ASK AN EXPERT: NIGEL BARKER!
In this ASKANEXPERT interview, GLITTER asked Nigel Barker about his the fierce competition on Oxygen’s new hit series, The Face, which also features supermodels Naomi Campbell, Coco Rocha, and Karolina Kurkova, and what we can expect to see happen this season. For tips on Nigel’s past, the industry, and how to make it, read on!
GLITTER: Where did you both grow up and what are your educational/professional backgrounds?
NIGEL: Well, I’m a born and bred Londoner, while Crissy is a Southern Belle from Fairhope, Alabama. This is a rather large question so here’s the quick answer – I went to boarding school in Windsor at an all boy’s school called Scaitecliffe from 8-13 years old then moved to the Co-Ed boarding school called Bryanston in Dorset – a very Harry Potter meets Dead Poets Society upbringing! Crissy and her identical twin sister also went to boarding school in Florida and a couple of other schools…. before attending University of Miami for a hot moment.
GLITTER: How did you get your break into the industry? (Photography and modeling)
NIGEL: While at Bryanston, my mother entered me into a televised modeling competition called, The Clothes Show. Now I didn’t win but landed in the final 3 and that taste of the fashion world gave me the idea of spending a gap year between high school and medical school earning a few extra bucks in say Milan modeling. One successful year led to two which led to three and then financial independence from my folks. So parents, be careful what you get your kids into, one moment it was medical school the next the runways of Paris and NYC! My modeling career lasted from 1989 to around 1996 when the industry really started to change and look different literally. The glamazonian era of the eighties was over and the androgynous heroin chic look was making major in roads. Instead of throwing the towel in I wanted to use my degree in life that I had gained as a model traveling and working all around the world to use. I had always had a love for photography and certainly loved shooting my model friends and simultaneously building a portfolio. In 1996 I followed Crissy to NYC and set up Studio NB in the Meatpacking District and busily started to make a name for myself by testing models and taking portraits. A lot of hard work and perseverance but my big break was shooting a series of portraits called Click Silver for the model agency Click Models. I was commissioned to shoot the entire agency, we painted each model silver from head to toe and created eye catching images with the tag – “It’s your time to shine” The images were well received and Paper Magazine called and offered me a 14-page editorial shoot which in turn aroused a lot of interest. The rest is history.
GLITTER: Tell us about The Face and what viewers can expect from the show.
NIGEL: The Face literally pits three of the biggest supermodels in the world against each other as they compete to find the face of ULTA Beauty. We have the legendary, Naomi Campbell, blonde bombshell, Karolina Kurkova and It model, Coco Rocha, as supermodel coaches who have each handpicked teams of aspiring models from around the world. Each week we have a test shoot where one of our coaches teaches a specific skill that models need to master followed by the campaign challenge. The campaign each week is a real job with clients ranging from Haute Couture to the High Street. The models compete as teams for each campaign, for example during our W Magazine shoot with Patrick DeMarchelier, Naomi coached her team how she would do a shoot for W versus how KK or Coco would do it. The winning fashion spread is then hand-picked by Stefano Tonchi, the Editor-In-Chief of W Magazine, not a random panel of judges… the winning campaign every week are actual jobs that get published making The Face a very real competition.
GLITTER: What is the ultimate prize for The Face winners? What are they competing for?
NIGEL: They are competing to become the face of ULTA Beauty, America’s largest growing beauty retailer with over 7 miles of store front across the US. The winner will be the face of ULTA’s Fall and Holiday 2013 national ad campaigns and their duties will include being a spokesperson and brand ambassador. It’s huge exposure and positions the winner to get a real foot up in a very competitive business.
GLITTER: Does the season get catty? Will there be drama amongst the contestants?
NIGEL: There’s definitely drama. We have three supermodels, none of which like to be told no. Each one of them wants to get the job. You’re going to get drama. A big part of it, which is a beautiful takeaway, is you get to see how these ladies think and you also get to see how warm they can be as well. It’s one thing to take it out of context and to have drama for drama’s sake. We don’t do that on The Face, there isn’t over dramatization. It’s there because people are passionate. It’s there because they believe in their job, they believe in the girls. It’s not overproduced. You can’t help but love the honest truth regardless of how painful it might be.
GLITTER: What are some tips for contestants on the show wanting to win and make it to the finish?
NIGEL: Remember to make a splash – you want to be loved or hated just never ignored! You need people to want to stop and stare at you, you can’t afford to be a page turner…Speak your mind but remember with charm and confidence, there’s nothing uglier than conceit. And remember this is a modeling competition not Dr. Phil. While we want to hear your story, when it comes down to business the editor of W Magazine is not going to give you the job because he feels sorry for you!
GLITTER: How is The Face different from America’s Next Top Model?
NIGEL: Radically! Obviously, they have their similarities as they are both about the modeling industry and competition shows involving supermodels; however ANTM is more of a caricature of the business while The Face is about the real world of modeling. The Face isn’t just a competition between the contestants, but rather it pits three of the worlds’ best known supermodels against one another. In The Face, you get to see how three extremely different supermodels tick and what got them to the top. They each hand-pick their own teams of aspiring models and go head-to-head to create their own potential supermodel by imparting their personal journey of how to make it.
GLITTER: Are you doing a lot of traveling for the show? Where will The Face take viewers?
NIGEL: The Face was shot in NYC only. Certainly for season 1 we decided to stay put and actually it worked very well. This is a show about the business, the real business of modeling which has plenty of hijinks and shenanigans without any need to go to an exotic location. That said anything is possible but even when we do the focus is always going to be on discovering and nurturing a real winner.
GLITTER: Does everyone have what it takes to model? What are some elements you should look for in yourself before venturing into the industry?
NIGEL: No, obviously not. Can anyone stand in front of a camera and pose – sure, but will they sell product, some more than others and that folks is what modeling is all about. Selling product from an image or a commercial. The highest paid models are highly paid because when they wear a frock, other people want to buy it, simple as that.
The industry unfortunately is stuck in a pattern of making clothes in a sample size of around a 2-4 with a few 6s and some 0s… which makes it very difficult for women with curves to break into the industry even if they could be successful models. That is changing, even if painfully slowly. Most important thing for you to think about if you are seriously considering a career in modeling is your ability to deal with rejection and being stereotyped. It’s a very competitive business where things that are seemingly out of your control like genetics play a large part… Best piece of advice – have a second more solid career choice up your sleeve that you are really striving towards and let modeling simmer on the side. If that simmering pot all of a sudden starts to boil you’ll know you’re hot!