WOW: Nigel Barker & The DogPound

 
GUN SHOW WITH THE DOGPOUND!
FROM LEFT: DAWIN PENA, NIGEL BARKER, ME, KIRK MYERS, BREY PENA

 
In our WOW (Working Out With) series, yours truly goes head to head with a person of note, in the gym or some other sporting arena, to sweat a bit and talk about what’s up. For this installment, I connected with renowned photographer and fashion television host, Nigel Barker, at Gotham Gym in NYC to work out with his crew, known as the DogPound.

Nigel and I met in 2014 and got to know each other well working on his newest book, Models Of Influence, of which I was the photo editor. Published in February 2015, the book is retrospective of 50 of the most influential models in fashion history and the iconic photographs that defined them. Decade by decade, each chapter spotlights an era, and highlights the “50 Women Who Reset the Course of Fashion.”

Known well for his 17 seasons on “America’s Next Top Model,” Nigel was most recently the host of “The Face,” and is regularly featured on other television shows as the go-to fashion authority. A highly regarded photographer, filmmaker, philanthropist, and author, Nigel is no slouch in the gym either. Six days a week at 5:45 am sharp, he works out with a group of about 15 other guys and 3 very large trainers — Kirk Myers, Dawin Pena, and Brey Pena — aka the DogPound.
 

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CLOCKWISE TOP LEFT: HANGING LEGS LIFTS AS THE DOGPOUND KEEPS A WATCHFUL EYE; MORE AB WORK WITH LEG THROW DOWNS; NIGEL AND I GO HEAD TO HEAD WITH PUSH-UPS

 
The group was originally assembled by actor Hugh Jackman, and includes various other captains of industry and a few Olympic athletes as well. The name “DogPound” is an homage to “Dali,” Jackman’s French bulldog, who presides over all workouts. The group meets every morning to “smash it,” their signature expression for crushing everything from weightlifting, high intensity interval training (HIIT), and literally smashing things — boxing, hammer drills, hitting drills, ball slams and throws. I got a taste of it, pushing a 200 lb. tire back and forth with Nigel, along with a sampling of other DogPound favorites. A little stomach bug kept me from going full out, but even a shortened session left my heart pumping and eager for another round with the DogPound! After our workout, we talked fitness, fashion, and Models of Influence.

CL: Nigel… When we first met, did you ever think we would be holding hands together on Bosu Ball doing 1 legged squats? Tell us more about the DogPound.

NB: We work out as a group, as a team, as a class almost, which is unusual for men. If you were to market this as a class, guys wouldn’t want to come. I myself have never done a class in my life. However, I go to the DogPound. When I was first approached by Hugh Jackman, who’s a friend, I was more intimidated by the fact it was the Wolverine asking me to work out. The concept that it was with a bunch of guys wasn’t an issue, but there are 10-15 of us doing a routine together.
 

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CLOCKWISE TOP LEFT: THAT TIRE IS A LOT HEAVIER THAN IT LOOKS.. ABOUT 200 LBS TO BE EXACT; FLIPPING THROUGH MODELS OF INFLUENCE; BALL TOSS WITH INCLINE SIT-UPS; “CAN I HAVE A DOGPOUND T-SHIRT WITH MY NAME ON IT?”; LEG EXTENSIONS ON THE BOSU BALL

 
CL: So you come in every morning for an hour and it’s different every time?

NB: We have a sort of routine. Monday is chest. Tuesday is legs. Wednesday is full body. Thursday is arms. Friday full body, shoulders and back. And Saturday is dead lifting.

CL: And the same guys are here every time?

NB: Yes, same guys. There are a few that come in and out, but we’ve got Olympic athletes… Conor Dwyer, the swimmer who is currently on the American team. He’s got a gold medal. Matt Targett, two time medalist from Australia, also a swimmer. Tom Farley, president of the New York Stock Exchange. It’s a real eclectic mix of heavy hitters. A who’s who of New York come and work out with us.

CL: So lets talk some fashion. Your mother was a model. You were a model. You married a model.

NB: Laughs… There is a lot of modeling going on in my life.

CL: How did you make that transition to the other side of the camera?

NB: I’ve always been interested in photography. I’ve been shooting since I was a child. My mother bought me my first camera when I was about 10 — a Kodak Brownie — medium format film, so I got into it then. I used to take pictures of events at school, people at school, sporting events, theatrical events. I actually started selling prints to kids at school. I noticed if you took a picture of person where they actually looked good in it, as opposed to just doing whatever they were doing, that was the picture they wanted to buy. As a young child it dawned on me that’s how it works.

I didn’t plan on becoming a photographer. It wasn’t on my radar but when I was a model, I realized here are these photographers… successful, wealthy, traveling the world, working into their 80’s if they want, and having a great life. After 7 years as a model in the 90’s in “glamazonian” era with Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, etc., then came heroin chic and androgyny. I was anything but! So I used my years as a model as my degree in photography. I spent a lot of money testing and shooting with my wife, her sister, and her friends, and built my portfolio up. I came to New York and opened a studio in the Meatpacking district called Studio NB that I wanted to be like a Warhol factory. My wife, Crissy, and I worked night and day making a name for ourselves. She was the makeup artist, stylist, hair dresser and I was the photographer, assistant and everything else. To this day she still runs my studio.

CL: And how did you end up in front of the camera again as a fashion television host/personality?

NB: It was early 2000’s and reality television was on the rise. Tyra Banks started a show called America’s Next Top Model.” I watched the first season, as did most of the fashion world, and laughed and joked about it, but it became a cult phenomenon. People had never seen inside fashion on television in that way. There was “House of Style,” which was more about the entertainment world and fashion, as opposed to models and fashion. Season 2 came along and I got a call from Jay Emanuel and Nole Marin who asked if I wanted to audition to be the photographer on an episode. One of the producers saw my tape and offered me a more permanent role.

CL: You became such a major television personality. Did that affect your photography career?

NB: I knew it was going to be good to do and exciting to do, and would get my name out there, but it was also a risk because fashion is very elitist. It was very commercial to do TV. I was doing well as a photographer: Great editorials, getting calls from Versace and Jil Sander, working for Interview, Paper magazine and a lot of cool publications. I knew if I did the show they wouldn’t want to work with me anymore, but I agreed to do it and it did affect my work for a bit. The interesting thing is fashion television took off, reality television took off, the internet boomed and the magazine industry almost collapsed. “Top Model” became the #1 show on the network. We were in 157 countries with 100 million viewers. Eight years later Italian Vogue became the magazine sponsor on the show and Andre Leon Talley, editor-at-large at Vogue at the time, became a judge. So we went from being very anti-Vogue to completely in vogue.
 

nigel-barker-3TALKING SPORT & STYLE AT GOTHAM GYM; BOOK JACKET OF MODELS OF INFLUENCE

 
CL: So let’s talk a little bit about where we met, working together on your book Models of Influence. The 50 models you chose, why them? We all have different favorites and different opinions, so for you what were the criteria?

NB: The book is called “Models of Influence” and the subtitle is “50 Women who Reset the Course of Fashion.” It was not just supermodels or the models who were most successful. Of course many of those are in the book, but I was specifically looking for those influencers. These are women who were pioneers, the trailblazers, who were the very first to do things. Not necessarily the most successful, but the firsts, the ones that opened the doors. It was hard. It could have been 60, it could have been 100, and in fact, my initial list was 200. But we had to cut it down and I tried to be a strict as possible. For example, who was the first African-American model on the cover of a magazine? Some people will say Beverly Johnson because they remember Vogue, but Naomi Sims was the first African American model on the cover of a magazine in 1967, and the first in a TV commercial that same year for AT&T. It’s about the firsts… Lauren Hutton who did the first big advertising campaign for Revlon with Richard Avedon in the 70’s — a million dollar contract for just 20 days of work per year. Before that models were paid by the hour. We talk about who these women are, the pivotal moments, and how they helped shape fashion.

CL: How did you pick the contemporaries? Seems so hard to predict who will stand the test of time.

NB: If you look at the contemporary section, these are women who are successful in social media, who realized that social media was going to be something of importance early on. Someone like Coco Rocha, for example, became a social media icon about 5- 6 years ago and was practically the second person to join Twitter. She was the first to get a million followers and realized its value. Now model agencies have divisions solely for models with high social media numbers — 1 million minimum — it doesn’t matter how beautiful you are, or how many campaigns you have.

CL: And that’s just their own innate skill?

NB: These girls know how to market themselves and be authentic. It’s that authenticity that translates into followers.

CL: Well the book is spectacular, and was no small feat for either of us!

NB: Books are difficult. You sweat blood and they’re a labor of love. They take a long time and are a dying art form in many respects. But you do a book and you know its going to be around forever, unlike a magazine. It’s doing really well and is on The New York Times bestseller for the 2nd month.

CL: So exciting! Definitely worth all the hard work put in by us both!

 Photographs by Debby Hymowitz

WANT MORE WOW? READ WOW: WORKING OUT WITH STACY LONDON!

 
 

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