Ren of Grand Prairie, Sadly Not Destined to be America's Next Top Model
That's all, Vokes.
When a reality show begins by focusing on a particular contestant, follows said contestant through show and pokes contestant with a big stick to see if said contestant will react, it's usually a fair bet she's leaving. She's out. Auffed. Adiosed. Knives will be sheathed; bags will be packed; tears will be shed; garments will be rended.
Our girl from Grand Prairie, Ren Vokes, had been ready to jet from the House of Bitches and Mayhem since last week. Hell, they way she talked about it last night, she'd been ready since Minute One, but she stayed on because of her mama. Because all mothers dream that one day their daughters will wind up on the 14th season of Tyra Banks's show on The CW. Look it up.
But where to we begin with this sad sack's tale? She is fascinating, this Ren -- she, who lists her occupation as "Living." She told the confession cam that, sorry, she did not want to be here any longer, not after last week's meltdown: "Normally, I would've said, 'I quit, bye, guys, I'm done,' but modeling is my mom's dream for me." Then she offered a torturous tale about how Mom always did like her brother more, until Tyra beckoned with offers of riches and rags. Said Ren, once her mom found out she'd be on the show, she started being nice to her and even took her shopping for nicer clothes, then stuck her with the tab when she got a call from the brother and had to step, ya know, outside.
But Ren, she is the fair-skinned black sheep. She likes the work, not the drama nor the bitchiness. Which reminds us: There is a show to be recapped full of drama and bitches. But will our Ren, frail swan and neglected child, survive? How in the world could she?
There was, to begin with, a trivia contest. Trivial. Not worth your time. Not worth Ren's. Her team lost because the women did not know Heidi Klum was the host of Germany's Next Top Model, which is known in America as Kraftwerk. The losers had to do inventory. Losing on this show is like working full time at The Gap.
Ren could not believe she had been amongst the women for three weeks. To her, it felt like months; to me, years. When was the last time they actually had a photo shoot and didn't focus on Ren being sad? Not in forever! Which is not to say I don't like Ren. I dig that girl. When she gets back, perhaps we can go to Lone Star Park together. Play the ponies. Do each other's hair.
But, remember: She is hand-picked, no mere wanna-be she. A contender amongst pretenders. The producers milked this fact, player her against the others. It got to be sort of hard to watch. I was hoping they'd be cruel to someone who deserved it.
And then a modeling show became a dance contest -- the girls would be photographed doing what appeared to be variations on the Hustle, the Twist, the Charleston and the Melbourne Shuffle. Ren looked particularly strange, with a blank expression smeared upon her pale visage. Her movements were stiff, strange, awkward -- you see the picture at top, no? She danced like someone who'd spent too much time in the Starck Club bathroom before heading to the dancefloor.
You could tell she wasn't into it. She couldn't get the house troubles out of her head, nor the screeches of her housemates, bitches acting like real dicks. After they got home, they pelted her with antagonizing questions: "Ren, do you feel trapped?" "Ren, do you still want to go home?" Ren, you look like you're going to cry."
Fucking bitches. Every last one of 'em.
Then, on to the judges -- including this go-round Wilhelmina Models' Sean Patterson -- each of whom handed Ren what they could find of her ass. Patterson said he was disappointed to be offering a "life-changing" modeling to someone who couldn't divorce herself from drama. They asked her if she really wanted to be there and then ... pause for commercial break ... and then she said, yes, she did.
But Ren ended up in the Bottom Two. And what followed was an exchange that honestly made me sad.
"Ren, you stand before me, and you were hand-picked," said Tyra, clad distractingly in a strange flesh-toned bodysuit featuring a Johnny Weir-style mesh panel and Linda Dano's shoulder pads. "So, she's got all the goods, but does she have the wants?"
Ren shook her head: No.
Said Tyra, "See, so you don't have it."
"I enjoy the industry," said Ren. "I like it, it's great. But I think I'm doing this for the wrong reasons."
"Why are you doing this?"
"I'm doing it 'cause my mom finally likes me
"Why do you think that is?"
"'Cause she loves this show," says Ren.
Tyra seized upon the moment to play therapist: "How does that make you feel?"
"I mean, either way I don't mind," said Ren. "I mean, if that's how I have to get my mother's attention, then that's fine with me."
"Well," said Tyra, "I admire your honesty."
And that was that. Ren of Grand Prairie was out. Back home, just in time for this weekend's presentation of The Odd Couple: Female Version at the Uptown Theater.
Ren hugged Trya, thanked her, apologized to her.
Tyra told her not to apologize but to instead seize this opportunity and tell her mom how this made her feel -- "because," said Tyra, "I have a feeling it doesn't feel good."
Ren nodded and stood there facing the remaining contestants awkwardly for a long moment -- too long. No one came forward to hug her. She scampered away to pack and leave the House of Bitches and Mayhem.
"My mom, that's why I stayed so long is because she can actually finally shut up about how I never do anything good," Ren said as she exited the show. Family outcasts everywhere high-fived their television sets, then did the Hustle.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.