Like the countless people he has photographed, Nigel Barker is more than just a pretty face. The dashing, British-bred photog and swoon-worthy judge on the hit show America's Next Top Model has proved he's got chops in more areas than behind a lens with his new tome, "Beauty Equation". The beauty book and style guide is an autobiographical and anecdotal account of his personal ideas of beauty, broken down into what he calls 10 essential elements— the traits that make a person beautiful far beyond the scope of well-trimmed brows or the perfect pout. In the book, he lauds the power of humor, caresses the benefits of compassion, hails the virtue of honesty and articulates overall that this idea of inner beauty, in an industry that is reformatted constantly, can be timeless because it is real.
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I got to sit down with Nigel briefly during a special book signing and appearance he was making last week at Macy's on State Street. Long before he had even arrived, fans were lining up on the lower level, clutching recently purchased copies and chatting excitedly about being in close proximity to Nigel's dazzling smile. Upstairs in the press room, he greeted me in a dapper manner, (ever the gentleman), then seemed eager to get down to business discussing something he was clearly very passionate about.
When asked why he wanted to create this book, he told me the idea came to him from his 20 plus years in the business. As a photographer, it is his job to take a beautiful picture, whether the subject is a model or not. He has always played with the idea of beautiful vs. pretty, realizing that "pretty" represents a sort of fad or seasonal image while the notion of beauty is more universal, more intangible. He noted that he sees beauty in his subjects through the experience they provide him with as a photographer—their body language, their eyes and their manner, all of which give more to a camera than just the angles of a face. These elements moved him in a way that made him want to dig deeper and discover the inner traits that make a person smile with just the corners of their mouth or hunch their shoulders or lift their face to catch the light.
Thus, the 10 Essential Elements were born, which Nigel himself turned into an equation: YOU + allure + confidence + compassion + spontaneity + radiance + health + honesty + charm + energy ÷ humor = BEAUTY. He added that people who represent this idea can be anyone, noting that, for the photos in his book he recruited celebrities, former contestants of America's Next Top Model, employees of the State Dept. and everyday people who responded to an ad he placed on Craig's list. He brought in all kinds of people and challenged them to embody the elements of the book, turning his shoots into what he branded "photo therapy". His subjects, who he referred to as "classic and timeless" let go of their inhibitions in front of him and brought his essential elements to life which, Nigel hopes, his readers will continue to do.
One of the great ideas that came along with the book was the opportunity for that to happen through BeautyEquation.com. On the site, readers can share how they identify with the book and which elements they feel closest to—whether it is one they possess already or strive to achieve. Readers have the option to make their own journey public and track their progression for other readers to support. Nigel noted he wanted this option to inspire people around the world and create an infectious cause that got people involved and enthused about their own personal growth.
And speaking of causes, if the philosophy behind his book wasn't empowering enough, Nigel holds another very crucial cause close to heart. As a spokesperson for the Elisabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS foundation, Barker is currently working on “Generation Free”, a documentary that highlights the successes and challenges in the fight against pediatric HIV and AIDS.
After supporting other humanitarian efforts in places like Haiti and the Antarctic, Nigel has turned his tireless efforts toward the global pediatric AIDS pandemic. He explains to me that the face of AIDS has changed over time, that today less than 200 kids in the U.S.A. are HIV+ while 1,000 babies are born HIV+ everyday in Sub-saharan Africa. As a human rights advocate and a father, he believes it to be of utmost importance that this story is told, which he hopes to achieve in "Generation Free". He notes that not all cases are hopeless since some HIV+ parents are having non-infected children who are able to remain healthy. All that's needed is help and support from nations like ours in order to overcome these extraordinary conditions.
When I ask him on any final thoughts, he notes that what he tries to do with his humanitarian efforts and now, with "Beauty Equation" is to discover this information, what he calls "a great education" and then share it, with everyone from his Top Model audience to the world at large in hopes that people will be moved by it and become their own game changers. "We have the chance to make the world beautiful for our children", Nigel Barker finishes off. And clearly, he has done his part to get the ball rolling.
Good news! We have a special treat for you: Second City Style has a signed copy of Nigel’s book, Beauty Equation, to give away to one lucky winner. Simply leave your name and email in response to this post by Tuesday, October 5 at 5pm CST and we will pick a winner. Good luck!
Photo Source: Second City Style