Written by | Ray Cornelius 

World renowned Runway Coach and America’s Next Top Model  judge Miss J Alexander spoke candidly to an intimate audience of students and fashion enthusiasts Thursday afternoon at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta, GA.  The former 6′ 5″ model turned media personality, was there as part of aTVfest, an international festival where attendees come face-to-face with the brightest stars in front of and behind the camera.

Alexander first burst onto the modeling scene in the early 90’s when he met Elite Model Management’s Monique Pillard. Impressed by his look, Pillard signed him to her agency and he walked for designer Jean Paul Gaultier in New York City. He quickly became the go-to-guy for models on how to effectively rock the runway. He eventually met supermodel Tyra Banks, who would later crown him the “Queen of the Catwalk” and as they say, the rest is history.

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Alexander sat down with SCAD’s Associate Chair of Fashion Sarah Collins to discuss that, of course along with the business of fashion, entertainment, and reality TV. The 90-minute long conversation was filled with side splitting stories and hilariously funny anecdotes from his 20 + years in the industry. Check out a few “pearls of wisdom” we gleaned from Miss J below:

On becoming a Fashion Stylist…

Someone said to me in London recently that she was going to school to become a fashion stylist. When did that become a class? (LOL) I said to her, “Dress up your friends. Dress up your friends in crazy, insane clothes. Do their hair and makeup and there you have it.” You don’t need no class for that honey!

On the value of paying your dues…

I think dues should be paid. When dues are paid in television and in entertainment, you learn the value of a dollar and you also learn a lot more as you go along. If things are handed to you right away, you somewhat forget and you don’t respect it.

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On weighing your options…

Never jump at the first deal that is presented to you. That can be a big mistake because there can be a second deal that’s bigger than that one around the corner. They know when your desperate and people tend to feed off of that.

On using reality television as a means to build up and not tear down…

You have to capture your audience and keep them engaged. You can do that by also teaching them a few things. Everything doesn’t have to be crazy or pulling out somebody’s weave or cussing somebody out or giving somebody a good ole beat down.  If we tune into the craziness, then they keep providing the craziness. I remember saying something once on a certain TV show and I was told that people don’t want to be educated. They just want to know an ugly dress from a pretty dress and I was so offended. I thought to myself, “If I am going to tear you down and tell you that you look tore up from the floor up then I’m also going to explain why you look that way and how we can make it better.” I think that’s just the human thing to do.

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When Top Model didn’t renew his contract…

I don’t think I’ve had any low points in my career but I did have questionable points like when Top Model didn’t bring me back for 2-cycles. I remember when I got the phone call. I was sitting in a hotel in New York City and I was going to a wedding.  I was all dolled up and got the phone call and it took a girl down for about 5-minutes.  It took me down for 5-minutes because I wanted to call them back and curse them out. But then I thought, you’ve had your moment and that’s it. Ok, next! But my life has always been that way. As something is fading out, something new is always coming in. A little over a month later I got a call from Top Model Russia who wanted me to come over there and be a judge for their show. So girl, I still had a job.  I also remember telling myself to save up enough money so that if I don’t work for 10 years, I’m good. My lifestyle does not dictate all of the extra stuff. I just need the basics—rent, lights and food on the table.

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On today’s unwearable fashions… 

I think that people are desperate to do things crazy in order to be noticed and to be different. Half of the stuff you see on the runway, you don’t see in showrooms. People want to wear wearable clothes. Then you have people creating shoes that the girls can’t walk in. So then you have ankle problems and back problems. Anytime I have to put a shoe on and have to take it off when I get in the car is crazy. A shoe for that amount of money should fit like a sneaker!  It should feel like a Nike on my foot. But I think we’re caught up in luxury and people use that as a status symbol.

On the blessing of Divine Timing…

For me, it was just being in the right place at the right time. I think everything is all about Divine Timing. I think everything happens for everyone in this room—from front to back—as it’s supposed to happen.  Sometimes it lasts forever or sometimes it lasts temporarily. But if you go with it and feel it and touch it and smell and embrace it, then it’s fabulous. You don’t need a million dollars to feel good.

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Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com

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