How I Did It: Catwalk Powerhouse J. Alexander Talks Fashion Industry Success
Dubbed the “Queen of the Catwalk,” J. Alexander aka Miss J is known as the outspoken and fierce runway coach from America’s Next Top Model. The man who began his career as a model for Jean Paul Gaultier, eventually transitioned into a top-notch runway coach, schooling top models Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell, and Real Housewives of Atlanta star Cynthia Bailey. His career has taken him all over the globe casting and coaching models for fashion houses and designers including Chanel, Bill Blass and Valentino, as well as scouting for model agencies such as Elite.
Just in time for this year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, BlackEnterprise.com caught up with J. Alexander to talk about what keeps him passionate, his evolving career, and his advice for up-and-comers on how to reach longevity in the fashion industry.
BlackEnterprise.com: How did you break out of the pack and discover a career in fashion and ultimately entertainment?
J. Alexander: Hmm … I just jumped on the No.13 bus to the No. 6 Train at Castle Hill Ave. I didn’t want to just live and hang out in the South Bronx where I grew up. I liked the style of the people living in Manhattan. I would go down to the city during the day. I thought there was more opportunity in Manhattan; I also thought it would be cool to dress like them. I knew I had to be around them, and place myself in a fashion environment to get inspired. What I could not afford, I was able to get ideas to create similar looks for less.
How did you become a runway coach?
I knew I had something that was helpful to the new girls just starting in the business. My then agent, Gerald Marie, said I should get paid, which was fine by me, even though I was happy to give help to the girls for free.
What is a typical day like for you, and how do you combat associated stress of such a fast-paced industry?
A typical day— if not working— is doing nothing! T.V., Internet, talking on the phone with friends. When working, I deal with stress by preparing for whatever it is I’m doing that day, such as looking at bullet points on the subject we are filming [for ANTM]. I also do my own hair and makeup and, of course, I make my own outfits. So while doing those things, I try and relax and take “me” time and not let too much bother me.
What keeps you passionate and wanting to get up every morning?
That I might learn or see something new that day, and realizing I’m blessed that I can still see and hear beauty to inspire myself and perhaps others.
What have been some of your biggest career high points?
One of the highs was winning a Teen Choice Award in 2009. Also, being in a place to pay my bills on time is a high (laughs).
How have you expanded the Miss J brand in the past five years? And can you tell us what new projects you’re working on?
I have expanded slowly and deliberately. I am not that person who wants to make a quick dollar saying hello at the club. So I started with my book Follow the Model: Miss J’s Guide to Unleashing Presence, Poise and Power (Gallery Books; $21.99) so people could learn about my life. Recently, I did a major campaign for Fruche Yogurt in Australia. And new projects … Well, for starters, doing this interview for BlackEnterprise.com is what I’m currently working on now (laughs).