Nigel's Episode 2 Recap: "There Are Still Not Enough Models of Color"

By Nigel Barker

The makeover episodes are often some of the best, and having legendary Frederic Fekkai on hand made this episode all the more special, not to mention having his brand as the end prize is huge. He’s one of the top hairstylists of all time, akin to Vidal Sassoon. He rarely cuts hair on television, but for The Face, he decided to do it. It’s extraordinary to see the master at work.

A lot of people think that makeup and wardrobe are the most important aspects of modeling. But, as a photographer, I can tell you that hair might be the most important factor -- it’s the only thing you can’t change after the fact! More photo shoots are made or broken because of a hairstyle than anything else. With makeup you can retouch, but with a haircut, you might be able to fill a hole or something, but you can’t go chopping up a model’s hair. On top of that, throughout history, many models’ entire careers hinged on their hairstyles. Think Linda Evangelista, or even Twiggy herself. She wouldn’t have been Twiggy without the bob haircut that put her on the map, and then along came the British Invasion. An entire movement was basically launched with that haircut. So, hair is a very important part of the modeling industry.

I know that Naomi wasn’t a huge fan of Ray’s transformation at the time, but I thought it worked! I liked her as a blonde too, but I felt that Frederic’s move was inspired on this one. Sometimes it’s about the shock and the drama. In the 90s, the model Kristen McMenamy shaved off her eyebrows and everyone thought it was crazy, but she became a star because of it. In fashion, it’s not always about pretty. It can be about the effect and the mood it creates, and in this case I thought the transformation was really strong.

The challenge in this episode required the contestants work in the nude. There are all kinds of issues and non-issues involved with nude shoots. Khadisha is Muslim and comes from Senegal, so culturally it’s forbidden. But you compare it with say, France, where people are sunbathing topless, no one thinks twice. Fashion is a business that celebrates and sells using sex appeal and sensuality, and skin is a huge part of the business. If you’re not comfortable being nude or semi-nude, you’re going to cut yourself out of a large part of the industry. It’s not impossible: models like Coco Rocha won’t do nude or lingerie, but she’s one of a few who are able to do that, and she’s extraordinary in other ways.

I think that it was clear that Naomi’s photograph was the best in this challenge. Everyone thought, after Kira offended some of her teammates, that the tension was going to hurt the photograph. But the argument actually created chemistry. You don’t always have to be liked in modeling, you do have to have an attitude, and to create feeling, emotion, and make it come to life in the photograph. I think that showed in Team Naomi’s photograph and created an atmosphere that was visceral. It never works if you’re nervous or terrified or uncomfortable, and that’s what happened with the other girls. They were squeezing each other too tight and messing up the hairstyles.

I don’t know fully what was said in the argument over race in the competition. I think it was a combination of Kira not actually speaking English 100% properly and being slightly misunderstood, but at the same time she’s opinionated and forceful. I do feel that, in this competition, you have to be compassionate toward other people. Don’t suggest why people might win or lose, just go about your own business.

But the reality is that the fashion business has changed, and will continue to change. There are still not enough models of color in the business. Obviously models like Naomi Cambpell, Iman and Alek Wek have made inroads, but it’s happening not fast enough. A show like The Face is there to encourage diversity, not crush it. Having the Executive Producer of the show not only be of African descent, but that she is also in her 40s really says something in an industry that rarely sells age. Then there’s Lydia Hearst who is petite – in both height and frame -- but proves she can be a success, and of course there’s Anne V our blonde bombshell from Russia. There’s cultural diversity, height diversity, age diversity. You can’t have everything all the time, but we are definitely fighting the good fight.

Once again, though, I was shocked by the elimination! Anne V what are you doing? Like last week she put up her best girl. Last week it was Isabelle, who she lost, and this week it was Khadisha. I was worried that she was going to lose her. If anything, Naomi had a soft touch this time when she decided to keep the better competitor, but I’m sure it must have irritated her to have two of the strongest people standing in front of her. If people are upset at her for eliminating good people, it’s sort of the pot calling the kettle black, when everyone is putting up their best people in the first place.

Until next week!

Watch Nigel and the model coaches discuss nude posing! (He has done it, too!) 

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