Friday February 15, 2008
Queen of the runway
By S. INDRAMALAR
Those legs, that walk, a character with a capital C ... self-proclaimed Top Model J. Alexander struts his stuff and makes no apologies for it.
Once you get over the fact that “she” is really a “he” (or the other way around; who dares ask?), you realise that Miss J. Alexander – judge and runway diva extraordinaire (coach) on America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) – is probably the most “real” character on reality television.
Though the show is the brainchild of former model Tyra Banks, it is Miss J (as he is known) who dishes out most of the advice to the dozen or so model hopefuls that are chosen to be on the show.
In charge of showing the girls the way to walk on the runway, Miss J’s own walk is flawless and try as they may, none of the participants we’ve seen in the past eight seasons have come close to that unmistakable sashay.
Born Alexander Jenkins in South Bronx, New York, Miss J’s runway career began when he walked for designer Jean Paul Gaultier and then did a modelling stint in Japan. For the past 17 years though, Miss J has been casting and coaching runway models for top designers like Valentino, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Chanel and Nina Ricci.
While he is a hoot to watch, it is clear that Miss J does not suffer fools. In a recent telephone interview with journalists from Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, the runway diva bared a little about himself.
What does it take to strut your stuff like Miss J?
Just being Miss J. It’s about a good personality and character, and having a love for what you do. I just love being on the catwalk and wearing great things, and looking wonderful and feeling fabulous. And having a little bit of confidence is very important. Good legs help, of course.
Is there anyone’s style you particularly like?
I don’t really have one person in particular. I mean, the one person I did was my mother. I think she was my first introduction into fashion. But if I had to think about anyone from Hollywood that looks great, I think it would be Nicole Kidman because she takes a lot of risks and chances in fashion.
Designers put things out there for you to take chances with. They create different silhouettes and designs, but everybody can’t win when taking risks. But she does and gets away with it. She’s one that I admire, because she takes those risks when it comes to fashion and anything current.
Would you consider yourself a diva? Who’s the biggest diva of them all?
Would I consider myself a diva? Not really. I think I’m very simple, as crazy as I am. And, the biggest diva of them all? That’s a hard one because I don’t usually take any shit from divas. I don’t tolerate it, and the moment you become a diva, then I become a b***h.
Have you gone up to a complete stranger on the street and told them to stand up straight or walk properly?
I told Mischa Barton, at a Marc Jacob’s show, to sit up straight. She looked at me like I was completely mad. She was sitting in front of me and it was painful to watch her so I put my hand out and pushed the middle of her back and I told her, “You’re hurting my back just looking at you.”
I also see people in the street who walk by, who have their gay friends dress them, I’m sure, but these girls don’t feel comfortable in their outfits. High shoes, tight skirt to the knee, and some big fluffy fur jacket, too much make-up and all the wrong hair, and they’re walking hunched over because they can’t stand up straight or they’re not comfortable in their clothes.
I just stare at them, and I just want to use mental telepathy to tell them, “stand up straight”.
Who was the hottest supermodel to work with – Naomi Campbell, Kimora Lee or Tyra Banks?
You just named three drag queens, so let me see. I would have to say, in this order ... it would have to be – none! I think I’m the most fabulous out of all three of them (laughs).
What is the worst habit that a model can have?
The worst habit a model could have is not being polite to the people that they’re working with, and not respecting them or the job.
Some girls come into the job and don’t have a nice attitude towards the people that they’re working with. When you create great harmony at work, everyone gets the job done. I think a model should be able to come in and feel comfortable and make people feel comfortable around her.
I myself am working on a show in New York City, which is at Baby Phat, and I always find myself having to be the person to make people feel comfortable because they become so nervous.
When the girls (models) come in to work with make-up artists and hairstylists, it’s their job to make these people feel comfortable ... they have to be polite so the job can get done.
I think a book that should be written for models is “Yes, May I, Thank You and Please”. That should be the name of the book because they’re used to everything being given to them, things laid out for them, and they don’t always appreciate it and take it for granted.
So I think the worst common mistake is them going into work and not helping to create a good working environment. That, and not shaving under their arms (laughs).
How did you get such great legs?
I tell you, that’s DNA. Great legs are all because of DNA, bottom line! It’s from Mr and Mrs Julius and Mary Jenkins, my mother and father. My mother was 5’2, my father was 6’1. I myself, am 6’4.
If my legs fall apart, then I just have my beauty.
Do you do anything to make them more beautiful?
No, and I don’t shave them, believe it or not. I’m not very hairy on my legs at all and people always ask me about that, and no, I don’t do anything.
I mean, I’ve never been to a gym in my life ever. So I think as you get older and extra stuff starts coming up, and you think. “Oh my God. I just put that dress on last year and it fit, now it doesn’t fit”, you realise, okay, cut back on your food.
I think it’s a natural gift and I’m just blessed.
Is the world one big runway to you?
Oh yes. Once I was walking down the street and someone was shouting, “B***h, you’re not on the runway.” You just always have to walk with presence. Sometimes I look at my reflection in a window and I think I may be a little too arched, going down the street with a strut, and I’d have to calm it down a bit. But, I do make sure I have really good posture.
If you weren’t casting and training models, what would you be?
An accountant. I was in school to become an accountant when I was stopped by a woman from Giorgio Armani to model for Jean Paul Gaultier, so that’s how the whole thing happened. But I had already done a few shows in clubs for young designers and things like that.
At the same time, I was interested in designing. I don’t know if you guys know this, but all my clothes on America’s Next Top Model, I make myself. All the dresses that you see me wear at the challenges, I actually sit down with a needle and thread, not even with a sewing machine, and make them all by hand. I made the ruffles and everything. The only thing I didn’t make was the nurse’s outfit that I wore, but I did make the hat and the bag.
Working with some of the best designers in the world, I see and learn so much.
Are you still in the running to be America’s Next Top Model?
Darling, I am America’s Next Top Model. What a silly question (laughs). Ask all those b***hes, I am America’s Next Top Model.
Drama mamas, part 9