America's Next Top Model: Commercialism wins over High Fashion

Commercialism beat high fashion in the season finale of America's Next Top Model: College Edition.

According to fans of the show, there are a dozen reasons Laura shouldn't have won the competition. Fans of cycle 19 say that Laura is a bully. Other fans say she's Target's next poster girl. Others say her modeling doesn't compare to Leila's. The rest think Kiara is far prettier than Laura.

What's for sure is that throughout the past 18 seasons of America's Next Top Model, the girl with the strongest runway walk ran away with the competition. Kiara's walk on the runway was fierce and strong, mesmerizing even. Tyra said Kiara had "swagger" on the runway.

Tyra yelled at Laura for holding her fist on the runway. Laura looked a little scared to walk and her runway walk lacked personality. In the end it did not matter. Laura, the decidedly commercial model: blonde hair, strong build, and blonde eyebrows, took the competition from both Leila and Kiara last week. It's the first time in America's Next Top Model history that the final contestant with the fiercest runway walk didn't go home with the title.

Judge Rob, the heartthrob male model from the UK, was undeniably in Kiara's corner in Friday's finale. Kiara's sculptured face and her cheekbones made her the prettier model, in Rob's eyes. In the end, fans thought different and the fan vote ushered Laura in for the win.

Leila's return to the model competition was inspiring for obvious reasons. For 18 seasons, models have been kicked off the show, although fans would have beat down doors to keep them. Leila's exit wasn't a surprise to most viewers, but her return made viewers wonder why she was voted off in the first place. She's modelesque, statuesque and transatlantic high fashion.

Leila even got in a challenge win when she returned. Laura had three challenge wins and Kiara had 4. Of all the girls in the competition, Kiara is the only one who attends a big name school (UC-Irvine).

Despite Leila's comeback, and her interference in the solid Nastassia/Kiara alliance, Leila's runway walk was a deal-breaker. Leila fell twice down the stairwell at the runway show in Jamaica. Sophie, Cycle 18 winner, starred in a spooky video with Rob about a haunted home occupied by a jealous lover who killed the women who entered. The eeriness of it all got too real when Leila fell down the stairs in a $30,000 + gown.

Leila recovered on the second catwalk, but it was enough to assure her that chances for winning were blown. Rob also noted that Leila's fall would be promoted on YouTube over and over again. Hence, Leila's amazing comeback was blown down the tubes, regretfully.

Leila's disaster meant Kiara had a real chance at winning. Kiara was a comeback kid of sorts. Unlike the other models, the final stretch didn't tire Kiara or stress her out unnecessarily. Kiara compared the last rounds of America's Next Top Model to the final quarter of a basketball game. Her winning attitude got her into the final two.

And whether people like Kiara or not, on film and on camera, she's undeniably pretty. Because Kiara is so pretty, and actually became a flower rather than a prickly thorn bush during the competition, it was hard to watch Kiara cry because she was runner-up. The old judges and the old rules would have named Kiara the winner, but a new Top Model, minus winner controversy, is on the horizon.

There've been so many successful runner-ups on Top Model it's not even funny. At this stage in the game, running up on that show is often better than winning. Nylon was a bigger loser than Kiara, because Nylon wanted Leila .

Nylon Magazine was Team Leila because Leila has the odd look that their magazine promotes. Leila's absolutely gorgeous as a high fashion model, but she must run away from the runway in her modeling future because Leila and the catwalk equals disaster.

Take Home Message:

For sure there are many viewers who are simply sick and tired of blonde models on the catwalk, catalogs and mags. Throughout the competition Laura fought to become America's Next Top Model by promoting a healthy body image.

Laura's correct: There aren't many blonde, fit models in fashion today. And for more than a decade, the argument with Tyra Banks and her America's Next Top Model show is that Tyra Banks doesn't own fashion. Her model competition show doesn't at all reaffirm what the industry wants or needs in models today. America's Next Top Model encourages its competitors to find their own niche in the same way that college prepares and train students to find their niche post academia.

However, college students and top models quickly learn that often, unless they are super talented, that the niche they created on Top Model and in college is only a launching pad. The real work, the work that determines lasting success comes well after the diploma or the top model title.

photo: Tyra and Laura Cycle 19 winner, courtesy: America's Next Top Model/CW

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