For the past 18 seasons, internationally renowned photographer Nigel Barker has served as a judge on the hit reality show “America’s Next Top Model.”
The British-born Barker entered the world of fashion after being selected as a finalist on England’s reality program “The Clothes Show.” Following that, Barker launched his own fashion photography studio, Studio NB, in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.
A philanthropist, Barker is an ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (World AIDS Day is this Saturday, Dec. 1). He also produced an advocacy documentary, “A Sealed Fate?” for the Humane Society of the United States about Canada’s annual Harp Seal hunt.
Barker recently opened a photography exhibit in support of Haiti relief called “Haiti: Hunger and Hope.” His latest project is as the host of the upcoming Oxygen series “The Face.”
ROBIN BRONK: If you had five minutes in the Oval Office with the president, what would you discuss with him? What issue would you like him to know about?
NIGEL BARKER: The president and his administration have a number of pressing priorities to deal with daily, but something I would be eager to remind the president is that we have a historic opportunity to make sure that no child anywhere in the world is born with HIV. Not only is the elimination of pediatric AIDS possible, but we can potentially achieve this goal by 2015 — during his administration.
Every day around the world, 900 children are needlessly infected with HIV, mostly through mother-to-child transmission. With the proper medical interventions for mothers and babies, these infections could be prevented. We’re nearly there in the developed world, and now we’re making it happen at the heart of the epidemic in Africa. As an ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, I know that with continued U.S. support, we can create a generation born free of HIV — the first great step in turning the tide against AIDS.
RB: If you could ask the president to make one issue a priority for the first 90 days of his second term, what would it be?
NB: I suppose because I grew up in the United Kingdom with a national healthcare system, which I enjoyed and benefited from, I would like national healthcare to be back in the top spot of his agenda. I realize it’s costly and difficult to implement, but surely every citizen of this great country deserves basic access to a free healthcare system.
RB: What piece of advice would you give the president as he settles into his second term?
NB: Hunker down and get on with the job without listening to the critics. No matter how great a job you do, there will always be folks who want the opposite and rally against you. Stick to your guns!
RB: If you were going to send the president to one of your favorite places in the United States for one day, where would that be? Why?
NB: Point Clear, Ala. It’s where my wife is from. It’s one of the most scenic and romantic places in the world, nestled in Mobile Bay, near the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico. Oak trees covered in Spanish moss surround beautiful old bay houses, and the local town of Fairhope is a haven for art and culture. Whenever I tell anyone I am headed to Alabama for the holidays, I normally get a look of surprise, or worse … The truth is there are so many gems of civility and charm all over the country that you often have preconceived ideas about.
RB: What CD/piece of music would you recommend that the president add to his collection? Why?
NB: I am a Led Zeppelin fan and can get lost in their albums for hours. We all need a place to dream, relax and get inspired — so why not with some classic rock?
RB: Would you ever consider a political career?
NB: Well, I have already served 17 terms as a judge — albeit on modeling! I think I’ll stick to my new role as the host of “The Face.”
Robin Bronk is CEO of The Creative Coalition — the leading national, nonprofit, nonpartisan public advocacy organization of the entertainment industry. Bronk is a frequent speaker on the role of the entertainment industry in public advocacy campaigns and represents The Creative Coalition and its legislative agenda before members of Congress and the White House. She produced the feature film “Poliwood,” airing on Showtime, and edited the recently published book Art & Soul. Bronk pens this weekly column with assistance from Risa Kotek.