The latest episode is a letdown after the previous week‘s makeovers. Sure, the producers try to rev up the drama by taking the girls to Knott’s Berry Farm and have them ride the Silver Bullet roller coaster and snap their tacky souvenir photos at the bottom. But only one girl cries from fright, and even she manages to get on the ride; and merely a handful of the modeltestants, including Esther, are able to pose at the flash; and even fewer still manage to look good. Ann, winner of the past two photo challenges, looks like Gollum with the centripetal forces tugging at her features.
Kacey, who had flirted heavily with her male model last week, decides to throw a barbecue, inviting hers and the rest of the masculine mannequins to join. Instead of this being an orgy of beautiful people, though, it was more akin to a middle school dance, as though an invisible mechitza had been erected, partitioning the room between guys and gals, which probably suits Esther just fine (especially if her “sexy Jesus” model from last week, who made her feel uncomfortable and un-Jewish, was there, which I couldn’t tell from the angles). If this is how junior high dances went, then this former yeshiva girl feels better about having missed out. The failed party and a sink full of dishes are the last straws for neat freak Lexie, who confronts Kacey in front of the entire gang. “I have consistently not liked you since casting week,” she tells her. Lexie adds that Kacey needs “to be genuine.” (Of course, their hair is fake—either in color or extensions—their orthodontia is manipulated, and the photos are retouched.)
Kacey decides to poll the group individually to see if the sentiment is unanimous, which it practically is. But one of the few girls who doesn’t weigh in is Esther. I am pleased that she remains above the fray, even if, as a result, she doesn’t get a lot of screentime. Perhaps she has learned the lessons of lashon hora well while at Maimonides in Boston: You don’t talk smack about fellow reality show contestants.
Onto the trayf-tastic photo shoot. This episode’s challenge is to pose in a glass tank filled with water and a sea creature while wearing expensive jewelry. I’m not exactly sure what the point of juxtaposing crustaceans and Neil Lane accessories is. Maybe lobster is the new black?
Esther, bejeweled in diamonds and enclosed under glass with an octopus, finally takes a beautiful shot. Her complexion is creamy, her long dark hair swims behind her head, and her mouth is finally closed. No hint of tooth! Just Snow White red lips and the faintest of smiles around the corners of her mouth and eyes. Though Ann wins for the third consecutive time, Esther’s is judged one of the best photos of the night. In fact, Matthew Rolston likens her to a young Elizabeth Taylor (a famed convert!). Andre Leon Talley proclaims, “I want to eat her lips for breakfast.”
The only thing that puzzles me is Esther’s silence about posing with the octopus. Last week, she was vocal about her discomfort of posing with the Jesus look-alike, but this week we don’t hear a peep about the forbidden sea creatures. Perhaps Esther is ignorant of the Leviticus injunction: “Thou shalt not lie with an octopus as one would lie with a man.”
Dvora Meyers is a journalist and author based in Brooklyn.