Nigel Barker's Models of Influence: Book Review

Nigel Barker posing with his book

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Nigel Barker’s “Models of Influence: 50 Women Who Reset the Course of Fashion,” is a standout for several reasons. The book flourishes in its ability to appeal to both those who are deeply ingrained in the fashion and modeling world, as well as those who admire that world from a distance. With enough gritty content to be more than just a beautiful coffee table book, “Models of Influence” quickly earned a spot on the New York Times Bestsellers List after its release in January of 2015. 

Modeling History From the 1940s to Present Day

The eight chapters of the book cover different eras of fashion and modeling history, beginning in the 1940s up until today. He selected photographs that best captured the essence of that model, and he was smart to include several shots that haven't been seen by many. From Dovina to Naomi Campbell to Cara Delevingne, Barker does his best to cover as many iconic models as he can within a 50 person and one book limit – surely no easy feat. ​

  • Barker fit each model into one of the eight eras he covered and placed them as so:
  • The Golden Age: Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, Dorian Leigh, Bettina Graziani, Dovima, Carmen Dell’Orefice and China Machado
  • The Cult of Personality: Jean Shrimpton, Veruschka, Peggy Moffitt, Twiggy, Penelope Tree and Naomi Sims
  • The Beauty Revolution: Lauren Hutton, Jerry Hall, Margaux Hemingway, Iman, Janice Dickinson, and Gia Carangi
  • The Million-Dollar Faces: Christie Brinkley, Brooke Shields, Ines de la Fressange, Isabella Rossellini, Paulina Porizkova, and Elle Macpherson
  • The Supermodels: Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Tatjana Patitz, Stephanie Seymour, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen, and Tyra Banks
  • The Androgynes: Kate Moss, Kristen McMenamy, Amber Valletta, Stella Tenant, and Alek Wek
  • The Noughties: Gisele Bundchen, Sophie Dahl, Natalia Vodianova, Liya Kebede, and Daria Werbowy
  • The Contemporaries: Coco Rocha, Lara Stone, Liu Wen, Karlie Kloss, Joan Smalls, Kate Upton, and Cara Delevingne

50 Women Who Transcended a Moment

As not only a famed fashion photographer and television host but also considered by many to be a fashion authority, Barker chose the 50 models he did with good reason. Nonetheless, those deeply entrenched in the modeling and fashion industry may note some omissions in the list, as the book is based solely on Barker's opinions.

These opinions are indeed respectable, however, as they are coming from a man with more than 20 years of both personal and professional experience in the modeling world. In an interview with Gotham magazine, he explains the daunting task of choosing just 50 women and says, "Even when I came up with 50 women, that was very difficult to do. When I first did the book, and I started writing out who I wanted to write about, I came up with a list that was over 150 women. The criteria became, which women really transcended a moment?” 

If each model’s body of work and the effect it had on the cultural zeitgeist is satisfactory criteria for determining who transcended a moment, Barker indeed chose wisely.

Achieving Success in a Competitive World 

In “Models of Influence,” Barker humanizes the models and speaks to their efforts in achieving success in a very competitive world. Models in Barker's "Contemporaries" category are often subject to more widespread criticism due to the time they live in and the mere existence of social media.

However, Barker focuses on the way these models affected the world in a way that is neither hollow nor artificial. Barker neatly transitions between eras without questioning the validity of success of any of these models' careers. 

These models have, in most cases, familiar faces, but by sharing personal anecdotes and experiences Barker had with some of them, readers will see these women in a new light. If Barker set out to show readers the best version of 50 models who were, in fact, transcendent in their time, he certainly did so.

The book contains enough substantial content and grit to portray adequately the thought that went into Barker's decisions and thus each model's rightful place on the list.