Geek power

We're bumming at the thought of no America's Next Top Model tonight. Some cycles grab us more strongly than others, and this last one really had us hooked.

By now, everyone must know that Ann won the whole enchilada, much to the chagrin of Chelsey, who said to the camera that she felt cheated. I can actually understand why she would feel that way. She brought a lot to the table, not just her experience and her knowledge of the fashion business but also solid work week after week. Her look was never my favourite, but they chose to keep her until the very end. They heaped praise on her at panel. Given the editing, you might have thought that Chelsey had more points than Ann.

It was not to be. In some ways, I think the fix was in, and Chelsey sensed that. They simply wanted Ann. But it wasn't a fix in the way of cheating. It's more what Roberto Cavalli said when the panel were deliberating: Chelsey would be good for America, but Ann better for Europe. And this cycle was about Europe.

(We both wondered what Cavalli would have said if Kayla had been there instead of Chelsey. Did they eliminate Kayla to make the final choice clearer?)

Ann was far from perfect. By some standards, she was not the strongest candidate. She did win best photo for, what, six weeks in a row? Five anyway. But so many other things were a disaster, epitomized by the roller skating commercial. Her lack of confidence in herself threatened to send her home much earlier, but she rallied enough to keep herself in the running.

She came through in the head-to-head with Chelsey, but it was no knockout. Chelsey held her own very well, and again, in some ways, was probably better. Certainly Chelsey's walk is better, although I was really proud of Ann for having clearly done so much work on hers. The two of them chewed the scenery a little but not too much in the Cover Girl commercial. And it kept looking like Chelsey had the better still photo shoot.

It really came down to the look. Chelsey is too normal, too American girl next door. Ann is appropriately weird. So tall. So thin. So gawky. A face that's not classically beautiful but that photographs wonderfully and, most important, interestingly.

It might also have had something to do with emotion. Chelsey was always in control, and that was true for her photographs as well. She always delivered good product, but it was never exciting product. She never appeared vulnerable. Even though sometimes I despaired over Ann's constant negativity, she was also well in touch with her emotions—probably too much sometimes. But I think that helped in the end. It made her photos more interesting. She drew you in.

That was a key for me. We were rooting for Ann all along. I sometimes cry at the moment of the final selection. I certainly did this time. Ann's victory was a victory for geeks and freaks, for kids who were picked on in school. As Nigel Barker said to her, she's not normal. And that's why she's top model.

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