Progress thus far. Photo courtesy of VH1.

When we last left the girls, Rhiyan had just been eliminated and Liz had left the competition due to bullying concerns (even though there was no bullying happening to Liz, in fact, she was doing more bullying than anyone). This shock double “elimination” left the girls shook, but like any competition out there, the show must go on. The girls first notice how quiet the house has gotten after Liz’s departure, which I can’t help but laugh at quite a bit.

The next day, judge Ashley Graham visits the girls at their house. Together, they discuss the trials and tribulations of unconventional beauty, something that many of the girls identify with quite a bit. Sandra, however, states in her confessional just how *beautiful* she is and how she doesn’t relate to these girl’s struggles. It’s a bit of an ego trip that rubbed me the wrong way. Soon after, Ashley introduces the girls to YouTube sensation (an actual one) Patrick Starr, a famous beauty guru recently noted for his own collection with MAC Cosmetics. The girls’ mini-challenge today is to make a vlog with Patrick given an unconventional beauty product. The girls are split into four groups: Khrystyana, Coura and Brendi K, given a shaving cream facial treatment; Rio and Christina with tape contour; Shanice and Sandra with a condom beauty blender; Liberty and Erin with a hard boiled egg blender; Kyla and Jeana with a chicken cutlet blender. Rio is disappointed to be paired with Christina, but has a fire to win the challenge as her sister is a massive Patrick Starr fan and is her graduation day, so she wants to win the challenge for her. In the challenge, Rio excels, but Christina’s energy soon brings the group down quickly. Liberty and Erin are fine, but incredibly dull in execution. Khrystyana, Coura and Brendi K are all good, but Khrystyana outshines the other two easily. Sandra and Shanice excel with their energy levels, knowledge and personalities. Kyla and Jeana, meanwhile, fade into the background. When it came down to it, Sandra ends up winning the challenge over Rio, sparking feelings in her that are hard to describe, especially because now Sandra has a mystery advantage in the next challenge.

The girls, finally, are treated to a dinner out at a restaurant, but it’s not long before Rio confronts Sandra over her win, and how the judges fawn over her for her conventional beauty, and that she coasted to where she is now. I get Rio’s anger, but to go after the girl who won the challenge’s looks, as opposed to something she can control, seemed a little out of left field. I love Rio, and I get her frustrating feelings, but Sandra, however egotistical she might be sometimes, can’t change that she did well in the challenge, especially when her entire group did well, as opposed to just Rio’s performance dragging Christina along.

From left to right: Law Roach, Tyra Banks, Ashley Graham, Drew Elliott. Photo courtesy of VH1.

The next day, Drew shows up to the house early, and the girls find their entire pool area to have been transformed into a photoshoot. The shoot is revealed to be a “model sandwich” shoot, in which the girls will stack their heads to create a trifecta of beauty shots in unconventional positions. Paired off in three, the groups are: Liberty, Brendi K and Khrystyana; Shanice, Erin and Christina; Rio, Coura and Jeana; and lastly Sandra and her mystery advantage, which is revealed to be that of Ashley as her partner, alongside Sandra’s pick of Kyla. Shanice is miffed by her decision to choose Kyla over her, as she was her winning partner in the challenge, but doesn’t really follow up on it further, as she knows it would only hurt her potential in the challenge. On top of modeling with Ashley, Sandra and Kyla get an inside look, with a ton of advice, on the modeling world and how to rock this specific challenge. Liberty, Brendi K and Khrystyana are all consistently good in their photoshoots. Shanice, Erin and Christina have trouble when Christina can’t seem to take her place on top without resting all of her weight on Erin underneath her. Meanwhile, Rio, Coura and Jeana are relatively good, but Coura, again, falls flat against her competitors, a strong left turn from her incredibly promising start in the competition. Predictably, Sandra, Kyla and Ashley excel wonderfully with Ashley’s advice and killer shots within it, something that irks Rio even further.

At Panel, the girls are judged in their groups, but their critiques are individual. Brendi K and Khrystyana receive rave reviews for their photos, while Liberty is criticized for falling into the back of the pack of her two partners. Rio is praised highly for her stunning photo in the challenge, but Jeana is told she falls short of Rio, but Coura is criticized even further for not embodying any sort of life in her photos whatsoever. Erin is given criticism for her smushed face, which she says is due to Christina, who receives double critiques not only for that, but for her terrible photo of the week, but Shanice is highly praised for her stunning turn on the bottom. Again, predictably, Sandra, Kyla and Ashley are highly praised for their shoot, with Ashley receiving the most praise, since y’know, she already is a model. Kyla blends in a bit, but with such strong partners with Sandra and Ashley, it’s not a total insult.

After deliberation, the girls are called back in for elimination. Tyra states that Ashley would’ve obviously won top photo of the week, but that would’ve been unfair, and top photo goes to Rio. A sort of sweet revenge is felt in Rio’s spirit, something that I feel heavily. While I didn’t agree with her way of vocalizing it, it was a little satisfying to see her take the top spot this week. Rio is followed by Khrystyana, Shanice, Sandra, Kyla, and Brendi. Getting down to the bottom, Jeana is called next, but told that with her unique features, falling in the middle of a pack is not acceptable. Next is Erin, who is told to “tell bitches to back the hell up and give you your space” to get a good photo. Down to Liberty, Christina and Coura, Tyra calls Liberty next, stating that she needs to be less catalog and more editorial. The bottom two is left with Coura and Christina. Tyra states that while Coura is unbelievably unique and beautiful, her performance in the competition has flatlined. Meanwhile, she tells Christina that despite her potential and experience, she worries that she’s plateaued as a model. Not particularly shocking, but incredibly painful came in the elimination of Coura, a girl who I thought would go all the way in the competition. Despite my lack of love for Christina, her photo was nowhere near as bad as Coura’s, and after the second week in a row in the bottom, Coura’s potential just couldn’t leave her here. It sucks to see her go, but so be the logistics of this competition.

“Beauty is Unconventional”: 3.5/5

Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.