Category Archives: top model

please join me in bringing a class-action lawsuit against “modelland”

i am feeling super-wiped out today for some reason & i just don’t think i have it in me to generate a blog post full of original content, so instead, please enjoy my book review of “modelland” by tyra banks. & bear in mind that this paperweight of horror clocked in at over 500 pages. i know i missed a LOT of horrifying details when i wrote this thing. if you have heard rumors of specific terrible scenes or want more examples of the staggeringly dreadful names that tyra gave her characters (i just remembered that tookie’s sister is named myrracle–yeah, i know), just ask in the comments. i suffered through reading the thing, i might as well get to make fun of it some more for my efforts.

i am also capable of answering pretty much any possible question you could ever have about “america’s next top model,” save for the greatest mystery of all: why was angelea disqualified? the world may never know.

on to the review:

this book is unspeakably, horrifically terrible. it makes me regret having been such a tough grader on every other book i have ever read, because if any book was ever deserving of a single star, it is this one. actually, if i could give negative stars, i would. i have read a lot of awful books in my day, but this one truly may be literally the worst book EVER WRITTEN.

full disclosure: i totally watch “america’s next top model”. i have seen every single episode of all 17 cycles at least once. at this point, i kind of feel like “top model” has taken me hostage & is holding me in an undisclosed location, since the last ten seasons have been so awful, but i still watch. & that’s why i read this book: because i find tyra to be so fucking crazy & i was morbidly curious to see what her attempt at a dystopic YA novel (about modeling! & it’s basically sci-fi as well! what the fuck is going on?) was going to be like.

because i have watched so much “top model,” i feel like i am pretty well-versed in many of tyra’s major modeling pet peeves. for example, she hates dancers. every time there’s a girl on the show who has trained as a dancer, tyra complains that they are posing like dancers in their photos, as opposed to models. only one girl with significant dance training has ever won “top model” (naima, cycle four). she also complains constantly about how models have to be at the top of their games because more & more magazines are putting actresses on their covers instead. tyra has a real disdain for actresses, perhaps stemming from the fact that she tried to make it as an actress & flopped. she also berates the girls whenever they have to pose with male models, telling them not to let the men outshine them in photos–or even look equally as good. female models are paid far more more money & have far more working opportunities than male models. tyra is quick to tell the girls that in the world of modeling, men are one more accessory within a shot. she signs all of her correspondence to the girls “fierce & love, tyra,” & she never misses an opportunity to explain that she started modeling in paris at age 15 even though some people thought she was weird-looking–too tall & gangly with an enormous forehead. all of these elements pop up over & over again in the book.

her gangly weird-looking history has inspired what seems to be her primary goal with “top model”: promoting a kind of beauty that is different than what one might expect from the modeling industry. she has given the top prize to weirdly boxy flat-chested girls (yoanna, who did indeed have an amazing face), short girls (eva & nicole from cycle 13–the petite cycle), girls with gaps between their teeth (danielle–even though tyra attempted to strong-arm danielle into having the gap closed by a cosmetic dentist, only to turn around nine cycles later & send another contestant to the dentist to have her gap enlarged), various girls of color (teyona, naima was mixed race, danielle, jaslene, krista, saleisha, etc), a plus-sized girl (whitney, who couldn’t model her way out of a paper bag), & even ugly girls (ann–she was so monstrous that she actually hurt my eyes).

the theme of modelland seems to be that anyone can be beautiful, even if they are really short (but, you know, still slim & traditionally gorgeous), chubby (but tall & gorgeous), albino (but tall, slim, & gorgeous), or a mary sue stand-in for tyra herself (main protagonist tookie delacreme, who is darker-skinned, with wild untameable hair, skinny, gawky, & tall, with big eyes & a wide mouth, not to mention an absolutely insufferable self-esteem problem).

you see where i am going with this? tyra suggests that her book is a story about empowerment for young girls. tookie & her unusual-looking comrades are admitted to the modelland academy on top of the mountain when an intoxibella (tyra’s obnoxious word for supermodel)-turned-scout goes off-script & specifically chooses strange-looking girls to admit, in an effort to change worldwide standards of beauty. but the girls are only strange in that they are short or chubby or albino. in every other way, they are stunningly beautiful. & ci-L (the intoxibella/scout–isn’t that name just awful?) is harshly punished for her transgressions. she is forced to repeat the first year of modelland training, despite having graduated & gone on to being the toast of the fashion industry. one of her weirder punishments is being forced to attend classes in a too-small uniform. honestly, the scenes in which ci-L’s snug uniform are described read like straight up pornography. i feel like i got more insight into the twisted mind of tyra banks than i ever wanted by reading this book.

i guess i should recap the plot a little bit: so, the world-building in this book completely fucking blows, but as far as i could gather, it’s some kind of future or alternate universe in which models are the only celebrities & have an incredible amount of control & persuasion over the general populace. each year, seven new intoxibellas graduate from modelland. every girl is eligible for admission to modelland. they must simply walk in this big weird day of discovery event that happens every year & be chosen by a scout. their chances are boosted if they discover a smize, which is some kind of weird eye mask thing. tookie doesn’t even bother to hope she’ll be chosen. but her little sister has been groomed for modelland since birth, basically.

tookie’s self-esteem is non-existent. she completely hates herself & doesn’t think she is worth anything. why? because she feels that she is unattractive & therefore unlovable. what a totally awesome message for young girls! especially because tookie’s journey of transformation (such as it is) hinges on discovering that she is beautiful & is therefore lovable! this is fucked up. this is SO fucked up.

tookie is selected over her sister on the day of discovery, along with her slightly off-brand cohorts. they are constantly picked on up at the school because no one thinks they are pretty enough to be there. they wonder if they were only selected in order to be experimented upon or perhaps sacrificed, because i guess there are stories about these kinds of things happening at the school. gee, i can see why everyone wants to go there. there’s a brother academy made up of staggeringly attractive bro-hunks who mostly wander around doing maintenance work on the girls’ school, giving them lots of opportunities to perspire shirtlessly. one of the dude models falls for tookie & they have an illicit romance (as modelland girls are not to fraternize with the men). tookie investigates ci-L’s punishments & discovers something about some dead girls & ci-L taking the blame for them. she becomes convinced that ci-L is a crazy lady who is going to kill tookie & her friends.

so, tookie & her friends decide they have to escape. & then they do. (you see how little dramatic tension i’m putting into this recap? there’s perhaps even less in the book.) two seconds after they escape, ci-L comes after them. after a really inconsequential chase scene in which tookie briefly reconnects with her one friend from home, lizzie (a homeless girl with mental health issues who is constantly self-injuring, despite tookie’s mild requests that she stop), ci-L explains that she is actually looking out for them, has no plans to kill them, is trying to show that modelland can accept all forms of beauty (provided of course that it is beautiful! because that’s what matters!), & needs to get them back to school before anyone realizes they’re gone. the girls are like, “oh. cool. let’s jet.”

god, this book sucks.

& then–surprise! tookie’s mother & sister have managed to scale the mountain & break into the school. they are the first people to have ever managed this, since the mountain is fraught with all kinds of dangers, like a loch ness monster-esque creature made up of dismembers arms & legs that eats people, & sentient fireballs that track & kill people. tookie’s mother, creamy, demands to see the primabella or whatever the fuck the leader of this school is called. & then it all comes out: creamy was once a student at modelland. the primabella was her best friend, & the primabella’s current right hand woman, persimmon, who has been cursed to a life as a living plastic mannequin, was their other best pal. the primabella was decsended from modelland royalty. & she turned up pregnant. but she didn’t know it until she gave birth into a toilet, because one of modelland’s superpowers is apparently to make it so no girl gets a period & pregnancies don’t show. the father is some random cobbler dude from back home. the primabella gets into big trouble with her mom. persimmon tries to help & is turned into a mannequin for her trouble. the primabella & creamy bust out of modelland to go see the primabella’s sweetheart & baby & become instantly wrinkled for their transgressions. back at the cobbler’s place, the primabella is like, “i don’t care about being an intoxibella! i will stay here all wrinkled with you & our baby!” & the cobbler is like, “that sounds good to me!” the primabella then goes out for milk & when she does, creamy runs it & tries to bone the cobbler. he’s all, “HALP!” & the primabella walks in & thinks her man is cheating with her friend. she won’t listen to her protests. she & creamy return to the school, where they are in BIG TROUBLE for leaving. the primabella’s mom offers to take away primabella’s wrinkles if she agrees never to see the cobbler or her baby again. primabella is like, “do it. he’s a cheating hound dog.” creamy then asks to have her wrinkles reversed & primabella mommy refuses. primabella junior refuses to intercede on her behalf & creamy is kicked out of school. before she goes, she’s like, “by the by, i totally molested your man & he really loves you! kthnxbai!” the primabella is devastated that she chose her beauty over the true love of a man & their baby, but her mom says the decision is final. & to top it off, ci-L was the baby in question. all is revealed & then the primabella & creamy are put in modelland prison forever. ci-L takes over the school. tookie’s sister gets lost in catwalk corridor, i guess to be scratched by models that have been turned into cats forevermore (yeah, that’s really in the book).

i guess the moral here is something about being true to your friends & not sacrificing your career for a man (another one of tyra’s big passions), but as you can see, IT MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE.

& the writing. oh, the writing. it couldn’t be any worse. one of tookie’s friends comes from a dimly-lit country called canne del abra. the very first page includes the line, “the fog lifted like a push-up bra.” there are a gazillion other terrible lines or names (i think tyra was going for a harry potter-esque “the names have a hidden meaning” thing, but she was just way too obvious &/or cloying with everything), but i have blocked them out because this book gave me some weird form of PTSD.

the worst part of all of this is that this is only the first book is a trilogy! NOOOOOO WHHYYYYYYY i doubt the reality of a merciful god! this book is UNSPEAKABLY BAD. i feel that everyone who has read it should come together to file a class-action lawsuit against the publishers. i know i suffered much emotional distress & deserve some kind of compensation. i know that every time i write a terrible review, a few masochistic people who follow my reviews go out & read the books to see if it’s really that bad. PLEASE don’t do that this time. this book actually caused me REAL SUFFERING. learn from my mistakes, i beg of you!

vintage management: slumlords

i think that looking for apartments is ruining my life. jared & i arranged to do another walk-through over at Tiny House the other day. Tiny House is a tiny house in east lawrence that we kind of liked. it has that old-house charm, wood floord, big yard, etc etc, but it’s only one bedroom. i liked it quite a bit, despite acknowledging its Tininess. jared thought it was cute, but was really too Tiny. for whatever reason, he conceded to me & agreed to fill out an application for it. when i dropped our applications off, the property manager told me that another couple had beaten us to applying for Tiny House by about twenty minutes. if there’s nothing wrong with their applications, they’ll get Tiny House. if there’s some kind of hitch, we can swoop it & take it.

i rather surprised myself by crying about the idea of someone else living in Tiny House. it’s not that i was in love with it & thought it was perfect. honestly, i found it merely adequate. there are undoubtedly other rental properties in lawrence that are more suitable to our needs. maybe it was just the frustration of having seen it first, having dragged our feet a little with the applications (not having them ready to go as soon as we finished the second walk-through), having stopped to get ice cream & pre-natal vitamins before dropping off the applications…

anyway, jared gave me a little pep talk to make me feel better. it turns out that he was far less excited about Tiny House than he let on. he found it patently too Tiny, despite everything he said about how, “we could make this work. we can use smart storage solutions & be really happy in Tiny House.” suddenly the truth came out. Tiny House’s main identifying characteristic was also its primary failing. so i took some deep breaths & was like, “okay, this is early days yet. a lot of the most interesting properties in town aren’t even on the market yet. we’ll find something. & if we don’t…there’s nothing wrong with our current apartment. we don’t HAVE to move.”

well, scratch that. we DO have to move. i called my landlord this morning to inquire about the fact that everyone else in our building has received their letters asking if they want to renew their leases for august or not. i was just checking in because the renewal letters include the rent increases, & the rent increase would decide whether or not we really need to commit to finding a new place to live. my landlord informed me, “you didn’t get a letter because i didn’t send you one. i’m not renewing your lease.”

i said, “may i ask why not?”

he said, “because you called the city on me. i don’t renew leases for tenants who call the city on me.” (readers may recall that i was forced to call the city on him last fall after he flat out refused to install a bathroom door in our apartment, in violation of the city housing code. the housing inspector called him & threatened legal action if he did not install a bathroom door. he installed a bathroom door within days & we haven’t had any problems with him or the apartment since.)

i said, “refusing to renew our lease for that reason is retaliatory & retaliating against tenants who call the city to have their rights enforced is illegal.”

he said, “so it is.” & hung up on me.

so i called the city AGAIN & made an appointment to file a formal complaint about his retaliation. not that it really changes anything. i don’t know that the city has the power to FORCE him to renew our lease, & i don’t think we would be especially interested in renewing a lease with a landlord who straight up engages in that kind of illegal behavior. i don’t really know what, if anything, there is to be done about this, especially because the laws in kansas are so skewed in favor of protecting landlords. tenants in kansas have almost no rights. & clearly, when we do pursue the few rights we have, our landlords just violate some more of our rights. lawrence really needs a tenants union.

anyway, this means that we really do need to find a new place to live for august. i just talked to a landlord who owns a lot of the apartments above businesses downtown. she sold me on a historic two-bedroom apartment right on massachusetts st., right in our price range. living on massachusetts st. may be just as noisy as living on tennessee st., but since living on tennessee st. is no longer an option, i don’t know that i care. it’s walkable to the university, obviously walkable to downtown because it’s IN downtown, hardwood floors, etc. i’m in love with it already, but i think that all of this fucked up apartment searching/landlord asshole behavior bullshit has just given me stockholm syndrome. i feel like i would rent a cardboard box if it had some wood laminate & an east lawrence address.

i told jared the other day that i really don’t think he understands how stressful it is to look for apartments. we more or less collaborated on finding our first apartment in lawrence, &…well…look how that turned out. that was the one we had to actually have condemned by the city. jared loved the place, i hated it, but i bit my tongue because jared was so lukewarm about all the other places we’d seen (which were all with the same evil landlord that rented us an uninhabitable apartment, so i’m certainly not arguing that any of them would have been any better). i learned that i really shouldn’t stay quiet when i’m looking at an apartment i don’t feel great about. i have put my head down & done most of the heavy lifting with every apartment since then (in terms of looking, not in terms of moving) & it really sucks. it’s a process of sending dozens of e-mails into the ether to landlords who never get back to you. spending hours on the phone trying to schedule showings & sort out applicant rules. going to showings all over town, standing around waiting when landlords & property managers are late, trying to remember to look at appliances & water pressure & heating vents & stair railings & every little thing.

& now my one little sanity-preserving silver lining–that moving in august is completely optional–has been snatched away by mark e. lehmann, evil landlord extraordinaire. if anyone reading this lives in lawrence or is thinking about moving here, do yourself a favor & do not rent from vintage management. i hope he googles this.

but hey! in other news, how hilarious was the “top model” premiere? i loved that they made the girls do a runway show in giant hamster balls, & that every time someone fell down, the cameras cut away to show the audience smiling gleefully & openly laughing. that was even better than when cycle 14 alexandra got knocked off the runway by a giant pendulum.

zine housekeeping

i did an interview with things you say distro for the new “featured zine” element erin has added to the website. the featured zine this month is “love letters to monsters” #2. i’m out of copies for good, but things you say & maybe a few other distros still have it. erin is also doing a sale right now–check it out! i am copying & pasting the text of the interview below because i am pretty into a lot of what i said.

a few people have left comments about getting the new “love letters to monsters” #3/”alabama grrrl” #9 split zine too. i have been holding back on publicizing because i sold or gave away or traded my first batch of copies at the portland zine symposium, & ailecia & i have yet to get ourselves to the copy shop to make more. i wanted to re-write my introduction, & then we were going to make copies on sunday, but…life intervened. we have tentative plans to take care of it tomorrow. but if you want to make sure you’re among the first to get a copy, you can paypal $3 to me at learningtoleaveapapertrail@hotmail, or send $3 cash to the address at the end of the interview. i will also consider trades. e-mail or leave a comment to set something up. distros are also welcome to pick up some copies. the wholesale price is $1.50 each, which includes postage (though if you want to kick down some extra, i won’t say no). these prices are good for anywhere in the world. i prefer distro payment upfront. consignment has done me wrong too many times.

in other “order stuff from me” news, i am selling off my near-complete collection of “sassy” magazines on ebay. i struggled with this decision, because i love them, but…they’ve just been sitting on shelves/in a box for over a year now, & my finances are looking dire after my whirlwind philly/portland summer travels. so i’m listing them one by one, five per week, on ebay. the starting bid is $5 per issue. my user name there is “ciaramiaow,” if you want to check it out. yes, i have the kurt & courtney issue, but i’ll probably save it until the end & go out with a bang. it tends to fetch a far higher price than any of the others.

i haven’t been writing here much–sorry. i am saving up my creative energy for a new writing project…& i haven’t had a lot of creative energy lately anyway. less than a week after coming home from portland, a crew of lawrence kids loaded up in ailecia’s car & drove to columbia, missouri for a show/hang-out. we played an epic game of loaded questions & didn’t get back to lawrence until 4am. the night before, we went to a party & danced until the cops showed up. two days later, we hit karaoke night, where jared & i showed off our synchronized dance moves during our “total eclipse of the heart” duet. a few days after that, i attended a fancy history department dinner party out in the country with jared. we ate lamb & yes–it was a sheep farm. a huge storm blew through & knocked out the power, but kansas history professors who live on country sheep farms don’t mess around. they had a back-up generator so we could hang out comfortably, drinking wine & discussing authors until the biblical rains tapered off. then it was just a matter of dodging downed trees on the drive back into town.

plus, the new cycle of “america’s next top model” started & i am loving it. tyra somehow convinced italian “vogue” to feature the winner in a six-page spread, along with the cover of “beauty in action” (“vogue” italia’s internal beauty supplement–it is not the cover of “vogue,” so don’t get too excited). i suspect andre leon talley was being laughed out of his salon & called in a few favors within the reputable editorial fashion world. so now tyra is making a huge fuss about how reputations are on the line & “top model” needs to turn out a serious high fashion model this cycle. to that end, she has gathered together some of the most busted girls i’ve ever laid eyes on. we always knew that “editorial” was a euphemism for “should consider living under a bridge,” but they’re really not playing with this group. i am hoping that liz takes it all. she’s edgy, she’s gorgeous, & she’s a mama!

so, you know, i’ve been busy watching & thinking about that. & “project runway”. how much do i love valerie’s hair & her adorable extra-from-“laverne & shirley” wardrobe? her designs aren’t wowing me, but she’s just precious. i also love everything about mondo, from his hair to his glasses to his fake mustaches to his design ideas. but based on the photos of the big “project runway” show at fashion week, i think my money’s on andy to take it all. he made these gorgeous metal hair pieces that knocked my socks off.

okay, interview:

How did you become involved with zines?
When I was in junior high, my parents had a lot of friends who were involved with the Midwestern underground rock music scene. They were really into reading local music zines & finding out about new bands, indie labels, etc. They noticed that I was interested in writing, & they gave me copies of those zines. I found the amateur, homegrown aspect appealing & accessible, but being a 12-year-old, I obviously didn’t think I could make a zine. I mean, I wasn’t allowed to go to shows by myself yet, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on records, etc, & I didn’t realize that zines extended beyond music coverage.

A lot of these music zines & magazines had pen pal listings in the back, & I started writing to people. One of my new correspondents was a girl even younger than me, who wrote her very own personal riot grrrl zine. We knew about riot grrrl from coverage in “Sassy” magazine (this was like 1993-ish), but again, it hadn’t occurred to me that I could make a riot grrrl zine at such a young age. Most zinesters “Sassy” covered were college-aged. Reading a personal riot grrrl zine by an 11-year-old made me realize that a zine could be whatever you wanted to write, that there weren’t rules about being an adult or including show listings or record reviews. So I started writing my own riot grrrl-inspired personal zine…& let’s never speak of that zine again, because it was DREADFUL.

Besides Love Letters to Monsters, what other zines or projects have you created?

There was the afore-mentioned riot grrrl zine that I wrote as a teenager. That lasted for four issues, eventually growing to over 80 half-sized pages thanks to the traditions of publishing exhaustive zine reviews & ads for other zines.

I started a ladies-only project-publicizing comp called “Cherry Cherry Red” (the first issue had a different name we shan’t speak of) that lasted for maybe four issues. Girls made full-sized pages describing the various zines, comps, record labels, zine distros, etc, that they were involved with, to spread the word to other girls. This was in the late 90s. When the internet became more prevalent, this project seemed a lot less necessary.

I edited the first zinesters list comp zine. The zinesters list was an early yahoogroup chat thing started by one of my old teenage riot grrrl pen pals. For the first few years, it was mostly all former riot grrrls I’d traded with in the mid-90s, & we all navigated the transition into adulthood & the evolution of our zines together. We did a comp in 1998 or 1999 on craft-making. This e-mail list is still around, but it has been taken over by awful dude-bro zinesters who make sexist jokes & think feminists are “PC thugs”. I unsubscribed years ago. I guess you could say it was kind of a pre-cursor to the horror that is the We Make Zines messageboard.

In 1999, I organized the first Bowling Green Zine Conference (now the Allied Media Conference). It was a completely free event (for tablers & attendees) with about thirty workshops, mainly attended by former riot grrrl zinesters & peace punk kids. I worked at the bowling alley on the BGSU campus at the time, & used my keys to let everyone in for midnight bowling, which has since become a tradition of the event.

I started “A Renegade’s Handbook to Love & Sabotage” in early 2000, & it ran for five issues. It’s probably the most well-known & popular zine I have written. I still get e-mails & letters about it, & the last issue came out in 2002.

In 2003, during a dry spell for writing my own zines, I launched Learning to Leave a Paper Trail zine distro, which specialized in politically-tinged personal zines. The catalogue eventually expanded to about 150 zines & I was doing around $2000 worth of business a month. I closed it down in early 2010 to make more time for writing projects.

In 2006, I wrote a one-off personal zine called “You Live for the Fight When That’s All That You’ve Got,” & in 2007, I did a residency at the Roberts Street Social Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I started my zine/punk/anarchist-themed logic puzzle zine, “Up the Logic Punks!”. I’ve made two issues of that so far. Later that summer, I started a new personal zine series called “Love Letters to Monsters,” & just published the third issue in August 2010. It’s a split with my next-door neighbor, who has also been making feminist personal zines off & on for fifteen years.

Aside from zine stuff, I started to Boston Skillshare conference, which has happened every year since 2002. I was a member of the organizing collective for six years. I also started the Radical Art Girl feminist art collective in Portland in 2000, joined Radical Cheerleading squads in Portland & Boston, was involved in a d.i.y. reproductive health collective for several years in Boston, curated an anarcha-feminist book club for about a year, & volunteered with both the Papercut Zine Library & the Lucy Parsons Center (anarchist infoshop in Boston).

Do you have any zines/projects planned for the future?
I just published “Love Letters to Monsters” #3, but I’m already gathering ideas & material for “Love Letters to Monsters” #4, which I am currently conceiving as something of a scrapbook-style zine. I am also thinking of putting it out on a seasonal basis (four times a year) now that the distro is closed & I have more time for writing.

I also have enough new logic puzzles written to release “Up the Logic Punks!” #3. It’s just a matter of sitting down & hammering out the layout.

I live in Lawrence, Kansas now, & have been kicking around the idea with some ladies here or launching a Lawrence ladies craft group. We would collaborate on an Etsy page together & sell embroideries, artwork, buttons, zines, whatever we end up making—perhaps in conjunction with a weekly ladies/gender minorities crafternoon/feminist potluck. This is still in the embryonic stages.

I have also been toying with the idea or organizing a series of feminist-related workshops & discussions at a local community center in town. Our local punk scene was recently torn asunder due to some pretty egregious misogyny, & I am trying to look at it as a transformative moment from which a powerful & positive new anarcha-feminist community can grow. So the workshops (& maybe a book club?) would be part of that.

I’m also working on a novel, I cook a lot, I’m hoping to take up knitting this winter, I read a lot (& write book reviews), & I’m trying to pull together a chubby girls’ yoga/water aerobics club.

Describe the process you go through to create a zine.
It has changed & shifted over the years, but at this point, I guess it’s pretty basic. I write about whatever I want to write about—things that interest me, or things that I think need to be addressed in zine form. When I am writing for a zine, I write FOR the zine. I generally don’t cull zine content from other sources (ie, my journal, blogs, etc). I typically let the writing sit for at least a week, & then I edit it really carefully—for content, for passive voice, for potential to be misinterpreted, for interest, for grammar & spelling. Once I’m reasonably happy with it, I get out my typewriter & start typing. I’m just not crazy about the idea of a computer layout for my zines, though I do acknowledge that using the typewriter makes the process more labor-intensive. As I type out my content, I try to come up with ideas for images & graphics. Sometimes I draw stuff, sometimes I use found images. For “Love Letters to Monsters” #3, I cut pertinent images out of an old French textbook left over from college 12 years ago.

If I pursue the scrapbook zine idea for future issues of “Love Letters to Monsters,” I suspect this system to change a little. I hope it will become a little more casual.

If you could create a split zine with anyone, alive or dead, famous or not, who would it be? What would the zine be called?
I have already done a couple of splits. The last issue of “A Renegade’s Hanbook” was a split with my husband (at the time). Each zine retained its own name (his was called “Make Waves”), but they were presented together in an envelope, & the split was called “Bone Dancers”. In 2007, I released the first issues of “Up the Logic Punks!” & “Love Letters to Monsters” as a split—a split with myself. & the most recent “Love Letters to Monsters” was a split with my neighbor & friend Ailecia.

I loved doing the split with Ailecia (even though she almost didn’t make our deadline, which caused me unending anxiety) because our friendship is predicated on sitting on her porch, having awesome talks about zines, feminism, punk rock, friendships, mental health, et al. So making the split was kind of like condensing those talks into a printed form that I could hand out to other people. We didn’t read each other’s sides before we published, but the content was surprisingly complementary, while still being unique.

My friend Jessika Rae (who is best known for her zine “Do Not File Under Manifesto”) have been talking about writing a split together for years. My favorite zine of all time is “Doris,” & sometimes I think it would be amazing to do a split with the woman who writes it (her name is Cindy), but if we’re being frank, I’m not sure our writing style would complement each other. Maybe it’s better to just enjoy it from afar.

A lot of zinesters sort of drift out of the scene for a while, and then come back. Has this happened to you? Why do you think this happens?
I didn’t write a zine between 2002 & 2006, which is a pretty big gap. But I was running a zine distro for that entire time, so I was definitely still involved & active in the zine community, as a reader & supporter.

My friend Ailecia wrote her first zine in nine years last month.

Who knows why this happens? Everyone probably has their own reasons. For me, I was going through a pretty rough patch. My dad had died unexpectedly, my mental health was pretty fragile, I was becoming interested in writing that didn’t seem appropriate for the zine medium (ie, fiction—sorry, I just really hate reading fiction in zines!), & the idea of making a zine seemed like more work & less privacy than I could handle for a little while. More recently, I closed down my zine distro & told people I was “retired” from zines, I guess because I’m in my 30s now & sometimes I wonder if my boring drama-free life in Kansas would really appeal to any zine readers. Sometimes I feel like I am too old &/or too boring for zines. Many zinesters seem to write zines as a form of self-expression, & a way to connect with other folks going through similar life experiences. A LOT of zinesters admit that writing zines is “therapeutic”. I think that’s something I related to when I was like 17, but it doesn’t resonate with me anymore, & so that begs the question—why should I make a zine? If it’s just because I like to write…well, still. Why make a zine, instead of keeping a journal or writing for more mainstream publications?

This is a question I struggle with all the time. I still like to read zines, & sometimes the casual format of zine writing appeals to my lazy side. I don’t have to be completely professional & waste valuable creative time writing query letters & paging through “Writer’s Market”. I can just make something. The visual component also appeals to me, because I like to draw & put images together. So maybe this is why I haven’t abandoned zines yet. I also draw inspiration from zinesters that are still going strong, even though they’re older than me. Like I said, “Doris” is my favorite zine, & Cindy is ten years older than me. If she can still publish a zine on a regular basis that appeals to so many different people of various ages & genders & political perspectives…maybe I can too.

Who or what is your zine-related inspiration? What makes you want to write?
I have always been a writer, & I have always wanted to be published—in the context of being able to hold something that I wrote. When I was two years old, I used to write down little stories & put pictures out of magazines to illustrate them & help my mom bind them together with yarn, so I had a “book” I had written. When I was in elementary school, I regularly banged out manuscripts of young adult serial novels on my mom’s manual typewriter & sent them to publishing houses. So when I discovered zines in junior high, it was just the right match for my predilections.

I still make zines because I really enjoy the feeling of holding something all bound & “published” (ie, photocopied) that I wrote. I like to give my zines to people & be able to say, “This is my writing.” I become motivated to write now when something is happening that I feel I have some semi-unique insight into, like a fucked up political situation that is stirring my passions, or an intense personal experience I want to relate to people. I have also gotten into trying to write down funny things that happen, because at the end of the day, mostly I just like to laugh & goof off, which has not historically come through in my zines.

I am also really interested in the idea of creating a personal mythology. I love reading zines that seem to evoke an image of the author & the perhaps mundane details of her life—but those small details are the icing on the cake to me. I love to imagine how people dress, how much they fuss over their hair, what they eat for breakfast, how they decorate their rooms. So I like to write & make zines because it’s a chance to slowly cobble together a mythology for myself, which then helps me make sense of the trajectory & narrative of my own life. I use that personal writing to better understand where & who I am, so I can decide where I want to go & who I want to be. If that makes sense.

Any final comments/thoughts?
Feel free to write to me:
Ciara Xyerra
1126 Tennessee St. #5
Lawrence KS 66044
or learningtoleavepapertrail@hotmail.com

Support smaller distros, especially distros run by ladies, queers, people of color, & disabled folks! Write to zinesters & don’t be shy. Even the most intimate of zine readers will still be pleased to know what you thought of her work. Take time with your writing & craft it carefully, because it’s going to be kicking around in a zine library or digital archive for God knows how long. Consider enlisting a friend as an editor. But make sure to strike a balance between craft & fun—don’t let your zine-making become a chore. Expand your expectations of yourself & expose yourself to ideas, people, & experiences that are new & different. Your writing can only be improved by going beyond what is familiar & ordinary to you.

moving this weekend, among other things

i’m just clearing the decks from my last blog post, booting it off the top of the page…& making sure everyone scrolls down to read it by writing that. which is fine. i’m just not interested in having something so potentially controversial & incendiary topping the page when suddenly i am getting mad hits here.

jared & i are moving into our new apartment on saturday morning. it’s just upstairs from where we are now, so it should be a pretty easy move, even with just the two of us doing all the heavy lifting. even though we haven’t really packed at all. i don’t see the point in boxing up thirty crates of books just to carry them up on flight of stairs. i’m hopeful that the move will be fast & uneventful, & that the new apartment is as awesome as it looks. i’m reserving judgment right now because a) one of the bedroom windows is completely shattered, rendering air conditioning something of a crapshoot, & when i mentioned it to the landlord, he said it was the current tenants’ responsibility to fix it, even though they said it had been broken since before they moved in two months ago, & b) it doesn’t have a bathroom door. it apparently has never had a bathroom door for as long as anyone i know has been aware of the apartment, which is several years. people have just used curtains. curtains might fly for 19-year-olds or people who live alone & never entertain, but i’m 31, living with my boyfriend, & unlikely to feel comfortable telling dinner party guests to be careful with the curtain. i called the landlord & asked him to install a bathroom door, & he said, “what? there’s no bathroom door? no one ever told me! did it fall off or did someone take it off?” dude, how the fuck do i know? i don’t even live there yet. jared joked that he’d seen a mysterious dude in a burglar-style eyemask creeping down the hallway with a bathroom door tucked under his arm. how does the landlord, who is supposedly responsible for maintenance & repairs, not know that one of his units has been missing a bathroom door for at least a few years now? this does not fill me with confidence in terms of getting the window fixed. & doing repairs out of pocket & taking the cost out of rent is not technically legal in kansas. from what i’ve read, it’s not technically illegal either…but i don’t want to open hostilities with a landlord the same day i move into a new place, you know?

so, with the move, i’m not sure i will really have much time to dick around on the internet in the coming week(s). plus, i don’t want to dick around on the internet. it bums me out & saps my emotional energy…even though it can sometimes make me laugh & laugh. such as…okay, this relates to the incendiary topic i didn’t want topping my page, but it’s hilarious, so–if you are sick of reading about microcosm/joe biel, SKIP AHEAD. i’ll tell you when. so, in response to the public statement released by joe biel’ latest accountability team, joe exercised his near-pathological inability to let anyone else have the final word on anything & released his own public statement. it was really long & obfuscating & rambling. when i put it through the babelfish translator (set on “the PR babblings of a deranged mind to english”), it came back as, “i wanted to post a public statement because it makes me feel good to let other people know that they are wrong about me. i am very sorry for any pain i hear i may have caused anyone. i saw a therapist for six months, & she let me know that i’m not abusive, hence trumping the real life true experiences of people i spent far more time with for far longer who feel that i am abusive, but the therapist told me what i wanted to hear, so i’m not going to put that ball down anytime soon. she also told me that batterer rehabilitation programs are for people who refuse to acknowledge that they have ever done anything bad & have a sociopathic lack of empathy for other human beings. since that’s clearly not me, because hai guise i am SO SORRY (that this has turned into a PR trainwreck) & i am just really clueless & self-absorbed instead of actually being a sociopath, that means that i’m not a batterer & that means i’m not abusive. also, one day on NPR, they did this story about how france wrote these vaguely oppressive laws that differentiate between people with abusive personalities & people who accidentally committed abuse because they had really sad childhoods. so, you know, in france, we’d be totally copacetic. i wish this was france, guys. i also think it’s really important to point out that i had this undiagnosed corn allergy, so i actually don’t remember anything i have ever done before 2008 when i finally got some corn allergy serum medication. that means that i cannot be held responsible for anything i did before 2008, not that you should feel bad for me (feel bad for me), & also i’m really sorry if maybe someone got hurt by something i did when i was all high on corn. but dudes, i don’t even remember what i did! my friends tried to tell me, or accountability people told me, & i was like, ‘what the fuck! i must have been hitting the corn pretty hard because this is news to me!’ sorry though. i do remember getting kicked out of the 2008 portland zine symposium, even though that was when i was still on the corn. so apparently my memory is a little porous. i definitely remember bad things that have happened to me, but i don’t remember my own actions. it’s very convenient…i mean, i’m sorry. i have now catastrophically failed two attempts at community accountability, but i still work with therapists that enable me to pursue the myth of my own victimization, i have an awesome girlfriend who makes sure to spend a lot of time online writing about how the abuse allegations against me are patently & categorically lies, & i’ve won my life-long battle against corn. if anyone wants to start up a new accountability team, please contact the head of my PR department.”

one of my friends responded the only way that really befits the gravity of the situation: a trigger warning followed by a cartoon corncob saying, “i’m in everything.”

& this is the culmination of all the years i have spent seething with suppressed rage over people who use imaginary/over-exaggerated food allergies/sensitivities to escape responsibility for their own actions & agency. for every raw food potluck i skipped, for every person who self-diagnosed themselves with celiac disease after ODing on a loaf of sourdough, for every candy bar i ostentatiously devoured during a tedious collective meeting, for every adherent to the lemon water/cayenne pepper fast that made me roll my eyes, THIS IS WHY. i said a few years ago, after a somewhat similar incident, that autism is a real thing, not just something you can claim to have so you have an excuse to act like an asshole. (dude in question was stalking a woman & claimed he did it because his autism prevented him from understanding social cues, like it’s just an inability read body language that inspired him to force his way into her apartment & threaten to kill her. for clarity’s sake, this was absolutely NOT joe that did this.) food allergies & diseases like celiac & crohn’s are real things, not just things to blame asshole, abusive behavior on (or excuses for radical punk kid eating disorders).

OKAY, DONE! you can come back now & start reading again. but jared has cued up some “TV for cats” on youtube & charlotte is intrigued, so i’m going to go watch how this all pans out. also, “project runway” debuts tonight, & both “britain’s next top model” & “australia’s next top model” started airing within the past few weeks. opinions? i has them!

greetings from shady pines: TV & fashion

i haven’t written in a while. & i did not recap the “top model” finale. once again, my apologies. but once the season is over, it’s really hard for me to muster up the energy to give a fuck, you know? krista won, i knew she would, raina was a finalist, i knew she would be…the whole thing was pretty anti-climactic. neither of them even had hilariously ridiculous sob stories like overcoming psoriasis or struggling to walk a runway guided by only a strobe light when one is epileptic. both krista & raina felt unattractive as adolescents. has there ever been an adolescent that didn’t feel ugly? what a yawn. i do think it’s weird that CW chose to air the cycle clip show last night–after everything was already over. once we know who wins, why the fuck would we want to sit & watch a clip show full of manufactured drama we’ve already seen? i mean, i’ll probably watch it anyway, because it’s been really rainy & sometimes when it’s rainy, i like to sit around & watch mindless TV. but it does seem like a programming faux pas.

speaking of programming faux paseseses, how awful was last week’s episode of “lost”? i watched it & it was like something inside of me broke & suddenly i was overwhelmed with what an incredibly terrible television show “lost” actually is. thank god i didn’t devote the last six years of my life to it–only the last two months. i can write off two months. we all make mistakes. take it from someone who saw every episode of the american version of “farmer wants a wife” (spoiler: he chooses brooke). “farmer wants a wife” might actually be better than “lost”. i will watch the finale, & i admit that this week’s episode was a small step up in quality, but i’ve officially hit my wall.

mostly i have been reading a lot. & watching “the wire” with jared. now that jared is done with his first year of grad school (go jared!), he has had some time to sit around to do nothing. he already watched “the wire” once with his brother, but now he has gotten me into it. every time something terrible happens to one my favorite characters, i have to imagine the camera pulling back to reveal all the TV equipment & microphones & such forth everywhere, & the actor getting up & asking for a towel to rid themselves of the red corn syrup in which they are covered.

i started reading just kids by patti smith yesterday. i am reserving judgment until i am finished, but…i’m having a bit of trouble feeling invested. she used the word “vexed” twice in the first chapter. “vexed”? seriously? is she louisa may alcott?

kansas had had a lot of thunderstorms recently. thunderstorms in the midwest are different from thunderstorms on the east coast. i feel that there is a lot more thunder in the midwest. jared tried to disgree with me about this, & i’m not saying that thunder never happens on the east coast, but there are more thunderstorms in the midwest & more powerful thunder-free rainstorms on the east coast. this matters because charlotte is an east coast cat, so thunder is not a concept with which she is intimately familiar. probably no cat really likes thunder, but the cats i had when i was growing up in ohio handled it better than charlotte does. charlotte seems to think that the thunder is gonna get her, but only if it can see her face. so when it gets especially loud, she skulks into the kitchen & hides her head under the curtain under the sink. she’ll just sit there for huge stretches of time with her head under the curtain, waiting for the thunder to stop.

also lately, i have been feeling strangely old. when i was in high school, i used to be amused but also disturbed by old photos of my parents wearing fashions from the 70s. my mom had huge glasses & parted her hair down the middle & apparently made some effort to straighten it (not that it really worked). she wore bell bottom jeans with big square pockets on the front & lynyrd skynyrd t-shirts & such forth. my dad also had really long hair parted down the middle, but since he looked pretty much exactly the same for his entire adult life, i was more freaked out by pictures of him trying to look “nice” in perma-press olive-colored slacks & geometric print cosby sweatshirts & whatnot. also, he wore a white top hat to his own wedding. not cool.

then i would look in the mirror at what i was wearing. this is when i was 14 or so, which means i dressed like a “sassy” photo spread as much as possible. we’re talking sunflower-print baby doll dresses, engineer boots, enormously over-sized flannels, paisley polyester button-downs teamed with brown old man slacks, braided topknots, face glitter, etc. & i would wonder, is this look going to seem as dated in twenty years as my parents’ photos from 1973 look now? i found it difficult to imagine that i would ever want to wear anything EXCEPT ironic funky winkerbean ringer tees & silver airwalks. i mean, how could such a look ever go out of style? just one more example of the general short-sightedness of the average teenager.

i still think about this kind of thing a lot though. now that i am thirty, when i put my hair up in a bun & put on some nice straight-leg corduroys & sauconys & thick-framed glasses & a scoop-neck tee & a hoodie (my daily uniform…on those rare occasion when my daily uniform is not just pajamas), i wonder if i will look back at photos in twenty years & think i look like a jackass. or if my kids will look back at photos of me from now & laugh. there are little sartorial signposts that seem totally innocuous in the moment, & look totally dated & embarrassing just a few years later. like, remember when everyone was shaping their brows so have a really thin tail back in 2002-2005 or so? seriously, watch any movie or TV show from then, or look at any issue of “harper’s bazaar” or “elle” or whatever, & every celebrity (& hence, average american woman who follows mainstream beuaty trends) has the same eyebrow shape. & no one has that shape anymore. it just screams 2004.

sometimes i think about this kind of thing & feel unaccountably bummed out. it’s a reminder that time really does pass & the past is the past, never to be lived again. i spend a lot of time in my head (as opposed to hanging out with other people), so sometimes i forget that.

in which i hulk out about “lost”

sorry, dudes. no “top model” recap this week. i was going to write it last thursday, but i decided i would rather read a book instead. “i’ll do it tomorrow,” i told myself. but the next day, i woke up with a fever exchanged for my voice & have been sick ever since. i’m actually out of bed now & wearing non-pajama clothes, but i’m still not at 100%, & the final episodes are tomorrow night & every other recapper on the internet already has their posts up, so fuck it. although last week’s episode was hilarious (the challenge involved the girls wearing incredibly puffy clothing & posing in the doorways to hobbit holes as featured in “lord of the rings”; jared suggested that a nearby sheep might go crazy with rage due to the muttonchop sleeves the girls were sporting), i just don’t have it in me to contribute. i’m sure everyone is very sad now.

i feel like this cycle has flown by! probably because the first two episodes were extra long, & this week’s episode is a full two hours. we have been cheated out of an extra two weeks of programming. but it actually works out well, because this way, all my TV obsessions are all wrapped up just in time for me to leave for philadelphia, where i will have no TV & little internet access. jared & i will be able to watch the two & a half-hour series finale of “lost” the day before we leave. i’m hoping they just pan back from the island & james earl jones voices over, “& then they were all saved by…let’s say, moe.” & then there’s a little explosion & he says, “except for kate, who exploded.” & then there’s another explosion & he says, “oh, & jack also exploded.”

i know everyone is all OMG-ing over last week’s “lost” episode (i won’t spoil anything big for those of you who haven’t seen it yet), but far more angering to me was jack’s obnoxious fucking obsession with john’s paralysis. jack offers john some surgery that can repair his back injury & restore feeling to his legs, which, first of all–yeah, right. because that’s how spinal surgery works, they’re just always perfecting their techniques so that paraplegics can suddenly walk again, no problemo. but whatever. i care less about that than i do about how disrespectful & unprofessional jack was when john refused the surgery. i fail to comprehend how jack knowing HOW john was hurt a) is any of jack’s business, & b) would help him understand why john refused the surgery. i mean, supposedly, according to the writers, it did: john is punishing himself. because the only reason anyone in a wheelchair would ever turn down a surgery that could “fix” them (again with the whole disability = broken = bad trope) is if they were doing penance for something. fuck you, jack, & fuck you, “lost” writers.

& one more thing about the writers of “lost”: they claimed that they allowed certain events to unfold in last week’s episode in order to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the smoke monster is a bad guy, an antagonist. they claimed that they have been developing his character all season to be awash in moral ambiguity. maybe he’s a good guy! maybe he really is trying to help the lostaways escape from the island! maybe everything widmore & jacob have said is total bullshit! etc. but with the finale looming, they had to draw lines in the sand & erase the ambiguity. which means either a) they have pretty much no regard for the audience. did anyone really think the smoke monster was just misunderstood & was actually a good guy all along? way to treat us like we’re stupid & didn’t notice all the people that the smoke monster brutally killed for absolutely no reason. or b) the writers think way too highly of their own abilities. all of their attempts at creating “moral ambiguity” were pretty fucking transparent (& frustrating–would it kill them to actually move the plot forward rather than splashing around in these pointless little eddies of mind-fuckery?) to me.

considering some of the other crap we have been forced to swallow by this show, i think it’s a little from column A, a little from column B, so i am becoming concerned that the series finale is going to really, really suck. other instances where the writers have dropped the ball: 1) killing libby before explaining why she was in the mental institution. i mean, why show her as this big cliffhanger on the hurley hearts libby episode if you’re never going to go anywhere with it? it could even be something as simple as her saying, “my husband died & i was really depressed, so i checked myself into a mental institution.” problem solved. 2) building up the annie character a few seasons back as a love interest for ben & then going nowhere with it. why waste our time? 3) nikki & paolo. enough said. 4) during “the incident,” jack drops a bomb down a really, really deep hole, & then a bunch of metal gets sucked in, & then juliet gets sucked in, but somehow she lands next to the bomb & not on top of a bunch of metal that should have buried the bomb. also, she lives. & all the metal that got sucked into the hole got caught on the walls & didn’t crush her. & somehow sawyer was able to climb all the way down there & all the way up again. what? 5) kate pleas down to ten years probation on a FIRST-DEGREE MURDER charge just because one witness opts not to testify against her. if the prosecution’s case was so remarkably piss-poor that they needed one witness to say that kate confessed to the crime (what, no forensic evidence to fall back upon? how does one witness’s statement even count as evidence with nothing to back it up?), how are they siccing a federal marshal on her? 6) a federal marshal tracked kate down & arrested her in australia…where he had no legal recourse to do so. part of being a FEDERAL marshal is that you can only arrest people in the country where you work. 7) how did kate even get on the ajira flight if she was on probation & not supposed to leave the state? wouldn’t she have been on a no-fly list of some sort? 8 ) did cassidy, sawyer’s baby mama, re-locate to california? because kate was also breaking probation by visiting her if she lived in new mexico. 9) what was up with all the build-up with walt in the first season, which went absolutely nowhere? ben said, “we got more than we expected with him.” is that ever going to be explained? 10) daniel faraday was born in 1977 or 1978, making him 19 years old when desmond visited him when he was flashing through time (1996). he was a professor at queen’s college by then. what is this, some kind of doogie howser bullshit? how the FUCK is he a PROFESSOR at age 19?

i could go on. but i think this makes clear that either the writers of “lost” assume their audience is a bunch of morons, or they are way too self-satisfied with their own abilities. & scene.

top model in new zealand

once again, in the intro to this week’s episode of “top model,” tyra seems uncommonly perfunctory. we see her informing anslee that she needs to learn to model from the neck down, which involves tyra slapping her own thighs with great gusto. it’s like she thinks anslee is aiming for a career as a saddle bag model. “who do ya think’s gonna go home tonight?” tyra asks, sounding for all the world like she’s told herself she can’t have an oxycontin until she gets this damn voice-over out of the way. the editors give us a shot of jessica with her mouth hanging open in shock, which was my first clue that jessica was going to have a rough week. because the judges loathe her.

there’s very little house drama this episode, THANK GOD, because there’s actually a fair amount of real action this week. the girls are hooting over going to new zealand in the limo home from panel & we are reminded that alexandra was in the bottom two last week. “i totally deserved it because my picture was heinous,” she admits. we are also reminded that krista won first-class plane tickets to new zealand in exchange for getting first photo at panel, & has chosen to share her prize with angelea. they scream in triumph, but in confessional, angelea acknowledges that it’s still a competition, & she’s still going to have to keep an eye on krista. as the ladies pack, we get a hint of loser edit from alasia, who marvels over leaving the country after a lifetime in marietta, georgia. she says the other girls under-estimated her because they think she’s dumb or lacks common sense. that is a surprisingly self-aware thing to say.

first-class seats to new zealand look pretty awesome. krista & engelea each have their own little berth where they can actually lie down & sleep. they also each have an individual TV. there is a wall separating them, & krista is kicked back with a champagne flute & a tiara, ready to enjoy the ride. angelea keeps poking her head over the wall & suggesting toasts. yeah, that’s not going to get tiresome over the course of 22 hours. they laugh at the other girls heading back to coach & alasia sticks her tongue out at them.

jessica admits that she thought new zealand was “somewhere above canada or something”. because it takes 22 hours to fly to northern canada, amirite? she apparently confused it with newfoundland. looking out the van window in new zealand, she remarks that it looks like arkansas, & then she starts giving us a sob story about how hard it was to go straight from her parents’ house to being married with a child. which means we’re either seeing a loser edit or a really weird redemption arc.

the girls walk down a hill (a volcano, actually) & straight into a traditional maori welcoming performance. all these dudes are dancing around shirtless, wearing grass skirts & such forth. the girls look absolutely terrified. raina admits in interview that she has “never experienced another culture like this before. at first, it scared the crap out of me.” comments like that don’t do much to disprove my sixth sense that raina is a big fat racist, but the kind of racist who thinks she’s not actually racist. you know, the kind of racist who sees whiteness as the universal dafault & passively thinks that everyone else should try to be as white as possible, in word & deed. i just get an icky political vibe from her, which her horrifying “ghetto dance” from a few episodes does nothing to dispel. i haven’t forgotten, raina.

miss j. appears, accompanied by the tiny but smoking hot colin mathura-jeffree, a judge for “new zealand’s next top model”. they explain that new zealand actually has a fashion week & the producers aren’t just being cheap by sending them there. they point out cabs up on the top of the hill & tell the girls they have four & a half hours to meet with six new zealand designers for this cycle’s go-see challenge. i LOVE the go-see challenges. they just got off the airplane & a couple of them seriously look like ass. alexandra is wearing uggs & a cardigan that looks like nothing so much as a bathrobe. angelea’s hair is INEXPLICABLE. you know the episode of “friends” where everyone goes to barbados to support ross while he gives the keynote address at some paleontology conference, & monica’s hair reacts badly to the humidity & just keeps getting bigger & bigger? that is exactly what angelea’s hair is doing. i don’t even know what the solution would be, because it looks like a comb would not be able to win this battle. she ties a bandana over it & soldiers on, which…kudos. but she still looks totally insane.

she plots to go to the designer that is the farthest away & work backwards, giving her a possible edge over the other girls, who are racing to the same designer. raina runs past alexandra in a designer’s stairwell & snags the first go-see. not that it went so well. her walk is atrocious, though the designers interview that her portfolio is strong & they’d book her for a campaign. alasia asks for directions from people on the street & struts in swim wear. alexandra is beaten to every designer by a fellow competitor. angelea acknowledges that the designers are likely to recoil in horror from her hair, but she wows them with her patented cat claw move. they says she’d be “nice to have around”. that’s one way of putting it. the opposite of reality way.

jessica does surprisingly poorly at go-sees. the designers think she is too soft, pretty, & commercial, while krista is described as “teenage bambi”. if by “teenage,” you mean “methuselah’s grandma”. the designers feel that alexandra is too casual, in possession of bad skin, & has a body that isn’t right for runway. when it rains, angelea remarks that new zealand weather is “so weird”. krista observes that alasia’s walk is terrible. krista suggests that alasia would look more at home in church, clutching her pocketbook & praising the lord–which is a fucking dead on assessment. she definitely has a sassy church lady walk.

jessica, raina, & angelea race home toward the agency. jessica is back with time to spare, & angelea returns to the agency with plenty of time, despite managing to hit all six go-sees. alexandra is also on time. raina decides to get out & run to the agency. she’s late, & she looks like a drowned rat. everyone laughs at her. alasia leaves her map behind at a go-see & has to go back for it to get directions to the agency. krista is three minutes late, but alasia is 45 minutes late. angelea gives krista the hair eyeball & you can actually see her hair growing in volume & craziness by the second.

angelea wallops the competition despite her crazy hair–she books six out of six go-sees, compared to alexandra’s zero out of four & jessica’s one out of five. she wins items from each designer, as does krista, who got first photo last week.

the girls FINALLY go to their new zealand penthouse, which is decorated with huge photos of nicole & tyra. everyone goes to bed. in the morning, krista turns a cartwheel on the house runway & the girls admire a rainbow arching over the city. jared said, “just when you think the show can’t get any gayer.”

tyra mail: “all we need is one, the rest is just fluff.” the girls immediately start thinking that they’ll be interacting with sheep. that or hobbits–what else does new zealand have going on? the girls meet mr. jay & nigel out in a paddock somewhere & are informed that they’ll each be wearing a huge billowing black dress. the challenge is to stand out while modeling the same dress as the other girls. & they’ll also have to fight through the distractions of modeling with a big sheep. krista is apparently terrified of animals. nigel is the photographer.

alexandra is first & claims that she’s ready to bring face to set. she’s ready to start all over & get a great shot now that she’s made it to new zealand. nigel & jay love her–nigel says she has “fire & passion”. jay says she is “aristocratic”.

jessica is next & immediately falls down the hill & almost topples over the sheep. she actually tusn her back on the camera at one point & cannot get her shit together. she interviews that she was confused by the shoot because “the dress was so technological”. nigel & jay hate her.

nigel asks alasia what she’s thinking & she says, “i’m thinking about…the scenery.” nigel says he doesn’t believe her. alasia’s shoot is terrible. she says she’s going for “serene & peaceful”. doesn’t she remember what happened when poor brittany tried to be serene during last cycle’s ludicrous blackface photo shoot? tyra doesn’t want to see serene. she wants crazy hair & crazier personalities. alasia falls off a rock & bores everyone on set.

raina uses the trees, the rock, & the sheep, & nails the shoot, obviously.

angelea inquires if she can sit on the sheep. that’s a negatory, good buddy. she becomes obsessed with throwing her dress up in the air & allowing it to billow around her, despite jay’s recommendation to focus on her face & ignore the dress. she totally blows it.

nigel coaches krista through her fear of the sheep, & next thing you know, she’s rolling around on the ground, cuddling with she sheep. she sits on a rock & leans on the sheep, which annoys the sheep & he moves away. krista wipes out face first, nigel & jay are impressed with her dedication & concentration.

jessica & alasia admit they are nervous about panel. alasia says her biggest problem in this competition is “[her] film”. yeah, taking shitty photos would be a problem in a fucking modeling competition. these are not quite the brightest minds, here. jessica & raina ask angelea is she’s nervous, & she catches major attitude & tells them not to talk to her. but she admits in confessional that she is concerned about her shoot.

tyra is wearing another goddamn jumpsuit at panel. this one is purple & one-shouldered, & the shoulder has a huge shoulder pad in it. SOMEONE STOP HER.

raina is first up to be judged & tells panel that the sheep was named prince. this gives tyra a chance to show off her prince impersonation, which caused me to actually scream & recoil. they love raina’s shot, of course.

alasia’s photo sucks. it’s just her face peeping up over a big black billowing gown. ALT prefers the sheep.

alexandra again attempts to curry favor by catwalking to her X on the judging runway. her walk is mind-blowingly terrible. i seriously have no words to express my horror of her walk, but the judges don’t comment. they like alexandra’s shot because she is cuddled up with the sheep. they make no mention of the fact that it’s yet another up-the-nostrils shot, allowing them to see inside her brain, where constant sepia-toned loop of alexandra getting knocked off a runway by a swinging pendulum plays day & night.

i think jessica’s photo is the bomb. the dress is dramatic & elegant, jessica’s body language is strong, & the weirdest, shittiest part of judging is that tyra tells jessica that she is so pretty, she’s inherently commercial, so she needs to frown or grimace to make her face more high-fashion. which is EXACTLY what she’s doing in this photo. she’s angry-smizing. it’s a gorgeous shot–best of the bunch, in my opinion. & the judges are panning it (the guest judge says she “doesn’t like armpits”) because they don’t want jessica to win.

the judges praise krista’s cute purple dress. then they praise her photo, despite the fact that her eyes are literally pointing in two different directions. she looks how i imagine mr. gaunt’s son, the one who talks to snakes & then nails them to the front door, looks in harry potter & the deathy hallows.

ALT hates angelea’s dress. she says that it’s one of the dresses she won from the new zealand designers. tyra says it’s “cool, but cool for the club.” angelea takes the opportunity to do a slow club walk, waving to her admirers & using finger guns. the judges are horrified. there are no words. they also don’t care for her photo, which they say lacks personality. angelea also offered an armpit-to-camera photo, but gets no armpit-related critique from the guest judge.

the judges deliberate. nigel praises raina for moving all over set & exploring her emotional range. the judges hate alasia. tyra loves alexandra’s photo & says “it looks like she’s in pain & having an orgasmic moment at the same time.” nigel criticizes jessica’s relationship with her face & tyra says she is boring. nigel is impressed that krista “took advantage of prince, she was all over him!” the guest judge earns her bonus by saying that it was genius to dress each girl in the same dress. the judges dislike angelea’s photo & ridicule her “disco moment”. the guest judge says she is “traumatized” by it.

krista again gets first photo. alexandra, raina, & angelea are called next, but it’s worth noting that while everyone else is being called, angelea hangs her head in abject despair. when tyra gives angelea her photo, she also serves up a lecture on how unattractive angelea’s tendency toward self-pity & dejection can be. angelea cries.

jessica & alasia are in the bottom two. alasia has potential, but lacks focus. jessica is pretty, but commercial. sometimes she pulls out a photo that is “quite interesting,” in tyra’s words, which is apparently enough to stay in the competition. jessica weeps with gratitude & vows to practice every night. tyra calls alasia “miss pretty” & says she’s “the prettiest girl on the block”. how condescending. tyra tells her to focus & sends her packing. alasia acknowledges that she’s an amateur & admires the sunset while saying that she is proud to have made it so far.

all right, i think krista is going to win this whole thing, with raina as runner-up. angelea will be cut third when she can’t soften her delivery enough to sell cover girl. i think next week is the end of the road for unremarkable alexandra, & jessica will go home after that. because the judges hate her. & she’s obviously just too pretty & lacks the necessary edge required by “seventeen” magazine & cover girl cosmetics, amirite?