MTV had an opportunity last night to send a message to millions of young women across this country about eating disorders. Whitney Port had the opportunity to make her place in the role-model stratosphere inexplicable no longer, while Olivia Palermo and Allie Crandell had the opportunity to join her there. They failed, and last night's episode of The City would have failed, too, without Whitney's ex-boss Kelly Cutrone, the only woman who not only acknowledged the absurdity of the fashion industry's standards of beauty, but questioned them. Whitney has much to learn from her. But first, some more lessons for her and the rest of the cast.
Lesson 1: Ending the post-collegiate, faux soul-searching phase of life and starting a career.
Do: Let your friends help you find a job. Deadbeat Erin tells her friends at dinner she's decided to “move toward something like a career.” Her friends are “kicking butt” in their pseudo-careers and she feels like a loser. Allie the model is the last person at the dinner table we expect to pipe up with a lead on a job at her agency, because models usually don’t get their non-model friends office jobs. Like, doesn't Whitney have connections? Erin, who looks oddly pale (production schedules can be a bitch for continuity), must take whatever she can get.
Don’t: Wear jeans to your job interview. Erin arrives at her interview at Allie's agency clad in jeans and a boxy, unflattering jacket — the sort of thing you’d wear to an 11 a.m. Friday class at NYU after a hard night of drinking at Tenjune. She tells Scott the boss that she’s “unofficially styling all the time.” Scott the boss says she looks very stylish, which is obviously a lie. Just once, can’t MTV send someone for a job interview they don’t get? They make getting a job look as easy as buying shoes.
Lesson 2: Meeting your best friend’s mentor.
Do: Engage the mentor in conversation. At Kelly Cutrone's birthday party, Allie playfully asks her what she thinks of her outfit. Kelly hates her leggings, but Allie plays it off like a model who hears worse about the way she looks all the time.
Don’t: Storm out crying. Kelly asks Allie, “Are you okay? You seem so skinny.” Allie says she's fine. “Are you sure? That’s a question you should ask yourself.” We thought this was funny in the preview for this episode, but not so much when it happens. What if Allie really does need help? If she’s not only a girl with a cheating boyfriend, but a girl who deals with her boyfriend’s infidelity with an eating disorder? The thought of living in that state makes us so sad. Kelly continues to harp and Allie runs out crying. We feel for her, but the girl's got to stop doing this. Two episodes in a row? If we were Whitney, we'd stop bringing her out.
Lesson 3: Reuniting with an ex.
Don’t: Bother talking to him if, rather than offer you “a drink,” he offers you “a shot of tequila and a Bud Light.”
Don’t: Sleep with him after a party on a weeknight. We understand that people on this show don’t have jobs to be at in the morning, but they could at least pretend. And why would Erin want to bother with a guy who evidently has nowhere important to be on Thursday morning? We assume he's not leaving at 7:30 because Erin is up making coffee. She seems like the kind of girl who sleeps till 3 every day and barely stirs before then, even though men come and go like her apartment’s a Starbucks.
Lesson 4: Being a classy, yet fierce, diva.
Sasha Don’t: Stew and pout because the woman sitting across the table from you criticized your weight once. Kelly's cameo at Allie's agency's dinner riles Allie. Anyone who’s spent five minutes in therapy — and, judging by her relationship with Adam, Allie clearly hasn't — knows that people can only make you feel bad about yourself if you let them.
Sasha Do: Try to pacify the pouters while promoting yourself. “I really did not mean to devastate you,” Kelly deadpans to Allie. She could be sincere, she could be catty — probably a mix of both. She offers to try to get another model at the table into the shows she’s working on for Fashion Week, like Yigal Azrouel or Alexandre Herchcovitch. So she dropped her clients names, dominated the table conversation, and asserted her position as the Queen Bee of the segment. Bravo.
Lesson 5: Working in an industry that thinks 5’ 11” girls who weigh 112 pounds are the ideal size.
Do: Question this absurd standard of normal. None of the girls in their twenties on this show do, thus failing womankind. Again.
Don’t: Act like you've never entertained the notion that a model could be unhealthy. Whitney tells Olivia about Kelly and Allie as though she just landed here from Mars and never heard of a model having a body-image issue or an eating disorder. Ridiculous. This girl has worked in fashion for years now. “I don’t know what’s healthy in modeling?” she says, with what sounds like the intelligence of a hamster. She adds that she thinks body image is a really "personal thing." News flash: it's different for models, who get paid to look a certain way.
Don’t: Act like models are normal. Olivia laughs at Whitney and counters, “You think we have Shamu coming down the runway? Like, no.” We think there was some funky editing here, because this conversation doesn’t quite make sense (not that we expect these people to be coherent). But while Olivia seems to understand that models are crazy thin, she acts like this controversial standard needn't be questioned. If she progresses in her fashion career, we can totally see her become the person who tells 5’ 11”, 115-pound girls to “lose your thighs.” Hell, she probably does that backstage at the DVF shows, anyway, for no good reason.
Lesson 6: Speaking your mind.
Do: Confront someone who did your friend wrong. Whitney confronts Kelly about offending Allie, even though Olivia tells her not to. This almost makes up for the last episode, when Whitney seemed to care more about the girl who kissed Allie’s boyfriend than Allie. Whitney may have the brain of a small rodent, but at least she has the heart of a larger creature.
Do: Stand up for yourself when confronted, if you feel you did no wrong. Kelly tells Whitney, “I would like to say that I’m sorry for that, but I’m not.” She explains that their industry is one that has accepted the ultimate of thinness as normal, and that Allie is “beyond that,” calling hers an “alarming situation.” Whitney sits there like a hamster who can only understand really simple things, like how fun it is to run on a wheel that goes nowhere. “Honesty is not for other people, but for yourself,” Kelly says. Yes. “I couldn’t not say something to her. The truth hurts.” Kelly sees lots of models — she has an eye for this sort of thing. Maybe she enjoyed being a little catty (who doesn't?), but we also don’t doubt her genuine motherly concern. And her explanation saved this episode from treating this issue like a square of toilet paper.
Next week: Allie finally catches a break. Will Erin be so lucky? We hope not!
Read more posts by Amy Odell