Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Modelland, by Tyra Banks


To say that Tookie de la Creme is not a beauty is a bit of an understatement.  She is fully as awkward-looking as her younger sister is gorgeous, and her parents make it abundantly clear that they prefer their more attractive child.  So when the Day of Discovery dawns and her family eagerly anticipates her sister's selection as a Bella at the exclusive Modelland (a training school that puts the 'super' in supermodel), Tookie--whose prospects are limited to lifelong labor in the sweatshops of Metopia--wants nothing more than to just run away.  But instead Tookie finds herself magically transported to Modelland, much to Tookie's (and everyone else's) everlasting surprise.  Along with three other misfits (one is plus-sized, one is 4'7", and one is albino), Tookie must figure out how to survive such ordeals as 'Thigh High Boot Camp' and 'Catwalk Corridor', all while being relentlessly mocked by her more traditionally attractive classmates.  As if that weren't enough, Tookie and her friends keep getting the stink-eye from a disgraced (and apparently insane) former supermodel with a dark secret.  Meanwhile, outside the walls of Modelland, Tookie's mother and sister have decided not to take no for an answer and are determined to force their way into Modelland, whatever the cost.

This. Book. Is. Ridiculous.

First off, allow me to point out that it is fully 576 pages long.  I will also go out on a limb here and say that Miss Banks did not make use of a ghost writer for this particular book, which I was shocked to learn is merely the first installment in a planned trilogy.

Merciful heavens.

Let me be frank.  This book is terrible.  The only reason I am giving it two stars instead of one is that, well, as one reviewer put it, it's more creatively awful than I expected.  On some level, I can't help respecting that Tyra Banks--who is no authoress, clearly--came up with enough ideas to fill 576 pages.  Are they good ideas? Heck, no!  Do they even make sense?  Not a bit!  But there are so many.

Here is a sampling:  One of Modelland's instructors (called 'gurus') has a hand for a head.  Two normal hands, and then a giant hand where his head should be.  The (vastly inferior) brother school to Modelland calls its attendees 'Bestosteros.'  Really.  Failed Bellas who stay on to work at Modelland are called 'Mannecants.'  Tookie's mother goes by the name 'Creamy.'  As in 'Creamy de la Creme.'  [Shiver]   The first aid center is manned, not by nurses, but by--and to quote Dave Barry, I am not making this up--'Purses' (who were not anthropomorphic purses, as far as I could tell, so Banks sidestepped that landmine, thank goodness).  Banks clearly loves herself some puns (and wordplay in general), but her execution leaves something to be desired. 

And there's more.  Supermodels (called 'Intoxibellas') possess various superpowers including self-multiplication, shape shifting, teleportation, and, my personal favorite, 'Excite-to-Buy'--the ability to make people want to buy things.  Those who wander into Catwalk Corridor get scratched by actual cats, and you'd better believe there is actual running on the runway (here called a 'Run-a-Way').  Tookie refers to herself as a 'Forgetta-Girl' (she even dots the 'i' in her name with 'FG' to denote this label), and hopes one day to be a 'Rememba-Girl'.  After each of these ridiculous phrases and (unnecessary) made-up words, there is a sort of implied 'TM'.  It feels like Banks is convinced she's constantly coining new words and phrases that will sweep the public consciousness, as 'smize' has done already.  (The 'smize' does appear in the book, by the way, but instead of being shorthand for 'smiling with just your eyes' it has somehow morphed into an actual accessory that is worn on the eyes and someone makes one more attractive and confident.)  

But it's not all fun and games--Banks has learned a lot in her years of modeling, and she is eager to pass it on to her readers.  As part of the Modelland curriculum, the Bellas learn such vital lessons as 1) don't share makeup, 2) don't buy designer knockoffs, 3) don't eat too much (or too little), and 4) don't date 'commoners'.  As for the moral of the story, well, anyone who's watched America's Next Top Model should be able to guess that.  We're all beautiful, don't you know, and it's what's inside that counts.  At supermodel school.

The whole thing is kind of a hot mess.  Still, I can't help admiring Banks for producing so much of it.  And I wonder how good she thinks it is.  I suspect she thinks that it, like all her projects, is utterly amazing. And in a way, I agree with her.  But for different reasons.

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