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October 30, 2014
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Book Club: Follow The Model
Miss J's Guide to unleashing presence, poise, and power

Fans of the former runway coach from America’s Next Top Model will absolutely love this book. The tone, personality, and conversational ease with which it’s read is SO Miss J, you can practically hear him saying everything with a cocked, bejewelled eyebrow.

Since the list of things I hated about this book is so short, I’ll start with that. The cover art. Not because it’s terrible, quite the contrary. It just really pains me that I’ll probably never take a photograph while in heels (or out of them) that will look as good as this six-foot-four man with bare, sinewy legs and a small bouffant. Sigh.

Moving on, the book starts off by going through the life of J. Alexander, recounting the terribly tragic demise of six siblings and his mother in the first chapter so when he tells us that he’s grown accustomed to loss, you believe it. Becoming the fashion presence he is now took years of experimental hairstyles, creating couture knockoffs on his grandmother’s sewing machine, and partying nights away at Studio 54. But don’t worry, Miss J walks us through each and every experience. 

In between stories of racism in the industry and working overseas with girls who could barely walk a foot in heels, J. breaks up the intensity with amazing tips and tidbits for anyone aspiring to join, work, or even exist near the fashion realm. These tips pop up everywhere, from boxes placed in the middle of a chapter to tiny, footnote-sized writing at the bottom of every new chapter page.

Examples:

-Olive oil is great for softening your cuticles

-Sugar mixed with baby oil makes a great homemade skin scrub

-For extra-thick lashes, dip your finger in loose powder and gently rub it into your lashes

One of my favourite parts of the book (and a page I have constantly bookmarked) is a boxed-in list entitled: The Fashionista’s Pocket Pronunciation Guide. One of the worst sins Miss J believes can be committed (besides being rude to salespeople) is mispronouncing a designer/style icon’s name… especially if you work in fashion. The A-Z phonetic cheat sheet has 39 names that include Balenciaga (bah-len-see-AH-gah), Isaac Mizrahi (EYE-zac miz-RAH-hee) and Ungaro (OON-ga-ro). Realized that not everyone is as well-versed in the names and personalities of everyone in the industry is exactly what makes the superstar seem so down-to-earth and relatable.

Of course, he hasn’t always been such a bright star. Miss J. recounts stories of growing up amongst hardships, drugs, AIDS, racism and being outed by his mother (in an actually very cute and supportive way). But, as he told us early on, J. doesn’t dwell on the bad for very long. Humourous comebacks and lessons in civility are aplenty and keep the book fun, light and truly enjoyable.

Come for the wit and outrageous personality of the author, stay for the pleasant surprises. But beware: Black and white photos of J.’s mother, his own design creations, and modelling on numerous catwalks pepper every few pages and might make lesser females jealous. 

____

Bianca Teixeira writes about style for Toronto Standard. Follow her on Twitter at @BeeLauraTee.

For more, follow us on Twitter @TorontoStandard and subscribe to our newsletter.

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