Nigel Barker charms during his Haiti: Hunger and Hope art exhibition held Thursday at NYC’s Milk Gallery.
While tunes such as SWV’s Right Here and Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours blare, the America’s Next Top Model judge and fashion photographer gamely entertains guests with kisses on the cheek and sparkling conversation.
Any budget beauty or fashion tips?
“I always say ‘keep it natural, keep it simple,’” he tells me. “People tend to overdo it. People ask ‘what can I do on the red carpet? I want to have a more relaxed look.’ Just be confident in yourself. Don’t think because of the makeup, because of the hair, because of the gown, you’re going to look fantastic. There’s enough fashion faux pas out there. You have to feel fantastic and the camera will pick it up.”
Nigel perks up when asked about his favorite body part.
“I’m more of a butt guy than I am a boob guy,” he laughs. “And legs as well. Legs and butt are very important — and feet. I’ve got a bit of a foot fetish. I’m all about the lower part of the body.”
Despite pleas from the government to cancel his trip, Nigel traveled to Haiti to document the situation so that he could raise awareness about their desperate plight. (It’s just 45 minutes from the U.S.) His striking photographs adorn the walls tonight.
Giving back is key to the British-born father of two, 36, who is married to Cristen Chin.
“I think it’s fantastic that stars like Angelina Jolie get involved with charity,” he tells me. “The more people the better. We need to help out more in general, and on Top Model we always go on about our girls becoming role models. It’s not a joke. It’s important. If you’re in a position where people listen to you or you’re in the public eye, that celebrity should be used for something. It shouldn’t just be used to make your life better. I guess it’s an Asian thing, but the pleasure is in the giving in my family.”
He continues, “When you have children, it’s not when the kid gives you something, it’s when you give your son something and you see that smile on their face. We can all identify with that. Charity’s the same way. When you help people and they are physically moved by what you’ve done or you’ve changed their life, there’s nothing in the world that makes you feel better.”
I ask designer Zang Toi whether he’s spoken to Farrah Fawcett recently. (She was diagnosed with cancer of the intestine in 2006.) The Charlie’s Angels star has been his muse, and I once had time with her backstage after one of his shows.
“I haven’t talked to her for several months,” Zang tells me. “I try to leave a message every two weeks. I just left a message at Christmas, but the last time I called about six weeks ago, I spoke to the housekeeper and she said she’s fine, so I hope she’s OK.”
Any fashion advice?
“Create your own style, and don’t follow trends blindly. You have to understand yourself, and have your own individual look.”
He gives props to “glamorous” Sharon Stone, “original” Drew Barrymore and “youthful” Cameron Diaz for having the best style.
“Anything I mention to my clients – if Sharon has it, they all want it.”