Nigel: "In the Fashion World, 'Sexy' Can Work Against You"

By Nigel Barker

The restrictive clothing challenge flipped everything on its head. Suddenly, the girls who had the best walks had the worst walks, and vice versa. Khadisha has shown that she has a great walk in normal circumstances, but sometimes modeling is about rocking 8-inch heels from Vivienne Westwood or crazy corsets from Alexander McQueen. The models who can pull off those moments have a better chance of rising to the top. In the real world of modeling it’s a given that you can walk in heels, but the difference between a run-of-the-mill model and a super successful one is that the latter can make even the hard outfits look easy. Khadisha, unfortunately, failed in this instance to rise to the challenge.

We saw in this episode that some girls could push through how uncomfortable it was. Tiana’s walk was without question the best. She was graceful, elegant, and looked happy. Sometimes models do a good job walking the runway but have this sad or uncomfortable look on their face, but you have to look confident  and even alluring in whatever you’re wearing. These situations are realistic. Designers won’t provide outfits that tailor to your comfort or size. For example: runway heels are  normally a size 9, and Lydia Hearst has tiny feet -- so she superglues the bottom of her foot (her actual skin) to the runway shoe, sometimes ripping her skin! She’s living proof that you have to commit to the outfit, either by squeezing in or filling it up.

The tabletop runway campaign for couture designer Pamella Roland whom also guest judged, was also a fun one, but at the same time more challenging than it looked. The girls who did well managed to think of the table as a runway. Many catwalks are elevated, after all, so other than all the cutlery on the table, it’s essentially the same idea. If you can concentrate on the job at hand and not focus on the fine china and champagne glasses, then this runway shouldn't make you look like a crazy waitress but rather a tantalizing hostess.

This time, Tiana was a little too confident and she missed the turn. In a real show, if you mess up your choreography like that, you can mess up the next person. Khadisha did a lot better this time around, I thought. Then you had Kira and Afiya who had heavy dresses and wiped the entire table! I didn’t think that part mattered though. If anything it added to the drama and the spectacle, and so much about modeling is creating that spectacle.

Amanda’s sex appeal came up a few times in this challenge. In the fashion world, “sexy” can work against you, "sensual" is more appealing. Many women in the business are known for being sexy, but it tends to be because of the way they’re dressed and made up. The problem with Amanda is that she’s sexy regardless. It’s her facial expressions, it’s her attitude, it’s her emotion, and the way she behaves is flirtatious. She has to remember that in fashion, you’re selling to women, not to men. It’s okay if you want to work men’s magazines only, but you're never going to be truly successful unless you can turn it on and off. Anne V can be very demure and very ladylike and proper, but she can obviously be sexy and sensual. You have to be able to do multiple things and ultimately be a chameleon. A good rule is: if you’re wearing a ball gown, act like you’re wearing a swimsuit, vice versa. That juxtaposition of emotion to reality is what’s going to sell clothing in a way that women find more alluring and less tacky.

Elimination was intense. I think that Kira deserved to be in that situation. You need to be professional, and she hasn’t been too professional throughout much of the competition. She laid out all her emotions to everyone at all times. Whoever wins this competition has to be the face of Frederic Fekkai, and if you can’t get the message across without breaking down and being as Frederic likes to say "effortless", then you’re not going to stand well for the brand. 

In the end, the model coaches all have hearts, and both Anne V and Naomi comforted Kira when she broke down. Elimination is really tough and stressful, and everyone has a lot riding on it. Even the supermodels have given up a lot to coach these girls. Every week somebody has to go, and it’s not always fair – but, the business isn’t about fair. It’s about being at the right place at the right time and giving it your all, and understanding your fate is being decided by someone arbitrary. In the end, a model has to be confident and compassionate to handle the rejection. You’re only going to land a small percentage of jobs so if you can’t handle rejection, you’re not going to make it in the modeling business.  

Until next week!

[Photo: Oxygen Media/Tim Brown]

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