera for yet another photo shoot. Bre’s challenge is finding something that’ll make her “smile.” Since Nicole’s commercial attempt was a disaster, she realizes how important it is for her to work through this last shoot.
Jay says, “I really thought that I was going to expect the worst performance from Nik, the best performance from Nicole because she’s been so cocky, and for Bre to be in the middle. These girls are just flipping it upside down for me; which goes to show, you may think you may know who’s going to be America’s Next Top Model, but you really don’t.” At this point, it’s anyone’s competition.
Tyra Mail awaits them reminding them about tomorrow’s elimination meeting with the judges. Nik feels Bre may be her biggest competition even though she’s been in the bottom two 4 times in a row. She wonders if there’s a reason Bre remains in the competition.
Bre crosses her fingers and hopes she won’t be going home, while Nicole nervously wonders if flubbing the commercial is a reason to send her packing.
And then there were three… This is the 10th Top Model cut. Aside from the usual panel, fashion designers Vanya Strok and Nargess Gharani are the guest judges. The two remaining finalists will star in a Gharani-Strok Fashion show. First the judges look at the combined commercial of the models. It’s wonderful, vibrant and lively. Tyra comments that they resemble a rainbow: chocolate, vanilla and caramel.
“Nik you did the best by far and the commercial director said you stood out,” Tyra announces. They evaluate Bre on her Cover Girl commercial. Ms. J thinks she looks a little tight and stressed around the mouth. Twiggy feels her photos are really pretty, but Tyra says they weren’t modely looking. Although Bre messed up the Tru Blend commercial Nigel thinks her commercial was very personal and showed off her personality.
“It’s brilliant. It makes me want to be a Cover Girl,” Miss J muses as they look at Nik’s photos. Nigel agrees and says, “It looks like you’re smiling at us, which is fantastic.” Tyra says, “There wasn’t a lot to choose from,” but doesn’t elaborate further.
As they look at Nik’s commercial Tyra comments that Nik wasn’t as “cheeky” as she could’ve been. (Lively, perked up, over exaggerated.)
Nicole’s photo is praised and admired. “You look absolutely gorgeous. You look fantastic,” Twiggy says. Nigel agrees. They turn and look at her “flubbed” commercial. When she makes an excuse about the lights being blinding, Miss J questions her on it. Nicole comes clean. “To be honest, I just couldn’t remember the lines.” The judges remind her that it’s always best to own up to any mistakes.
The girls leave the room as the judges deliberate. The guest judges feel Bre makes a great photographic model while Twiggy feels Bre still doesn’t come across like a model. Nigel says Bre is totally natural, which is a positive thing. Tyra says, “Bre has more punch and personality than Nicole and Nik combined.”
“Nicole needs some punch to get some personality,” says Miss J. Of course, Twiggy disagrees. “She’s a model to me. She’s always looked like a model. I think she’s very beautiful. I love her body; I love her walk,” she says.
Nik’s photo appears on the screen. “I think Nik is great. I love this picture of her,” Miss J states. Nigel disagrees. “But Nik’s personality is so kind of wishy washy still.” Miss J counters, “At least she’s been consistent throughout.” Tyra agrees Nik and Nicole have remained consistent throughout the competition. “Bre is who she is. I think that some of the other girls are trying to be who they are not,” Nigel says.
Once the judges have finished deliberating, the models return. Tyra addresses the trio. “This has been a really long journey but now it’s down to three. Three beautiful girls who have performed magnificently, but one must go home. The first name I’m going to call… Nik.” Only Bre and Nicole remain.
Bre and Nicole step forward. Tyra says, “I have only one photo in my hands and I will only call one name. The girl I do not call must immediately return to the hotel, pack your belongings and go home.
“You guys have performed in the past in a commercial and both of you did really well. But the Cover Girl commercial… You didn’t deliver. One girl’s taken consistently beautiful pictures but the other girl started weakly but her photos are now burning brightly and beautifully. So, who’s the finalist? Is it the girl that’s been consistent or the girl that’s come a long way? The girl that will be joining Nik and that will be a finalist… Nicole.” Nicole gives a cry of relief.
“You should be proud of yourself. You can’t freeze in the fashion show like you did in the commercial. We wanna see that strong, consistent girl. Congratulations,” Tyra says to Nicole.
Bre embraces the two girls then leaves to pack. “I’m disappointed that I didn’t win the competition but I’m very glad that I made it as far as I did here. I came a long way in this competition. They took this little black girl from Harlem and took her to London to model. She ain’t never been out of the country. Life is full of disappointments. Tyra told us how many doors have been slammed in her face before she got to where she had to go. My path can only go up from here. There’s nothing but up,” Bre says in parting.
It was almost sad seeing such a spitfire leave the competition but that’s the way it goes. It’s finally “on and crackin’.” Let’s see who’ll be America’s Next Top Model…
Nicole is literally jumping on the beds while Nik remains reserved. Nik realizes she and Nicole are two different people, two different ages and at two different places in life without much in common. Nicole says she likes embracing the dork inside.
Tyra Mail says, “You can’t judge a book by its cover, or can you? Be ready at 7:45 a.m.”
The next day Jay greets the girls. “Today, I can’t believe the training wheels are coming off,” he says. “I can’t believe this… we’ve gone through all these weeks… I almost feel like I want to cry. I’m not going to be here. You girls are going to be doing your photo shoot for Elle Girl Magazine shot by Gilles Bensimon. So whoever wins ANTM is going to have the work that they do today, grace the cover of Elle Girl Magazine in February 2006.” He turns the girls over to the Elle Girl editor, Brandon Holly.
It’s sad to see them separating from Jay, but both girls realize Jay has taught them well. It’s time for them to take what they’ve learned and put it to use. The girls go through hair and make up. Nicole tries to stay upbeat despite the way things turned out during her last shoot.
Tyra surprises the girls by introducing them to well-known photographer, Gilles Bensimon, who is ready and anxious to do their photo shoot. The girls stare in disbelief. Before them stands an icon in the fashion industry and someone Tyra has spoken very highly of. They’re thrilled to work with Gilles. Tyra shares a story with them about Gilles having a sense of humor. (When Tyra was 17 on her first photo shoot with Gilles, he says, “You are the ugliest girl I have seen in my life…” Then the next day he booked her for a shoot.) Since the girls have already been pre-warned, let’s hope they’re prepared for anything.
They discover they’ll do their Cover Girl shoot with Tyra. Nicole is totally nervous but jazzed at the opportunity. With Gilles’ warm manner she gets an easy grasp of her facial expression, smile etc. As Gilles positions Nicole’s face, he says, “I am touching the winner…” On the sidelines, Nik is thrown by his comment.
Nik moves in for her photo shoot. Gilles warmly compliments her, telling her she’s beautiful and making her feel confident. Nicole feels intimidated because she realizes Nik has a lot of potential and could end up as the next top model. Gilles also takes Nik’s face in his hands and says, “She’s a good girl. She’s a winner.” This time Nicole is feeling rattled. (That Gilles is such a jokester.)
After the shoot, as they head to the hotel they take a moment and reflect on modeling. Nik says, “Modeling isn’t just something where I woke up one day and said I want to go audition for. I’ve been trying this since I was a little girl. It’s just exciting and weird to know that it could be coming true.”
Nicole offers her reflections, “I feel like I’ve never been number one. I have never had that one thing that has made me stand out. This has been my dream forever and making it this far… you just want to win so bad ’cause you’re so close.”
The next morning they prepare for their runway show. Jay says, “Today is really like the big ultimate moment. This is the runway show. You’ll be modeling alongside working professionals and past America’s Next Top Model winners, Eva and Naima.” On top of that, Jay explains as their images are projected behind them, they’ll be quoting Shakespearean lines. How exciting to be on the jumbo screen!
But first, to get the super sci-fi walk they will work with Miss J who instructs them on “working the runway.” Afterwards they go through the chaos of hair and make up. With it being so busy, Nik is determined to stay focused. Nicole can’t believe that a small town girl has had the opportunity of being exposed to the unique world of modeling and fashion. She’s decided this is the world that she best fits.
The girls approach Eva and Naima who are getting hair and make up done. They notice Nik and Nicole are feeling nervous. They offer words of encouragement. Eva says, “You gotta kick everybody outta the stage and just command your presence.” She continues, “You have to do everything, because you cannot walk away regretting anything.”
Right before the fashion show, they’re each given a chance for a one on one with Tyra. Nik is nervous and terrified. Tyra says, “This is your last chance to tell me anything you wanna tell me before you get on that runway and show me what you got.” Tearfully, Nik says, “I’ve never felt so blessed and so proud of myself ever. There’s so many people in my life that said, “Oh you’ll do good,” but they never believed in me… but for the first time… I don’t know if this is cliché but for the first time my father is just so proud of me. I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you just because I’ve never felt this way before. I just want you to know that I AM America’s Next Top Model… I can feel it in my heart.” They share an embrace.
Nicole enters for her one on one. Tyra says, “I wanna take you back to the audition process, during casting. I remember you said you’ve always felt second best to your sister.” Nicole replies, “I just feel like I have something of my own now. Something that I’m good at and I can be proud of and that just feels so good. It’s just hard because I want it so bad.” She becomes a little choked up but continues. “This is my passion. This is what I want to do.” Tyra says, “Alrighty, Give me a hug Ms. Lady.”
The guests arrive, but before the models walk the runway, Tyra, Miss J and Jay share final parting words. She tells them, “I want all of you guys to be in the show looking fierce, fabulous and work it and strut it.”
Nicole is worried she’ll be too nervous to really show the judges what she’s capable of. Her opportunity to become America’s Next Top Model relies on how well she does in this fashion show.
They’re off!! Naima struts down the runway looking fab and confident. Nicole is right behind her with her face set and focused. Behind her, Nik bounds down the runway. They scramble backstage to change and it’s a mad rush. The girls are on a fashion high!
Nicole loves breaking away from the sweet and innocent persona to become “wild and wonderful.” “This is one of the competitions that can make me a top model or a super model and it’s just a blessing being here,” says Nik. “It would be an even bigger blessing to win.”
As the show concludes the girls relish their time on the runway. Both feel like this competition was made exclusively for them. They’re totally psyched about their first “real” fashion show and hope their performance will push them to the top.
Still dressed in fashion show clothing, both models stand before the final judging panel. Tyra says, “You both have come such a long, long way. So many young girls want to be in your place right now. But, you’re here because both of you have done an amazing job in this competition. There can only be one winner. So who is it going to be? At the end of this judging we’ll have that answer.”
They begin evaluating each of them. Nicole is seen walking the runway for the Gharani- Strok Fashion Show. Nigel speaks first, “I was floored by you. You hit the end, perfect little pose and gave a little umph… Fantastic to see you go that far.” Miss J finishes, “But there’s still a few things that disturb me. Your hands… you don’t know what to do with your hands and you still tend to slouch just a bit.” Twiggy puts in, “When you came out, I really didn’t actually realize for a second it was you because you always come across as so romantic and soft and here came out this strong, strutting… It blew me away actually.” Tyra finishes by saying, “I was proud. I was a very proud mama, but there’s one thing I would’ve liked to have seen just a little bit more, ‘I’m pissed.’”
On Nik’s evaluation, Twiggy says, “I thought you looked amazing. It was a little bit bouncy for me.” Tyra agrees with Twiggy and says it did kind of take away from the strong high fashion. Nigel says, “Nik you know what? I think you look incredible. You do have a jiggly walk. That is not such a fashion walk.” Ms. J pipes up, “It was a bad walk.” Tyra says it reminds her of her era when all the girls had their own signature walk. She announces that it’s time to deliberate their photo history.
They begin with their very first shoot as a super hero. Side by side both girls are critiqued. The judges feel Nik’s shot is great and offers great intensity. While Nicole’s photo didn’t receive much acclaim because of her “five finger forehead.” (Big forehead.)
The following week both girls land their photo shoots portraying socialites on a ranch. It’s clearly noticeable that the camera loves both girls. The next week, the girls were fashion victims. Twiggy comments that Nik appears to really be in action. Tyra feels Nicole’s photo is only relying on pretty but not taking it to the next level.
The next shot is the sexy Ford Fusion one. Dressed as pin-up girls both capture the era of the Vargas Girls. Tyra says, “Oh Nicole, you got booty like a black girl.” They also review their black and white photos. Miss J describes Nik’s as savage and sexual. Nigel points out the subtlety in the picture and says how important it is in modeling.
Twiggy notes Nicole’s “haunting” eyes. Tyra comments, “These pictures and what you are evoking with your eyes is what a top model is all about.”
They switch to a much zanier photo shoot with the Wild Boyz. Miss J says Nik shows great energy. Nicole’s seems like a still out of a movie. “It’s just a moment in time,” Nigel says.
Both girls put a personal slant to the Bollywood shoot and seriously stand out in the crowd. Tyra says she could feel Nik’s essence just by looking at the photo. The last and final shoot, (and most important) was the Cover Girl photo shoot. This will be their first Cover Girl ad that will run nationally for the one chosen as ANTM. “Definitely easy and breezy,” Nigel says. Tyra compliments them on their ability to be commercial and at the same time be a Cover Girl. Before the judges deliberate, Tyra gives each of them a chance to tell the judges why they should be selected as America’s Next Top Model.
“I just want to tell everyone that I’m so grateful to be standing here at all. I feel like I have grown to be bigger than I knew. My heart is pounding so hard. I think that Nik can hear it,” Nicole tears up. Nik continues for her. “It’s really scary but I’ll be happy no matter what happens.”
The girls leave the room as the judges deliberate. Tyra says, “It’s going to be difficult since they are almost equally great.” Looking at Nik’s portfolio, Miss J speaks highly of Nik, her modeling ability and just how strong of a person she’s become. Twiggy counters with, “She’s too bouncy for me.”
Nicole… Twiggy says “Photographically, she’s a model. Nigel says she has only gotten better with each challenge.” Miss J wonders whether Nicole may crack under fashion pressure. Twiggy feels Nicole will handle it better than Nik since Nik is such a “gentle” soul. The judges go back and forth praising each girl for their qualities. They finally come to a decision.
When the girls return, Tyra says, “We’ve finally reached the end of this long journey. Both of you have done an amazing job. The judges feel one of you can truly take what America’s Next Top Model means and not only share it with America but with the world. I’m about to announce who America’s Top Model is. America’s Next Top Model is……
Miss J drops his last flower as Nicole squeals with excitement. Nik watches with tears in her eyes. “I want that. I want to be America’s Next Top Model. That was my goal. That was my dream. That’s what I want. I want people to know my name. I wanted to win so bad. Maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet; that I’m not that girl,” she says amidst screams from an overjoyed Nicole.
Nicole says, “I was the girl who’d never really got that much attention and now here I am. I’m a Cover Girl and I’m a Ford Model.” Tyra grabs her hands and asks, “Did you know that little innocent, sweet naïve girl that came into casting and got on her knees was gonna be up here holding my hands as America’s Next Top Model?”
Nicole finishes, “Throughout this competition I feel I’ve grown so much, not only as a model but as a person. This is the beginning of something great for me. My life is beginning for me right now; Nicole’s life as a Cover Girl! Yeah!”
Cycle 5 of America’s Top Model comes to a close. It’s been a real “E” ticket ride with many bumps and bruises along the way. I appreciate those of you who faithfully read ANTM recaps. If you have any last parting opinions, feel free to contact me at Syrone@realityshack.com Until then, (As Tyra says) Later!!!