After a first hour that featured the thirty-two semifinalists being narrowed down to the show's thirteen finalists, Top Model host and creator Tyra Banks revealed that the eighth season's cast made series history. "This is the first time in America's Next Top Model history there are two plus-sized girls in this competition," said Tyra, referring to Whitney Cunningham, a 21-year-old college student from West Palm Beach, FL, and Diana Zalewski, a 21-year-old college student from Garfield, NJ.
Later, the girls met Jay Manuel, Top Model's creative director of photo shoots, who told them that "being a Top Model isn't just about being a pretty face, it's about making a statement." They would get the opportunity to make that statement at their first photo shoot, where each girl was assigned a different political view that they had to sell, even if they didn't agree with it. The girls learned they'd be photographed by Nigel Barker, one of Top Model's judges.
Kathleen was immediately confused, constantly inquiring how to make her statement, which was anti-fur. She was also the first to notice that Jael Strauss, a 22-year-old band manager from Detroit, MI, seemed to be feeling under the weather. "I have a fever right now," said Jael. "And I feel this may affect the way I shoot today." Kathleen was the second girl to be photographed, and Jay tried to get her to understand the "statement" aspect of the shoot.
"He's asking me to give him high fashion but then also send a message across," said Kathleen. Nigel wasn't too pleased. "I think Kathleen was confused by the whole anti-fur concept," he said. "She also didn't embrace that it was a political view." Answered Kathleen, "It took me so long to find that emotion, but I think I found it at the end."
As the shoot continued, Sarah Vanderhaar, a 20-year-old photographer with previous modeling experience from Lake Zurich, IL, also disappointed Nigel. "I was actually surprised how little I got out of Sarah," he said. "Her face did nothing for me. She had one look." Jael continued to feel sick, adding there were points where she could hardly stand-up. "I'm going to let my excitement outweigh my illness," she said. However that's not what happened, and when Manuel said all he saw "was nerves," Jael said she was aware she "could have rocked it so much better." But immediately following her shoot, Jael's energy reappeared as she decided to Hula-Hoop.
"I know Jael is all about being best friends with everybody," said Renee DeWitt, a 20-year-old stay-at-home-mom from Maui, HI. "But hey, to each his own. I know she's not going to win this competition." Added Sarah, "Jael, one second she's sick and one second she's Hula-Hooping. I'm not sure if it was a ploy just in-case she did bad or if she was just psyching herself out."
With the shoot finished, the girls were met by a limousine that took them to their posh Hollywood Hills mansion. With some time to relax, Jael and Renee and some of the other girls began to form friendships. "These girls are like da bomb," said Kathleen. "But I feel like all the girls are my competition because they all have their own unique ruthfulness." Jaslene Gonzalez, a 20-year-old online college admissions advisor from Chicago, IL, noticed that Kathleen was the "most outspoken in the house." Renee questioned Sarah's focus since modeling isn't her only goal, as she's also an actress.
"It's nothing against you, but there are tons of other girls who would die to be here for modeling," said Renee. Answered Sarah, "How dare you tell me what I want to be here for. I'm here to model. I'm not here to be ridiculed."
Next the girls participated in their first challenge of the season, which was presided over by runway expert J. Alexander and "stylist to the stars" Phillip Bloch. The challenge was at Goodwill of Southern California, and the girls were given three minutes to "work the store," "rummage through the racks" and "create their own personal style. "I'm very familiar with shopping in thrift stores," said Jael. "I really love wearing clothes that tell a story."
After designing their own styles, the girls modeled the clothing they chose at a charity fashion show. People in the audience bid on each model, and the outfit that received the highest bid revealed the winner. Jael said the challenge made her feel "beautiful" -- and the crowd agreed -- as her outfit got the highest bid. For winning the challenge, she signed a $280 check that was then donated to Goodwill.
"I'm so excited that I won honestly," said Jael. "I don't really know how to portray that to the other girls because this is a competition and I don't know how to be competitive." Renne noticed how Jael was acting. "I know that Jael is all about being best friends with everybody and I don't think it's a good thing to hold it back and try to play the nice person all the time because that's not real," she said. Renee then confronted Jael over her feelings. "I think my relationship with Renee wears me out emotionally," said Jael. Renee has a husband and child at home, which Jael pointed out. Personally, Jael said she has "nothing to lose."
The next morning, the girls faced the judges -- Tyra, Nigel, Alexander and British supermodel Twiggy -- for the first time. Tyra reminded the girls that the winner will receive a management deal with Elite Model Management, a $100,000 contract with cosmetics company CoverGirl, and a cover story appearance in an issue of Seventeen magazine. After discussing the photo shoot with all the girls, the judges retired to discuss who would be sent home.
Twiggy said she "worries" about whether Kathleen "understands what's going on around her," while Nigel was much more blunt and called her "clueless." Jael also took some criticism for her attitude. "She just did not deliver on the day of the shoot," said Nigel. Added Tyra, "I was very confused about her not wanting to win a challenge because she thinks that that's not going to make people like her." Tyra simply summed up the entire shoot for the girls.
"I have to tell you, I am probably the least satisfied that I've ever been for a photo shoot," she said. "As controversial as it was, the majority of you just stood there in your photo. As a model it's important for you to be inspiring... to entertain as well." With the first 11 girls safe, elimination came down to Kathleen and Jael. In the end, the judges decided to send home Kathleen -- " the girl with that bright spirit and hair to match that just lost the map and doesn't have a clue" -- according to Tyra.
"Jael you won the challenge, and you won it because you did well, and that's okay," said Tyra to Jael. "You can still be liked and be successful." Upon being eliminated, Kathleen left to pack.
"I feel sad right now. I feel like I didn't get a chance to compete," said Kathleen. "You know if Tyra Banks sees I have potential, she chose me to be in this house, that means a lot to me. I'm going to go home and still try to pursue modeling. This is what I want to do so bad... I'm going to go home and I'm going to work hard."
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