Chapter by Chapter Review: Tyra Banks’ “Modelland” Prologue and Chapter 1

I AM EXCITE.

Regular readers (or should  I say reader?) of the blog know that I’ve been waiting for Tyra Bank’s literary debut with the same excitement usually reserved for Christmas, sudden class suspensions, and the birth of one’s firstborn. If I may be allowed to repeat myself: I AM EXCITE.

Over several months, I kept track of any news on her debut. And during the Manila International Book Fair, National Book Store made my dreams come true. There it was, with the eye on its cover smizing back at my face. Yes, there was a little hesitation on my part (I only got my copy on my second day at the MIBF), but I think we all knew it was only a matter of time before I got my hands on it.

I promised that I would make sure that everyone knew all about the adventures of  Tookie De La Creme (!), Myrracle De La Creme (!!), Theopilius Lovelaces (!!!), and Zarpessa Zarionneaux (!!!!), and I thought what better way to do so than through a chapter by chapter review.

Here’s how it’s going to go down: I had initially thought about only posting twice a week, but since the book has 48 chapters (!), that would mean 24 weeks of “Modelland”. As much as that prospect thrills me, I do have a day job and other books to read. So, you’ll get posts on “Modelland” five times a week. Maybe even twice in one day if I can’t help myself.

So sit back, relax, practice your smizes, because this shit is going to go down and it’s going to go down right now.

“Modelland” begins with an italicized prologue, and no one can stop from reading it in Andre Leon Talley’s voice. After all, other than your friendly neighborhood gay, who else Top Model related do you know speaks like this?

“Don’t lie dahling. It’s okay. I know what you’re thinking when you look up at that splendorous place atop the mountain.”

Just in case you didn’t notice, “splendorous” isn’t a word. And one would assume that the “splendorous” place atop the mountain is the mythical Modelland itself. The italicized, unidentified voice certainly makes it sound like it is, and also makes getting picked by the Modelland Powers-That-Be sound really familiar. During the anointed time, the fog that surrounds Modelland lifts — “like a push-up brassiere”, writes Tyra — and picks this year’s Top Model contestants.

“For it signifies that the luminescent eye will soon blaze in the sky, bathing the whole world in gold, touching every one of its inhabitants…including you.”

Now what does this remind me of? Let me think, let me think, let meOHMYGAWD.

Being picked is good, though, because…well, the book doesn’t really say. Everyone just wants to be picked, so much so that hopeful girls even go sewer diving in the hopes of of acquiring a SMIZE, one of seven talismans “which boosts your odds of being chosen by 91 percent”.

The desire to get picked is so intense that some girls even get “Pilgrim Plague, a form of sadness-meets-madness that compels unselected hopefuls to embark dadless on an unauthorized pilgrimage to the Land.” I am guessing that authorized pilgrimages to the Land require you to come with your dad.

There is, however, one special snowflake that doesn’t care a whit about who gets picked to go to Modelland. That special snowflake is the deliciously named Tookie De La Creme, and we finally meet her in chapter one. Chapter one is titled “T O OKE”.

T O OKE

I thought that Tookie was going to be a pothead (“T o oke” = “toke”), and for a moment there I felt a little flutter of something in my most secret heart. Will Tyra actually have the balls to have a stoner for a hero? WILL ALL MY DREAMS COME TRUE?

This was my face at the thought of Tookie being a stoner.

The first few paragraphs certainly seemed to make it sound like she was — Tookie is lying down on the floor of the Bangle, Bauble, and Bead Institute stuffing herself with whipped cream — but as it turns out, it’s just that Tookie is a Forgetta-Girl, a girl who is forgettable. Don’t look at me like that, those are Tyra’s words, not mine.

Tookie is also an obvious stand-in for Tyra. Tall and gangly, just as Tyra was when she was 15. Possessed of a five-head, just like Ty-Ty. Tookie even has Tyra’s relentless desire to be noticed.

“It was yet another day when no one, not a single person, looked down on the floor and cried, Oh! Check out that girl down there!

All Tookie wanted was for someone to notice her. Anyone. Just a simple kick in the ribs or a sneaker sole that squished her hand or a textbook that slopped from a student’s grip and fell on her large forehead. She wasn’t picky.”

Uhm…okay, so that was actually genuinely sad. Now I feel kinda bad. For about a moment.

Anyway, it’s everybody’s loss that they don’t notice Tookie, because at 15 she can speak the more than 28 languages of the world, such as Gowdee’an, Tres Jolie, BayJingle, and Colorian, and what the fuck did I just read?

This is the first big problem (Don’t look at me like that.) with “Modelland” so far. Since Tyra hasn’t expressly stated where exactly her novel is set, the reader assumes that it’s set in the here and now. So suddenly springing something like this is not cool, Tyra. Not cool.

So where is this novel set? Judging from the names of the characters, it’s somewhere around the neighborhood where RuPaul’s Drag U is located. Here’s a list of some of her classmates: Ariella Burtona, Tatianna Sharone, her sister Myrracle De La Creme, and the two most beautiful people in the school, Theopilius Lovelaces and Zarpessa Zarionneaux. The only person who has a normal name is Abigail Goode, and she’s hairy everywhere. It’s like Tyra has a thing against people who aren’t drag queens, which makes me feel very conflicting emotions.

Abigail Goode would totally get along with these queens.

Anyway, the point of this chapter and the unusual title is the fact that about a year ago, Tookie and Theopilius totally had a moment, and this year they have another one, a moment that perfectly and un-complicatedly explains why the title is just so. It involves pins and garbage cans. Whatever, I bet you’re all curious to death now.

The next chapter is entitled “Exodus”. I don’t know about all of you guys, but I AM STILL EXCITE.

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4 thoughts on “Chapter by Chapter Review: Tyra Banks’ “Modelland” Prologue and Chapter 1”

  1. Naloka ako sa mga pangalan! And yes, that was definitely Andre Leon Talley. He should totally narrate the audiobook. If he doesn’t, Miss J. should.

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