A quick word with: Nigel Barker

By Joanna Hunkin

Photographer Nigel Barker says the Kiwi models listened better than the US girls. Photo / Supplied by TV3
Photographer Nigel Barker says the Kiwi models listened better than the US girls. Photo / Supplied by TV3

You've been with Top Model for six years now. Do you still enjoy it?
I thoroughly enjoy it. It's really an easy job. I get the opportunity to meet new people and travel to different countries every season. There isn't anything really not to like about it. I never got into this in order to become a celebrity, I did it because I'm a photographer and Tyra asked me.

You've certainly managed to stay in the good books while everyone else has been booted out ...
There are definitely clashes of personality. I think it's designed for that and it's certainly not always amicable. But that said, I think at the end of the day, we are all professionals and we all deal with our emotions in different ways. We have had major clashes in the past where people have got very upset but it's not that often. I try not to get involved. It's all part and parcel of show business and the fashion industry. Certainly we have our fair share of divas on the show.

And is Tyra as, er, colourful in real life as her on screen persona?
I tell you, it's one and the same. It's actually who she is.

So she's mad?
Well, it's one of the keys to success for a good reality show, if you cast people who actually are themselves. I think the audience can always tell if someone is performing and they won't buy it.

Many reality shows have failed because everyone's acting. We have some colourful characters you think must be performing but I think that's because in life, they are performers. Janice is Janice - she's like that the whole time. Miss J is Miss J. He runs around being Miss J in his off time too.

We're about to screen Cycle 12 in New Zealand, which opens with a bizarre space-age theme. What's your initial reaction when ideas like that get pitched?
Well I wasn't a part of it. You might have noticed I wasn't in any of that. They like to mix it up, change it up and have a sense of humour, and don't forget we are doing a TV show. At the end of the day, they need to make it a little exciting, a little different and a little outrageous. But I'm rarely a part of that. I'm there to be the photographer and the judge and apart from that, I'm not a part of the other fun and hijinks.

Right. But you were involved in New Zealand's Next Top Model, making a guest appearance.
That's right. It was a lot of fun. Great people. I have family in Christchurch so I was hoping to go to New Zealand. Perhaps if you do a second season I'll get the opportunity to come out to New Zealand.

How did they compare to the girls you see coming through the American cycles?
The girls were great, I was very impressed. Obviously we have a massive population to choose from. Your girls were younger, your winner was a 16-year-old. Our contestants can't even take part unless they're 18. So that was a big difference, right there. And as a result, our girls can often drink. There are a lot of differences there in terms of how they behave in their off time.

And did you notice anything about the NZ models, any general trends that set them apart from American girls, or even English girls?
It's hard to say but they were certainly very keen and very hard working.

They listened a lot. Often with the American girls it seems things go in one ear and out the other. But the girls I worked with were very determined.

I'm not sure if determination is a Kiwi trait but if it is, I certainly noticed it.

You were none too taken with Hosanna when you worked with her. Are you surprised to hear she made the top three?
The thing about Top Model is you've got to let people listen and learn. And if they do and they change then you've got to move on. You can't hold a grudge and say "well they were horrible when I shot them so that's all that counts".

One of the things I've learnt on ANTM is when I meet the contestants, I try not to be too judgmental off the bat because they're going to have makeovers, many will progress massively. A lot of the time, the ones who do really well initially, do the worst in the end because they don't change or adapt because they think they know it all.

And how much does personality come into it? Is it purely based on how they perform each week?
We know nothing about their personalities. We just see them at judging. It's interesting for us because sometimes we're thinking "Goodness me, that girl was rather bitchy, wasn't she? I can't believe she was that nasty, I thought she was a sweet thing."

In life, you don't judge people on how they are at home, you judge them on how they are at work. So it shouldn't play a part in what we're doing.

- NZ Herald

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