Two years ago, "America's Next Top Model" judge Nigel Barker's son, Jack, then 2, asked him to define the meaning of beauty. The seemingly straightforward question caused Barker to do some soul-searching.
"It was daunting," Barker said. "That is a big question. It is a question that people ask all the time. I started to break down what I do for a living. I started to write down the things that I did."
The result was a book, "Beauty Equation: Revealing a Better and More Beautiful You." Barker will be in town Friday for the Baltimore Book Festival to promote the often anecdotal "workbook" (each chapter has assignments) that he hopes will encourage readers to examine various attributes of inner beauty.
A noted celebrity photographer, Barker has drawn from his nearly 20 years of capturing images of the world's most famous — often extremely attractive — faces to write the book.
"My job as a photographer has always been taking beautiful photographs," he said. "I wrote down a list of things that made my pictures come alive."
Don't expect Barker to spend his first trip to Baltimore going to the normal tourist attractions. He said he would rather spend his time getting to know the people of the city. He might even be inspired to take a couple of photographs of Baltimoreans.
"I'm looking forward to going to Baltimore," he said. "It's really the people I'm interested in meeting. I'll have my camera with me."
Barker recently agreed to an interview in which he discussed his book, his experience as a judge on "America's Next Top Model" and celebrities whom he finds beautiful.
Question: If inner beauty was the sole criteria on "America's Next Top Model," which former winner would have been eliminated early in the competition?
Answer: (Laughing.) I don't know that I can answer that legally.
Q: If inner beauty was the sole criteria on "America's Next Top Model," which ousted contestant would have won?
A: April Wilkner from Season 2. Brittany "Bre" Scullark from Season 5. Fatima Siad from Season 10. She's a lovely, gorgeous girl. It's really liberating. To overcome what she has experienced [female circumcision], it shows an enormous amount of inner strength.
Q: Which celebrity do you want to photograph?
A: I'm looking forward to photographing Queen Latifah. For me, she personifies a beautiful, sexy woman. She glows. She doesn't have a model figure or physic, but she's a cover girl, and a fantastic role model.
Q: As the author of a book, how does it feel to reverse roles and essentially be the one who is being judged and critiqued?
A: Whenever you do anything public you open yourself up to be criticized. If I am to judge others, I should be subject to be judged. You make your bed, you must lie in it.
Q: Is there any chance of getting an all-male version of "America's Next Top Model?"
A: There is definitely a chance. With all the seasons we've done the show, almost anything is possible. Who knows? We have discussed it.
Q: What do you think about the curvy looks on the runway this past month, especially the onestopplus.com show?
A: I think it is fabulous. I think if more designers designed clothes with a more fuller figure in mind it would represent women in a greater sense. It will show that designers will design for a real woman. I've always found it odd that designers make clothes for walking hangers.
If you go: Nigel Barker will be at the Baltimore Book Festival literary salon from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday. The festival starts at noon Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Mount Vernon Place. Call 410-752-8632 or go to baltimorebookfestival.com.