Well, last night was the finale, and the winner was crowned, so I feel obligated to reflect. If you haven't seen the episode, read no further! There be spoilers!
So, as mentioned, this cycle held a lot of promise. Tyra seemed to cut back on weird random CGI effects, cheesy gimmicks, lackluster guests, and trying to make "smize" happen.
Most of these things stayed true throughout Cycle 15. We got more "high fashion" photoshoots, and Tyra seemed to really care about recreating real-life situations than living in her weird little Top Model glam bubble. Imagine that: the models' house in Milan was NOT an ode to glittery excess, and more like an actual model's apartment! I think that was my favorite part of the whole cycle, and the girls still bitched about the modesty of the abode. Sigh.
Tyra even beefed up the model know-how: she gave the girls one-on-one help with their portfolios, and arranged for them to meet with representatives from Versace. We got some heavyweight guest judges, from Diane Von Furstenberg (I would like her to read me bedtime stories) to Zac Posen to Roberto Cavalli, and even (this cycle's buzz word!) Patrick DeMarchelier, all of whom gave good advice to each of the girls. The best part? These were people that even I had heard of, and I'm no fashion student! (Seriously, I'm petrified of buying skinny jeans.)
But, does this all add up to a successful cycle? I'm hesitant to say yes. As much I do like this season's winner, Ann, I'm unsure her victory was entirely fair. It almost seemed like Tyra was under specific instruction to deliver Ann directly to the doorstep of Italian Vogue without any obstacle. The conspiracy theorist in me is just too cynical to think that this girl actually merited five first call-outs in a row, and no one ever breathed a word of concern about her raggedy presentation, mumbling commentary, and awkward runway walk - not to mention her complete inability to be commercial.
I don't want to come off as an Ann hater. She was a charming sort of underdog, with her gangly appearance, goofy jokes, and go-with-the-flow attitude. But I think she's exactly that: an underdog. Yet, it felt like Tyra was shoving her down my throat as someone to watch out for. Call me crazy, but giving first call-out to the same girl for the first five photoshoots is just unwarranted, for any girl. (Also, boring.) I would have liked Ann of my own accord, without everyone in the competition pointing at her and saying "OH MY GOD FLAWLESS PHOTOS." It was never Ann herself, but rather the cycle's treatment of her that made me want to dislike the poor girl.
The truth of the matter is that Ann has The Look. She's stunning in full makeup and in front of the camera. You can't fake that, and I wish that Tyra & Co. were just upfront about this fact. I wish that Tyra had just said, "Look. Ann is exactly what Italian Vogue is looking for. Models don't need to speak, have a personality, or present themselves particularly well, as long as they deliver flawless photos. The proof is in the pudding." I would have been okay with that.
But instead, the judges just glossed over Ann's shortcomings and tried to play up everyone else's. Poor Jane got a "no personality" edit and Chelsey got an "ambitious bitch" edit... neither were entirely warranted, I believe. In the finale, I personally felt that Chelsey had the better runway walk, the better CoverGirl photo, and the better sense of business etiquette in her meeting with the rep from IMG. But Ann has The Look, and in the Italian Vogue cycle, that trumps all.
I don't mean to detract from Ann's victory. She'll be stunning on the pages of Italian Vogue, and I hope she has a great career. Also, I would love an original Ann drawing, like the Napkin Last Supper she drew during hers and Jane's amazing Loser's Night of Vodka and Chinese Food! I would also settle for a fried Oreo, her apparent culinary specialty.
But I don't like feeling that her win was manipulated. Vogue is Vogue, and Ann is perfect for them. And this season was not about CoverGirl, or Seventeen magazine, or being relatable, or selling a product on camera. It was about Vogue, and Vogue's involvement in the show has made it more legitimate than it's been in years - so it was definitely a success on that front. I guess, at the end of the day, I have to thank them for that, outcome be damned.
(But somehow Tyra still managed to wreak havoc with her "Model Madness" moving editorial.)