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Podcast No. 94: Nigel Barker, World-Class Photographer

October 6, 2020

Fashion photographer Nigel Barker joins the WHOOP Podcast to discuss performing under pressure and the true meaning of beauty.

By Will Ahmed

Listen, review, subscribe.

Kristen Holmes sits down with media superstar Nigel Barker on this week’s episode of the WHOOP Podcast.

Nigel is one of the top photographers on the planet and has worked with some of the biggest stars in the world, including Taylor Swift. He is known by many for his television work, in particular spending years as a judge on America’s Next Top Model.

He discusses turning nervousness into a powerful tool to help you excel in the moment, learning to deal with criticism and how the most successful people in the world have used criticism to improve themselves, and finding self-confidence and the most authentic version of yourself.

Nigel is a bright and thoughtful person. He goes in depth on the creative process and shares a lot of his philosophies on art, beauty, and life in general. I think you’ll enjoy this episode.


Nigel Barker Podcast Show Notes:


3:30 – Finding Confidence and Overcoming Nerves. “So much of one’s confidence comes from practice and comes from feeling secure in what you do and knowing what you do. Nerves sometimes are a good thing too. … Channeling [stage fright] is very powerful. In fact, I often tell people who perhaps get a bit of stage fright now and then that there’s an incredibly charming aspect to that humility and modesty that comes with stage fright.”

8:01 – Nigel’s WHOOP Team. Nigel talks about how he’s gotten into rowing and is on a WHOOP team competing with several friends who were Olympic rowers. “I’m not up to that caliber, but I’m being pushed. It’s this very hardcore situation so you do get nervous, but then all of a sudden you pop out the other side and you say, ‘I did that, and now I can do the same thing again but now I can go a little bit further and try a little bit harder.’”

11:58 – Drinking. “I try to be careful no matter what. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a drink, heck I have a podcast called the Shaken and Stirred Show, so I’m making cocktails on a regular basis. That’s the whole point: It’s not about stopping, it’s about living. Moderation is a big part of it but that doesn’t mean you don’t partake. … It’s funny, the WHOOP knows. It does. The day before last I didn’t have a drink and I didn’t actually have a drink last night either, I just didn’t need one, didn’t want one. My recovery was off the charts!”

13:39 – WHOOP Insights. “I didn’t realize just how much sleep I needed or didn’t need, or how much hydration I needed, or the effects of alcohol or the effects of stress, all the different things that one does in one’s life that adds up.”

15:47 – Overcoming Hangovers. “If I do have a hangover of any sort whatsoever or felt like perhaps I went a bit too far the night before or the day before, I’ll actually punish myself by doing incredibly well in the gym. I’ll say, ‘Okay, you’re going to pay for that, Barker. You’re going to the gym and sweat it out.’ Actually, I’ve often times returned some of my best results ever with a hangover, which is really the worst thing you can tell people, but I’m just going to say it as a truth! There’s an element of that in my DNA at least.”

20:36 – Learning on the Job. “I had never really been on television before. I was completely green to the whole situation. It was something I had to learn from the ground up. I watched myself as I was doing it and thought, ‘Oh god, I’m not very good there. That didn’t look very good.’ I didn’t know what I was doing, but I learned. I tried to continuously improve, and I’m still doing all of those things with everything, whether it’s podcasting or book writing or anything else.”

24:08 – Following Your Dreams. “If you don’t try, if you don’t think outside the box, if you don’t go for it, if you don’t push that boundary, you’re never going to actually do anything.”

25:59 – Compartmentalizing. “I have already tried to practice compartmentalization. Whenever I’m doing something, at that moment, you have my full consciousness, you have my full attention. Everything is about what I’m doing at that moment. It’s about being present in the moment. It’s about quality, not quantity.”

31:50 – Joining America’s Next Top Model. “It was 100% a risk. In fact, several people, including my agent and various other people, told me not to do it. They said, ‘You can’t do that. It’s commercial and cheesy. … People won’t work with you. They’ll think you’ve sold out. You’ll be a laughing stock.’”

36:07 – Dealing with Criticism. “There’s also a negative connotation toward the word ‘criticism’ to the point where one needs to have the words ‘constructive criticism.’ Criticism doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad. … Perhaps if someone gives you advice or critique or criticism, that one may learn from it. But also, realize too, that it’s just that person’s opinion. It doesn’t always mean that they are wrong or right. You have to take it and absorb it and learn from it.”

39:35 – Turning Disappointment Into Success. “You watch on shows like Top Model that it isn’t always the winner who wins. Often times people who got knocked out earlier are the ones who are the ultimate winners because they have whatever it is inside of them to not necessarily take it to heart, but to learn, to grow, and to not give up. You’ll see them rise to the top, they’re just going to reach the top at another point in time.”

40:09 – The Beauty Equation. Nigel’s book, The Beauty Equation, dives deep on the meaning of beauty and how to best reveal your “inner beauty.”

41:59 – What Makes Someone Beautiful. “When you find someone attractive, if you think someone is sexy, it’s not because of what they’re wearing. Okay, whatever, they may have great skin or beautiful hair or whatever it may be, but that’s not sexy, that’s just the way they look. Sex appeal is the way they move, it’s the way they sound, it’s the way they shimmy across the room, it’s the way they look at you, it’s the glint in their eyes, it’s their intelligence, it’s their wisdom. It’s what they say to you, it’s how they say it. It’s their charm. It’s their grace. It’s their humility. It’s all of those things that, actually, if you think about, is what you fall in love with.”

45:49 – Believing in Yourself. “You can’t always rely on the world at large to embrace everything that you’re doing. … Van Gogh didn’t paint the sunflowers and turn around and say to someone, ‘Do you think that’s finished now or should I put another petal on that?’”

48:16 – Know Yourself. “You have to believe and know who you are. That is this constant quest of being one with oneself. That, of course, is probably the meaning of life at the end of the day.”

Connect with Nigel:, Instagram and Twitter.

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.