ANTM Recap: The Great Panda Debate

Source: The CW
Source: The CW

I think Cycle 21 of America’s Next Top Model has some of the worst contestants we’ve seen in years. Some of might be genuinely decent people, like Will or Keith, but then there’s the bad ones – and God, they’re bad. There’s Romeo, of course, who got kicked off the show for head-butting another contestant. Then America’s Grossest Couple, Mirjana and Denzel the homophobe. There’s trainwreck alcoholic Adam, who’s getting worse by the minute – and now we have Chantelle to deal with again. She’s back and she’s even more snotty than ever. But you know what’s even more infuriating than this endless stream of bratty, unlikable contestants? It’s the way the show refuses to acknowledge Chantelle’s attitude for what it is: the result of years and years of bullying. I don’t want to get too preachy, but her behavior – her so-called aloofness, the wall she puts up, the way she pretends not to care what anyone thinks of her (but lashes out the minute she’s criticized), the lies to make herself seem better than everyone – these are all defense mechanisms.

Here’s the sad truth: not every person who gets bullied ends up turning it into some grand learning experience. Not every kid who gets picked on grows up and sees that it gets better. Not every victim learns to trust people and love him or herself. Sometimes, they just shut down and never trust anyone. Sometimes they act like snotty assh*les because the world’s been mean to them. I don’t think Chantelle’s a very likable person, no. But at age 19, her wounds are fresh. She’s still stinging. Maybe she will grow up and learn that it gets better – she still has plenty of time. But right now? She doesn’t need some d*ckhead photographer on a reality show calling her names and then saying it’s her fault. Unlike Chantelle, ANTM is edited and produced by grown adults who choose to portray her as a villain, even when she’s treated cruelly and unfairly. They choose to focus on her faults, barely acknowledging that her poor behavior comes from a place of pain. It’s unfair and it pisses me off.

Source: The CW
Source: The CW

1. The models return to the house in mostly bad moods. Adam is embarrassed that Tyra smelled alcohol on his breath, while everyone else is sad about Raelia’s exit. Chantelle awkwardly tries to console everyone, literally wiping tears from Shei’s face, and okay. That’s maybe insincere, but it’s definitely weird. It’s pretty clear that no one likes her – they don’t try and hide it – and it all quickly escalates into another fight.

2. Adam explains – for the first of many times this episode – that he drinks because he used to be “a math nerd” and never really partied until he went to college. Drinking helps him loosen up and relax around people. The need to drink to relax or feel better – that’s definitely on like, every list for “signs of alcoholism,” right? He vows to cut back and stick to beer for the rest of the competition.

3. The others accuse Chantelle of changing her hair and makeup again – something she probably lied about during the judges’ panel – and Chantelle immediately gets defensive. In an interview, she says, “Every time you see me hold back tears, it’s not because I’m scared to cry. It’s because I’m scared to beat a bitch down.” Um….

4. The next day, it’s one of my favorite days: go-sees!

5. Kelly Cutrone and some people who are famous in Korea meet up with the models and explain again how Seoul is a fashion hot spot. They’re right around the corner from Givenchy and Balenciaga. Not that they’ll be going to those places for their go-sees, but like, they’re within the vicinity. I  guess that’s nice. The guy and girl who book the most gigs will walk in the Mag & Logan show during Seoul Fashion Week.

Source: The CW
Source: The CW

6. The models are asked to team up in pairs. Everyone immediately scoots away from Chantelle, leaving Keith to be her partner. Keith says he doesn’t mind, because he’s taken a big brother role with Chantelle. He knows that she doesn’t have any friends and I guess he’s nice to her partially because he feels bad for her, but also just because he’s more mature than the rest of the contestants.

7. The teams are: Chantelle and Keith; Shei and Will; Adam and Lenox. They have five stops and Kelly makes it clear that she will close the door in their faces if they’re late. Will and Shei have the brilliant plan to hit Resurrection first – the farthest location – and then make their way back. Unfortunately, Keith, Chantelle, Lenox and Adam all have the same brilliant idea. Six models wind up at the same place. Wah wah.

8. At Resurrection, Shei’s two-toned look is too much for them. You can’t dye hair? WTF, that’s dumb, but okay. Poor Will doesn’t fit in any of the sample sizes. “I am in a country that the average height is 5’6″,” says the six-foot-six model. Snort.

Source: The CW
Source: The CW

9. Keith and Chantelle decide to high-tail it to Jinny Kim instead of waiting in line at Resurrection. They’re modeling shoes and accessories. Chantelle doesn’t impress because she wears the sunglasses the entire time and doesn’t do anything different. Keith, on the other hand, charms the pants off of everyone. Lenox does well overall – the designers overall think she has potential. Will gets more discouraged as the day goes on, which only makes him do worse. Adam is too short and too serious – most of the designers feel like he needs to relax. This is unfortunately because he’s doing go-sees completely sober.

10. Meanwhile, Keith wonders…does Chantelle like me? Or does she like me like me?

11. Everyone makes it make to Nylon on time, but Adam and Lenox are super close to getting shut out. But they don’t! Keith and Lenox book the most go-sees with four each. Shei books two; Adam and Chantelle each book one. Will doesn’t book any. Kelly says that Will can make it work in a market where his size is a problem by being charming and not letting it fluster him. Many designers felt that Shei was too edgy, which sucks since that’s not her fault. Chantelle wasn’t “on brand” for most of the gigs, which probably means they felt her vitiligo was an issue.

12. Adam intervention time! His “only beer” rule is still a problem since, you know, beer is still alcoholic. Keith and Will are concerned. After discussing, Adam decides to go 100% sober from now on. Dude, if he’s as dependent on alcohol as he seems to be, this shoot is going to be rough.

Source: The CW
Source: The CW

13. Photo shoot! Yu Tsai meets up with the designers and tells them that they’re modeling H-to-T today, with a little extra emphasis on the ‘T’ since they’ll be featuring Jinny Kim shoes.

14. Adam struggles…a lot. He’s really stiff and doesn’t change the expression on his face. You can tell how uncomfortable he is. I almost feel bad for him because, as idiotic as he is, alcoholism is an actual disease. After some coaching from Tyra, he gets some better shots. Keith kills it – he’s finally found his groove in this competition. Shei, Lenox and Will all do well, although Lenox feels a bit awkward to me. Will has to shove his size 13 feet into a size 10. Dude, Will, I don’t think the Asian market is your bag.

15. Then we have Chantelle. I say this every week, but ugh. I love Chantelle’s look and I think she’s beautiful. But damn, she’s so stiff and expressionless. She always looks annoyed or bored in her shots. Tyra tries to get her to loosen up, but it only goes so far.

Source: The CW
Source: The CW

16. Then we have the Panda discussion. SIGH. If you recall, last week Chantelle mentioned that Yu Tsai called her “panda bear.”  She recognizes that it’s an affectionate term – he’s not intentionally being cruel – but it’s too close to the names she’s been called her entire life. She doesn’t want people at home to watch this show and think it’s okay to call people with vitiligo “panda” or “cow” or anything like that – even if they’re friends. THIS IS A COMPLETELY UNDERSTANDABLE WAY TO FEEL. Also, if someone doesn’t want you to use a nickname with them, because it reminds them of past traumatic bullying? HOW ABOUT JUST DON’T CALL HER PANDA ANYMORE? HUH? HOW ABOUT THAT, YU TSAI? But no, he’s not having it. He wants her to understand that he calls her “panda” because she has an attitude problem and he wants to soften her edge. That…makes no sense. But okay, fine. You meant it as a teaching moment, you were trying to be nice. The bottom line? She doesn’t like it. JUST DON’T DO IT. He finally gives a half-assed apology, but then tells her to change her attitude, which totally discredits the entire thing. This isn’t about her having an attitude problem – it’s about name calling and putting out the wrong message. THESE ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. This show is killing me, you guys.

17. Back at the house, hey guess what? More drama for Chantelle. I am starting to feel sorry for her. Shei and the others and whispering with Keith – it seems that Chantelle told Shei that she hooked up with Keith. This is not true – and you can just tell by Keith’s reaction, it’s really not true. “She is definitely too young for me and I am not physically attracted to her at all.” Ouch.

Source: The CW
Source: The CW

18. Keith calls her out on the lie – he’s not really mean about it, but it’s not something he should’ve done in front of everyone. Chantelle is speechless. She mutters a “that’s hilarious,” and then walks out into the hall and sobs. It’s…really sad. She’s been caught in an embarrassing lie and lost the respect of her only friend in the house. It’s upsetting to watch, because it feels too similar to the high school scenarios she’s probably still traumatized by. It makes me uncomfortable. Lying is wrong and she’s stupid for doing it – but ugh. I just want this whole Chantelle thing to end.

19. I don’t even care about panel. Keith does really well and the judges love it. Shei gives some textbook level tooch, but the way she’s leaning back gives her “a pinhead.” Miss J. and Kelly don’t love Will’s picture, but Tyra thinks they’re nuts and gives him a 10. In her words: “If you was 20 years older and straight, we’d have to go out and get some kimchi, boo!” Okay then!

20. Best photo goes to Keith for the second week in a row, with Lenox as runner-up. In the bottom two are, unsurprisingly, Adam and Chantelle. The guy who’s stiff because he’s trying to stay sober and the girl who’s stiff because she’s hyper-defensive.

21. Chantelle goes home. It’s a mercy killing. Let’s get it together now, show? Okay?

4 thoughts

  1. The photographer also had an issue when Matthew said he preferred to be called Matthew and not ‘Matt’. He came across rude – probably as he was conflicted with whether or not he should say it. The photographer shouldn’t objectify them by choosing to call them however he sees fit. This is not professional. Yes they are models, but first they are humans and none of us truly come into life with more or less birthright than any other. The choice of Panda (a creature that is black and white) could be considered polemical… I agree and appreciate the author’s comments regarding Chantelle’s behaviour and the insightful consideration of how challenging at times her life must have been, especially with the emphasis on looks and beauty for young men and women.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry, but let’s flip the Chantelle/Keith situation around for a minute….if a guy on this show lied about hooking up with a girl, people would have been all over his ass for that. She has my sympathy for the thoughtless comments directed at her by someone who really ought to know better, but a lie is a lie. I don’t blame Keith for calling her out, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t have been in front of everyone. You get what you ask for.


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