Naomi Campbell on ‘Making the Cut’ Is an All-time Great Reality TV Judge

Kevin Fallon
Amazon

This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.

This week: 

  • We have to talk about Tiger King.
  • This is now a Naomi Campbell stan account.
  • Samantha Bee is our corona catharsis.
  • A celebrity video for the ages.
  • Words to live by from Cicely Tyson.

Naomi Campbell Slays on Making the Cut

There’s a moment when a designer’s look is coming down the runway in an episode of the new Amazon fashion competition Making the Cut. It happens in an instant, like a reflex. Naomi Campbell, the human manifestation of the clacking sound a stiletto makes when its wearer is coming to tell you she’s marrying your father and taking his millions, winces. 

“I don’t like,” she says. 

Withering. She can’t be bothered to finish the sentence. She looks away, as if the sight is not worthy of her eyes. 

It is the first time in recorded history you can actually see a soul physically leave a human’s body, poor designer, may they rest in peace. That soul, however, traveled through time and across oceans and found its way directly to my couch where it entered my unshowered, unenthused, self-isolated husk and gave me LIFE again. 

Each week during these horrifying, anxiety-inducing times, in which we’re all just home staring at our partners all day wondering when they’re going to let out the cough that eventually kills us, new headlines run about how another show is going to “save us.” I get it. I am guilty of this, maybe the most guilty. We need to be entertained. We need to feel good. We need saving, websites need clicks, and these shows are legitimately great, bringing joy exactly when we need it most. 

One Day at a Time will save us. The Real Housewives of New York City will save us, soon joined Avengers-style by Beverly Hills and Potomac franchises. Love Is Blind broke our brains, but then kinda saved us. Tiger King is doing something to us, though I’m not sure saving is it. 

Next on the list of hyperbole is Making the Cut, which reunites Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn two years after they left Project Runway. It is an expensive, dazzling delight, and, sure, might save us—if “us” is specifically people who love Project Runway and need a flashy alternative to keep us busy. 

When I interviewed Klum and Gunn this week about the new series, Gunn talked about the show as a positive distraction right now, and he and Klum actually seemed quite touched that they could play a part in that. “Making the Cut is such a wonderful antidote to these trying times,” Gunn said. “It’s feel-good television.”

He’s right. (Always.) And making me feel most good is Naomi Campbell’s all-time great reality TV judging performance. 

The icon isn’t great on the show solely because she can throw around a cutting insult like it’s a cellphone and a poorly hemmed wrap dress is a maid. She’s far more dynamic than I, at least, expected from someone with such an outsized reputation as an enigmatic diva. She is taking the gig seriously. 

Yes, the reads are heaven-sent, delivered, mimosa in hand, by that one petty angel who lives for drama. When a handful of designers whiff it on one challenge, she doesn’t just critique their looks, she delivers an entire lecture on the audacity to disrespect the art of haute couture. But it’s that fashion expertise and deep love that makes her constructive criticism the most valuable.

It’s no surprise that the woman who wore heels to her court-mandated community service has the courage of her convictions.. She’s more fabulous than ever as she goes out on limbs to defend looks and designers her fellow judges malign. But the extent to which she is eager to coach the contestants is actually rather touching. She even breaks down in tears when one particular designer she had been mentoring fails to live up to his potential. 

Did I expect Naomi Campbell to make me cry in 2020? I mean, I figured that if I ever interacted with her she would make me cry for some reason. But in a heartwarming fashion TV competition moment? Wasn’t expecting that!

Samantha Bee Raises the Bar (Again)

The fact that nobody is allowed to leave their houses has caused talk show hosts to nimbly adapt how they’re going to bring their daily (or, in some cases, weekly) Trump jokes to the masses. Largely, that’s meant beaming grainy self-shot footage of themselves talking to front-facing cameras alone in their homes, boasting all the production value of a hostage video. 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s been charming. Jimmy Fallon’s kids have been climbing all over him while he records a monologue. Kelly Clarkson has been belting out “Kellyoke” from her bathroom in Montana. The View hosts have been assembling like the Brady Bunch in webcam videos on the screen, a moving gesture in trying times: no pandemic or amount of social distancing will keep these women from bickering about their problematic opinions. What a comfort.

But it’s Samantha Bee’s first entire episode shot in the woods behind her New York home that raised the bar. Full Frontal: Little Show in the Big Woods, which aired Wednesday night, was a stroke of quarantine genius. It was filmed by her husband, fellow Daily Show alum Jason Jones, with their kids operating most of the equipment—not out of cuteness, but legitimate necessity. 

Other than Bee delivering her material to an audience of no one but the birds and squirrels in the forest, it was business as usual: clever graphics, newsreel footage, expert interviews, and crackerjack material. 

The whole effort was cathartic. It was the “show must go on” scrappy attitude, sure. But mostly because Bee was on fire. 

The specific way she harnesses our “what the hell is wrong with everyone, I’m going insane here!!!” frustration into coherent, blistering, hilarious critique, analysis, and pleas for the imbeciles of the world—from the White House to the spring break beaches of Florida—to get their shit together is a blessing at this specific moment. 

A Cocaine Story to Brighten Up Your Quarantines

You may know Leslie Jordan from his Emmy-winning guest turns as Beverly Leslie, the diminutive thorn in Karen Walker’s side, on Will & Grace. From this point forward, he will be known for delivering one of the greatest ramblings the internet has ever had the fortune of receiving. 

The video starts with Jordan telling his fans about the chicken salad he’s cooking for himself while in isolation. He then moves onto talking about an herbal incense powder he received from neighbors that you snort for healthful benefits. And just when your mind goes there, so does his. He wraps things up with a recollection of the time at a New York nightclub that he accidentally snorted an entire gram of cocaine. 

His friends were both angry that he did all the drugs and concerned for his health. “But anyway,” Jordan says. “I was the Dancing Queen that night.”  

Listen, as Always, to Cicely Tyson

Another legend who must be protected at all costs delivers words to get you through—though with significantly more God and less cocaine. (To each their own.)

What to watch this week: 

Making the Cut: They made it work! Again!

Nailed It!: Reality TV is really coming through in these dark times.

iHeart Living Room Concert for America: Honestly can’t get enough of celebrities singing on national TV from their living rooms. 

What to skip this week:

Ozark: The mass appeal of this show is an enigma to me.

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