Moms Make Everything Better On Top Model
Tyra flies in the women who helped create the final four models for an hour of ugly crying, beautiful photos.
Reuniting reality show contestants with their family members after a month or more of isolation is such a manipulative trope, and one that I will never, ever get tired of. Survivor is, hands down, the best at this. They've done it so many times, I'd be surprised if Mark Burnett hasn't trademarked the term "Loved Ones Visit." Remember when Lisa Whelchel (aka Blair on The Facts of Life) sobbed into her brother's chest for an hour? Or when Professor Bowtie Bob's wife snuck up behind him on while he was watching a video of her on whatever Sprint phone happened to be the sponsor that season? I cry every goddamn time. (Although, now I'm remembering Rupert's gross makeout session with his wife and I want to kill myself.) Honestly, a contestant doesn't even have to have been separated from their crying loved one to get me going. I watch Fantasia's American Idol victory performance about once a month, and that treacly mess is enhanced 700% by her bawling family.
Survivor may be the king of family reunions, but tonight's Top Model makes the case for the queen slot. Nothing gets my eyes watering faster than a man reunited with his momma. While Lacey and her mom may be best friends, and Mamé's family situation is…complicated (we'll get to that), this episode belongs to Nyle, Mikey, their moms, and their tears.
One thing tonight's Top Model actually beats Survivor at is incorporating the moms into the challenge. I'm not a fan when Survivor does it, because the winner of the challenge gets a huge food advantage which actually makes a difference in the outcome of the game, but, by having the models pose with their moms, Top Model figures out a way to have its cake and eat it too. No one's being judged on how well their moms smize, but they do have to figure out how to translate familial chemistry into an interesting photo. Of course, Top Model leaves its cake out in the rain by not eliminating anyone, but that doesn't make the photoshoot any less of a goddamn delight.
Further helping matters is this week's photographer, Tyra's mom, who has appeared on the show multiple times in the past and never fails to charm. Carolyn London is the rare example of a child star's parent (Tyra was 16 when Carolyn started photographing her and 17 when she booked her first gig) who seems to have provided realistic advice while keeping her kid sane in a crazy industry. Tyra may be a nutjob, but that isn't Carolyn's fault. I really enjoyed watching Tyra's mom provide pointed direction to the models' moms, many of whom were incredibly uncomfortable when the shoot began. And bonus points to Carolyn for essentially making Yu Tsai irrelevant this week.
Completing the theme of "relatability," the world's most relatable model in the history of relatability, Chrissy Teigen, shows up at the beginning of the episode to eat barbecue with the models and talk about how relatable it is that she likes meat. "Sometimes me and John will be so bad that we gain, like, twelve pounds in a weekend." Can you fucking believe it??? I bet she works off that weight playing kickball with Mila Kunis which she follows up with a trip to a cigar bar with Olivias Munn and Wilde. I have no idea why Teigen is in this episode, but I'm thankful she is if only because it led me to her IMDb page and this sentence: "Teigen is an actress, known for FabLife and John Legend Dog Wedding.
There's also some Nylon cover challenge, but who gives a shit about that? LET'S TALK MOMS!
With Tyra's announcement that the final two must be a male/female pair -- and with this week's non-elimination clearly designed to save Lacey -- it looks like we'll be seeing this cycle's only minor on finale night after all. It's not like Lacey completely shit the bed this week, but considering that she and her mom claim to be best friends, I would have liked to see a pinch more chemistry.
Especially since Lacey and her mom were put in Ricki and the Flash drag. Oh, remember what fun we all had with Ricki and the Flash? Good times.
Lacey receives the only actual criticism of the episode for this photo, which lands her in the "bottom-two tie" with Mikey. Miss J correctly clocks her unfortunate hand posture, which is very "Sweet Dixie, my pearls!"
Here's the thing: Nyle is going to have a very successful career as a model for a few years, and then, if he wants, as the hottest spokesperson for the deaf community the world has ever seen. Nyle's going to be just fine. Mikey, on the other hand, is a real dum-dum; but he's a dum-dum with a heart of gold and a mom who deserves a comfortable retirement. Mikey's talked about his family of convicts and dropouts quite a bit. When it's just Mikey, it's easy to write off this talk as a reality-show contestant milking his backstory for all it's worth, but with his sweet dumpling of a mom there it's impossible for anyone, even me, to be such a cynic. At the end of the day, the title of America's Next Top Model is a meaningless, made-up credential, but $100,000 is very real. I'm not saying Mikey should be handed the money because of his family's circumstances, but, having seen Mikey's mom break down in tears at the opportunity to get dolled up for a photoshoot ("I never do anything for myself"), I'll be significantly less bummed if he does win knowing that a portion of that dough is going in her pocket.
Kelly nails it by labeling this a "Vanity Fair profile of a rock star and his mom." I suppose the reason Mikey landed in the bottom two is because he let his mom outshine him in this shot, but this will still make a killer centerpiece on Mikey's mom's living room wall.
Okay, I'm gonna have to stop ripping on Mikey because my mom is Hollywood Florida-adjacent, and Mikey's mom will kick her ass in a Publix parking lot if I'm not careful.
Mamé's father's career as a Ghanaian diplomat left her living in the States without her parents during her teen years, and now, at 24, Mamé is not exactly close to her mother. Having not seen her in four years, Mamé is obviously very emotional to be reunited with her mom, but the tears quickly reveal a more complicated relationship. While showing her mom around the house, Mamé straight-up tells her mom that they should have spent her childhood together and that she's never understood why they left her in America. Mamé's mom doesn't speak very much English, but her discomfort with the conversation, and the whole Top Model operation, is obvious. Their photoshoot starts off as awkwardly as you'd think it would, but, thanks to some encouragement from Carolyn, the end result is BANGING.
That is some "conservative family in drag at the end of The Birdcage" realness right there.
Nyle's had to deal with so many shenanigans from this bullshit production, from last week's photoshoot in the dark to that time Devin stole his only method of communication to take selfies for an hour. Being reunited with anyone who can actually communicate in ASL, let alone his deaf mother, must have been such a relief. And Momma fucking sells it.
These two and their matching pants are almost too much. If I were Nyle's mom, I would blow this up and hang it in Nyle's living room to intimidate his girlfriends. This one, though…
…reads just a bit too sexy? I don’t know, I think it's the loving embrace combined with Nyle's chest hair. I'd suggest covering up Nyle's chest, but I don't want Top Model's gay viewership to cyber-bully me. Here's a palate cleanser.
YOU GO ON AND CRY INTO YOUR CHEST HAIR, NYLE!