'America's Next Top Model': Miss J on His Return, Male vs. Female Models and Cycle 21 Drama
The CW's modeling competition returns Monday night
Miss J is back.
Runway coach J. Alexander is returning to The CW's America's Next Top Model for its 21st cycle (he was let go along with Nigel Barker and Jay Manuel following the 18th cycle amid declining ratings but continued to appear on international editions of the modeling competition). Miss J replaces Rob Evans, joining executive producer/creator Tyra Banks and Kelly Cutrone on the judges' panel. (Creative director Johnny Wujek is being replaced by photographer Yu Tsai.)
Ahead of the season premiere at 9 p.m. on Aug. 18, Miss J spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about his big return, the differences between male and female models and why the show has lasted so long.
How did you end up returning to the show?
My manager got a phone call, and it was a happy marriage once again. It really felt like I never left. It went by so quick; it was not like I was twiddling my thumbs. I've been making appearances on other [Top Model] shows around the world. I was a new judge on the entire cycle in Russia. I've been working on my shoe line. So I've been constantly busy doing things because in the end, you never make money while you're sleeping.
What was your reaction upon hearing they wanted you back?
I had thought, "OK, I'm going off on maternity leave now, and I'm going to have an extra six months off." But no, they wanted me immediately. I had to get ready to go back to work on America's Next Top Model. I helped give birth [to the show] so it's like family. I was there from the very beginning. I took a leave of absence but I went back to it thinking it was like a child I'd never left. It was so bizarre.
During your absence, Top Model added males into the mix as competitors. What are your thoughts on that new twist?
First of all, it created tension between the males and females. You know, two girls like the same guy; two guys like the same girl. They have to realize they are there to work, not for showmances. But if you're competing with a girl but also chasing the girl, it makes it really, really difficult to focus [on the challenges]. … You have to focus. It's really important; a modeling career right now is not what it used to be. Today, models [have] branding [advisers], managers, lawyers, assistants, assistants of assistants. It’s not just going to shows, having your hair and makeup done, and going home. They are brands unto themselves, and America's Next Top Model has given hundreds if not thousands of girls around the world the opportunity to brand themselves and show how they can be strong role models and strong businesswoman with all the information given to them in a short time.
Who did you find it harder to coach: the males or the females?
It's frustrating to me when a girl doesn't get it, but it's difficult when a guy doesn't get it. Girls have more to work with; they can move their hips, put their arms on their hips, move certain ways. And guys can't. It's a challenge for me to get them to relax. "You can use your pocket, but don't let that be the thing you do all the time." [Also I tell the guys], "Don't let your body get too big." Guys get too big, when they are working out, for the clothes. If they're doing swimwear or sportswear, they can do a few extra pushups before the photo shoot. But a suit doesn't look great on a body all full of muscles busting out the suit jacket. But with the girls I get frustrated because of all the other tools they can use [if they aren't using them].
I hear there is a lot of drama this season.
Remember, as a judge, I don't get to see or hear much if I'm not there. A lot of things are going to surprise you that surprised me. I'm not doing the photo shoots all the time, so there is some serious drama that comes out at judging, and I had no idea what was going on. I was sitting in my seat, after being gone a year and a half, and thinking, "Has the drama changed in any way?" Hell, no. It's the same drama; it just includes guys [now].
Top Model is going into its 21st cycle. Why do you think the show has lasted so long?
I tried to answer that question to myself last week. I don't care how many franchises there are around the world; it always comes back to the American one. It's the most-loved and most-watched around the world, and I don't know what it is. Maybe it's just that dream of being in the U.S. and living here in the land of opportunity.
What else are you working on right now?
I'm working on my shoe line. It's something I've been thinking about for several years, actually. Basically, [it was inspired by] women complaining about a heel being too high, and they couldn't wear it. These shoes will be done in four different heights: a high one, a medium one, [etc.], and they will be comfortable, easy and fashionable. Obviously, I coach girls how to walk and put on high heels to show them how to walk. You'll love a Miss J shoe; it's comfortable, fashionable and smart. It's exciting.