Take A Peek Inside The New Book By ANTM's Nigel Barker
If anyone knows the history of models, it's Nigel Barker. The fashion photographer became a household fixture in 2003 through his work as a judge alongside original-supermodel-turned-media-mogul Tyra Banks on America's Next Top Model. In his latest book, Models of Influence, Nigel has created a stunning anthology of the 50 most influential models of all time, available online at Indigo.ca. Spanning the golden age of the 1920s to today's social-media savvy stars like Kate Upton, Karlie Kloss and Canadian supe Coco Rocha, the book is chockfull of gorgeous images of women who changed the face of beauty.
We caught up with Nigel before his book signing at Indigo on Toronto's Bloor Street West to dish on childhood inspiration, the changing world of fashion and just what makes a model of influence.
Why was it important to you to put together this anthology?
There’s a time in your life when you look back at your career and you think, "What does it mean? What’s the sum total of it?" I was talking to my mum and listening to her talk about her career a couple of years ago at Christmas at our house we have in Alabama. You realize how something like that had a profound effect on you as a kid and how potentially, really without even knowing, much of your career has been about things that had influenced you as a child that then all of a sudden come to life in the rest of your life.
She’s a woman from Sri Lanka and she was a model and she worked at a time in the '50s and '60s when there were no Sri Lankan models. It was unheard of. Certainly, she was half-Sri Lankan and half-English and that was even more unheard of. To tell that story of how diversity has changed and how people now see colour very differently in fashion was something that I was interested in doing. And also showing how models are far more than frivolous as that is often the case when people think about them or talk about fashion and modelling. In fact, it’s a very pivotal subject and in pop culture.
How did you narrow it down to just 50 models?
It was tough. I started off with a list of about 200 and it was 200 of the most successful, famous, well-known models and then when you start to really think of the criteria, the criteria being that they have to have influenced fashion, influenced beauty and the story and the conversation. That changes who is exactly going to be who’s going to qualify to be in the book. Were there some people that you could have put in? Yes, probably. They were on the edge and I was really trying to think, "Were they the first or not?" So that then became the criteria. Who was the first. So, not the most famous for doing it, but who was the one who opened that door initially like a Naomi Sims for example. The first black woman on the cover of Women’s Home Journal, not necessarily Vogue, but Women’s Home Journal. Of course that showed the black community and the world at large that "Hey, we are good enough to be on the cover of a magazine." Things like that. That was the sort of criteria.
Were you worried about hurting anyone's feelings?
You’d hope that you don’t hurt feelings and no doubt there are people that wish or think that I should have put this person and should have put that person but this is subjective and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Although I might be a judge in some situations, my decision is not final. This is just really my opinion.
Which is your favourite modelling era?
Probably my favourite era would be that of the supermodels just because I grew up in that era myself and those ladies are my contemporaries and my friends to this day. I’ve worked with Naomi Campbell on The Face and of course Tyra Banks on America’s Next Top Model and so many of the women of that specific era. They were very business minded you know and also we share the same age. YI remember when I was a kid, they were kids. When I worked my first modelling jobs, they were modelling for the first time. I of course didn’t reach the same levels of success as they did in that field but it’s been a lot of fun to see them grow and for myself to have the opportunity to write about them in the way I have.
Who do you see as the next models of influence?
The final chapter of the book is called "The Contemporaries" and it really is my predictions. They aren’t really women who necessarily would qualify, although these days everyone calls everybody a supermodel. I’m sure they’ve all been called supermodels at some stage but the reality of the word for me is that these are women who potentially could be. Whether they are a Coco Rocha or a Kate Upton or Cara Delevingne or any of these ladies, every one of them has the opportunity to be. I think the interesting thing right now is the role social media is playing in that. In many respects it could be us in fact that makes that decision versus a magazine editor like Anna Wintour.