The Betty Interview: Nigel Barker
The America’s Next Top Model star tells BettyConfidential how to take the perfect picture, why he thinks Vogue “has lost its luster,” and what shocking things he’s done in his past.
With the finale of the 13th cycle of America’s Next Top Model airing tonight, it was the perfect excuse to chat up photographer-judge Nigel Barker (like we really needed an excuse!). It’s very fitting that Nigel’s become a household name on Tyra Banks’ modeling competition since he actually got his start on a televised British model search called The Clothes Show in 1990, coming in third out of 5,000 model hopefuls.
The 18-year-old soon dumped his plans to go to medical school to model in London, Milan, Paris and New York. After nearly a decade in front of the camera, he swapped sides of the lens to become a fashion photographer, shooting for edgy magazines such as Paper and Interview before landing gigs with more mainstream publications like GQ and People. Then Tyra Banks came calling in 2003. Now Top Model is seen in 125 countries — more than even Sesame Street!
When the 37-year-old father isn’t working, he prefers to stay at home in New York City and cook for his wife Cristen, and his kids Jack, 3, and Jasmine, who turns 1 next month.
Nigel, what adjectives would you use to describe yourself?
Loyal. I think it’s one of the most important qualities in my life, along with honesty and generosity.
What do you consider your life motto?
Believe in yourself. If you don’t, nobody else will.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Some people are surprised that I’m straight! They think any guy interested in fashion has to be gay. Also, and few people know this about me, but I sang backup for Barry Manilow as part of a boys’ choir as a kid and I went on tour with Barry for several months — even singing in front of Princess Diana and Prince Charles.
What’s the one dish you’re a master at?
Actually, I love to cook and do most of the cooking in my house. My mom is Sri Lankan and so I love making curries. But I also like to cook spaghetti Bolognese and ratatouille. My son, Jack, is a chef-in-the-making too. He’s a good little helper, but when he comes into the kitchen with his ladder, the place gets turned upside down and there’s flour and food everywhere.
If you were going to appear on a reality TV show as a contestant, which show would it be?
I get into Survivor. I think that would be a real challenge. I couldn’t be on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition because that wouldn’t be fair, but I love watching that show as well, and Dancing With the Stars could be quite amusing. They came to me at one point to be on the show, but I wasn’t ready to do it. I actually trained in tango as a kid, but I haven’t done it in years. It could be fun.