In addition to his TV and fashion photography duties, Barker's a documentarian of note with many humanitarian interests -- his favorite being human rights in Haiti. His most recent documentary, 'Dreams are Not Forgotten', follows three key real-life characters living in the Bel-Air slum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the devastating 2010 earthquake. It was produced in partnership with Edeyo Foundation, a non-profit founded by New York/Miami influencer and philanthropist Unik Ernest, and will soon be hitting the film festival circuit. (Barker is pictured above, standing third from left.)
"As a documentary director, Nigel Barker was very focused and dedicated to bringing to life the story of these three characters," says Ernest. "He brought a comprehensive approach to the daily lives of Haitians to this film and captured their sense of pride."
This isn't Barker's first foray into documenting the situation in Haiti; nor is it his first partnership with Ernest. In fact, he credits Ernest with "giving me access to the real Haiti." The pair's first documentary, 'Haiti: Hunger and Hope' (along with the photographic exhibit of the same name) earned Barker a VH1 Do Good Award more than a year before the 2010 earthquake.
"To be honest in the pre-earthquake 2008 Haiti, Unik's stories of Haitian need seemed almost implausible," remembers Barker. "It turned out he was not exaggerating, but more importantly he offered a solution -- the power of education." 'Dreams are Not Forgotten' was a lengthier and more ambitious shoot, well documented by Barker on his website nigelbarker.tv. "This was the second time I took [Barker and his crew] there," says Ernest. "It was a real thrill to see Nigel and his team conceptualize the idea that I gave them about these folks."
"Through the Edeyo's Foundation trusted infrastructure, we were able to secure access to real-life scenarios and people, that normally would take years of trust-building to develop," Barker says. "Unik and his mother made sure we were accepted into the heart of Bel-Air, so we could live alongside the community as if we were born there."
The shoot didn't take place immediately following the earthquake, and the film is not intended as another piece of quake coverage, but as a testament to the people and their daily lives. "I remember deciding not to go down and add to the circus, but rather wanted to wait until Haiti and the earthquake were no longer in vogue," Barker says, "With the hope of returning and telling a very different story, and keeping the new spotlight on Haiti firmly focused."
On the occasion of the summertime Edeyo Gives Hope 5th anniversary party in Manhattan, a diverse crowd caught the spark of Barker and Ernest's fervor for the cause: Checks were written, speeches were enthusiastically applauded, and many people remembered their post-quake promises to help. The message spread further during the Manhattan Film Festival, where the debut screening earned the Film Heals award.
With 'The Face' getting plenty of good buzz in its first season, Barker fans are happy to see him making a triumphant return to primetime television. 'The Face' is fresher and more entertaining than that other modeling show that unceremoniously cut ties with Barker last year. Producer/Head Tyrant in Charge, Naomi Campbell, delivers all the fireworks expected of her -- and yes, it seems that as we suspected, Nigel Barker really is the nicest man in the modeling industry. Proof can be found not only on Oxygen Network every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT, but in his many and varied side projects. NigelBarker.tv offers ongoing updates on Barker's humanitarian projects, partnerships and social responsibility -- and we hope some of those projects get their own series pickup someday soon.
NigelBarker.tv is picture proof of Barker's humanitarian vision, partnerships and social responsibility in the entertainment jet set. Hopefully soon to be showing in a movie theater near you.
To quote Unik Ernest's aspiration for the project: "I wanted to give the world an opportunity to spend a day in the lives of Haitians living in these dire conditions with integrity and pride."
To learn more about Nigel Barker and 'Dreams Are Not Forgotten,' visit his website.
Lena Katz is the senior travel correspondent for JustLuxe, covering trends, tastemakers, news and more.
Nigel Barker's Quest to Help Haiti
The TV-watching legions know Nigel Barker best as judge and "noted fashion photographer" from 'America's Next Top Model.' After being fired from ANTM in 2012, Barker is back on 'The Face,' the Naomi Campbell-fronted show airing on Oxygen. But the masses don't know what makes this fashion "good guy" tick. Read on to find out why he might just be the nicest guy in the modeling biz.