So, in the same night we saw Chloe win Project Runway, they also aired this season's premiere of America's Next Top Model. I got a ton of email from people writing in to tell me about the Asian American contestant, Gina, and all the foolish things she said. Who knew so many people watched this show? It was such an overwhelming response, I had to track down the show and see it for myself. So I did, and it's a doozy.
First of all, this is one heck of an amazing train wreck of a TV show. It's brilliant and painful all at once. But I powered through and watched the whole two-hour premiere. There was much to wince at, but dude... Gina! I was like, what are you doing, woman? It starts out bad, just gets worse and worse. During the initial interview, Tyra asks her why she wants to be America's Next Top Model. She responds:
"I think there's just not enough Asian models out there. I feel that I can break down that barrier, and I think it's my responsibility."So I'm like, all right! That's cool. She wants to represent. I can get on board with that. Then Tyra asks, "You say you're not the girl next door. You're wild." This is where things start to head south, real fast.
"If you're going to ask me to get down, strip naked, I will do it. That's just how I am.... But the thing is, my parents kind of have a thing with that, so I mean, I don't know if I'd go against my parents... I'm not sure! [Insert graduation photo of Gina with her parents.] I mean... I kind of believe more in the American culture than my parents. I'm not into Asian guys. The thing is, they're a lot shorter than I am, which is something that I can't tolerate."I'm like, oh-my-sweet-goodness-stop-talking-now. Meanwhile, Tyra and the judges are giving her looks, shaking their heads, like, what is up with you? Jay's incredulous: "You've come so full circle from your initial statement." And Tyra just plain calls her out: "First you were saying, I'm Asian, I'm strong, I'm Korean. And then you're saying, Screw Korean boys, and I want a white boy." Cut to Gina's sit-down interview, where she looks a little bewildered:
"I don't know what exactly happened, but I got confused and I started contradicting myself, because certain things just started coming out, and it didn't make any sense."I understand that editing plays a big part in these shows, and people don't always come off looking as articulate or intelligible as they'd prefer. But man, she was like a deer caught in the headlights, and digging herself into a deep, dark hole. These were not thoughtful responses. But somehow she manages to make the cut into the top thirteen. When Tyra calls her name, Gina is ecstatic, and exclaims, "I LOVE ASIAN MEN! I SWEAR TO GOD, I DO NOW! I DO NOW! I DO NOW!" Yeah, big change of heart, now that you've found out you're not going home.
But it doesn't stop there. In the first challenge, the contestants have to take part in a press conference, where they have to try and make some sort of first impression... it does not go well for Gina. Janice Dickinson asks her point blank, "Gina, how does being an Asian woman factor into your determination to win this competition?" Our girl's proud, thoughtful response:
"I guess, I don't know... I don't know. I don't know how to answer that question."They press her a little more: "So Gina, when you met us during casting week, that was the first thing you mentioned. Why in a room with all these reporters, why would you not take this opportunity to put it in the forefront?" (Why, Gina? I would like to know that too!)
"I'm just... I'm 21 years old, and I don't know who I really am yet. I'm kind of like struggling. I'm like having an identity crisis here."Everybody's like, what the hell? And Gina knows she's screwed up big time, later saying that she didn't feel she represented herself properly. Yeah, I would agree. Her fellow model wannabes confront her, suggesting that she has some insecurities about her race. Gina says it herself:
"As a Korean person and as an American person, I'm just a little bit of both, and I don't know which one I am more of."Yo, this is a peculiar time and place to be working these issues out. If she's going to go there, like she did when she introduced herself, she needs to go there, and represent. And not crumble and shut down when she's feeling the pressure, like she does here. Well anyway, the model wannabes go out to dinner, and Gina decides to drown her troubles away by getting as drunk as possible. Whoo! Like a good Korean girl.
Like I said, the whole thing was like a big ass train wreckI wanted to cover my eyes, but I couldn't stop watching. I actually felt sorry for Gina, because they sort of put her through the identity wringer. But woman, please, get some spine and represent! By episode's end, she is NOT eliminated, and makes it to the next round. But I don't think I've ever wanted an Asian American reality show contestant eliminated this badly before. Keep an eye on her, because there's likely more drama to come.