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'America's Next Top Model': Cycle 16 begins


Tyra Credit: Handout

With "America's Next Top Model" now entering its 16th cycle, one might think the venerable reality-show warhorse fit for the glue factory, but as programs such as "Survivor" have shown, the proper mix of preening personalities and pop-culture tropes (and, in the case of "ANTM," a healthy dose of the ever-buoyant Tyra Banks) can help prevent a one-way trip to the prime-time pasture.

In a premiere that takes a page from "American Gladiators," the models endure an awkward photo shoot, then strut their stuff on a thin runway over a pool while encased in a giant plastic bubble. Yes, beautiful people fall down.

amNewYork identifies some early standouts:

Alexandria, 21
What the judges like: A self-possessed blonde with sun-kissed good looks, Alexandria's profile was highly praised by fashion editor-at-(very)-large Andre Leon Talley (sporting an awesome feather-duster Tyrolean cap).

What we like: The clear house heavy, Alexandria at times seemed to be competing in a different show, perhaps abbreviated as "ANTB." Drama!

Jaclyn, 20
What the judges like: A baby-faced Southerner with a helium squeak for a voice, Jaclyn's personality is sweeter than sweet tea, and Tyra deems her best photo "stunning."

What we like: Her boundless naivete. When confronted with the runway challenge, she responds: "What if they can't get it open and I'm stuck in that bubble for the rest of my life?"

Sara, 18
What the judges like: Her quirky, androgynous appeal. Tyra says her photo looks like "a 19-year-old boy with makeup on. But that's what I like about it."

What we like: Sporting an Anakin Skywalker brattail hairdo and Whoopi Goldberg vest in her first appearance, Sara is clearly the "alt" choice. We hope she goes far.

Kasia, 26
What the judges like:  This cycle?s plus-size model (or, as Tyra says, "fiercely real"), Kasia already has modeling experience, making her the mature, runway-ready choice.

What we like: Her charm and Midwestern mien. Kasia made it through an entire hour without seeming anything but genuine (if a little boring). In model-land, she's good people.

Hannah, 20
What the judges like:  Fashion photog Nigel Barker called her shot "mpressive," and Talley says there is "something of a young Jennifer Aniston" in her striking looks.

What we like: We get something more of a Blair from "The Facts of Life" with Hannah (though her penchant for pigtails reads a bit more like Natalie). But she seems like a dark-horse candidate with staying power.

On TV: The 16th cycle of "America's Next Top Model" premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CW/11

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