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Q&A: 'America's Next Top Model's' Nigel Barker muses on beauty in his new book

September 20, 2010 | 10:37 am

Book Cover Image Nigel Barker knows a thing or two about beauty. He's not only been appraising wannabe supermodels as a judge on "America's Next Top Model" for 13 cycles -- he's also a former male model.

And now the "noted" fashion photographer has written a book, "Nigel Barker's Beauty Equation," that strives to answer the question, "What makes a woman beautiful?"

We caught up with the dapper lensman, who's in the midst of a whirlwind book tour, to chat about the new tome:

All the Rage: What made you want to write a book on beauty?

Nigel Barker: Obviously, I’m known as a photographer who works in fashion. I've been bombarded with questions on how to be a model -- "I want to be beautiful, make me beautiful." All too often, the way people were approaching it was something physical they had to do. It was always to do with how one stood or what they should wear ... when what I really look for is the essence of an individual.

Even if you are a model, none of those [physical elements] are going to make a good picture. I cast things like spontaneity and how personable [models] are. That's why they discuss personality so much on "America's Next Top Model." I started to write these chapters down. Charm, authenticity, health and well-being, compassion. These are the things that make you beautiful.

There are a lot of "America's Next Top Model" contestants quoted and photographed in the book --  including CariDee English and Shandi Sullivan. Are they representative of your favorites?

Most of them are people I know still and have remained in contact with. And also it was a little like, "Who’s available?"

There's been a lot of focus on weight in the modeling world lately. You show women of varying sizes in your book -- where do you stand on the subject?

Women give themselves such a hard time, and there’s no right and no wrong. Within the modeling industry, there’s no doubt that there are some girls out there that are too thin. But there are also girls who are genetically slim and can eat like a horse. That’s not to say we shouldn’t have wider variety of shapes and sizes and colors. But things are changing. It's a question of moving forward and figuring out what the public wants to see. Ten years ago there were many more models on the covers of magazines, and now it's mostly celebrities. The reason is is that people identify with a talented celebrity who’s more similar to them.

There's a chapter on how to take a good self-portrait -- with a cellphone, laptop and instant camera. Why do you think this was an important element to have in the book?

Well, I'm a photographer. And on the book's website, [beautyequation.com], I’m asking people to take self-portraits of themselves. As much as the book has a lot about me in it, the website I wanted to be about everyone’s else's message.

You talk a lot about your family in the book and dedicated it to your wife and your two young kids. How does family play into your professional life?

My family are everything to me. They come first in everything I do. Part of the reason to even write the book was thinking about when they started to grow up and ask questions about what daddy did. One starts to question what one does. I really wanted to have some proper answers and I questioned myself. I wanted my kids to look up for me for what I do, not just what I say.

-- Emili Vesilind

Photo: The cover for "Nigel Barker's Beauty Equation." Credit: Abrams Image

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