MANILA, Philippines -- Miss Universe judge and fashion photographer Nigel Barker is a big fan of the Filipina beauty.
|Miss Universe judge and fashion photographer Nigel Barker speaks with ABS-CBN News during the red-carpet event held Thursday (Manila time) before the Miss Universe 2012 coronation night in Las Vegas.
It was Barker who asked a Twitter question to the country's contestant Janine Tugonon at the 61st Miss Universe pageant night held at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, when she made it to the Top 5.
The judge, who was picked at random by Tugonon, asked whether the Filipina believes speaking English should be a prerequisite to being Miss Universe.
Tugonon's response -- which gave emphasis on the winning candidate's ability to "influence and inspire" over language -- was widely praised on social media and in some reviews of the pageant.
"As long as your heart wants to serve and you have a strong mind to show people, then you can be Miss Universe," Tugonon said.
The Bataan beauty finished first runner-up to Miss USA Olivia Culpo.
Moments before the Miss Universe coronation night, Barker spoke with ABS-CBN News' Dyan Castillejo on his extensive field work in the Philippines.
Barker, 40, is most popularly known for his judging stint in the long-running reality model search "America's Next Top Model."
"I've been to the Philippines many, many times, I've worked there constantly," said Barker.
The former model and TV host has photographed many Filipina personalities over the years, including model-host Georgina Wilson, former beauty queen Ruffa Gutierrez, TV host and and Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, singer Pops Fernandez and actresses Heart Evangelista, Carla Abellana and Isabelle Daza.
"First of all, Filipinos are some of the most beautiful people I've ever photographed and worked with, and I'll tell you why -- it's that whole mixture of blood that they [have] in the Philippines. It's [also] the personality -- they're some of the most charming," Barker said.
Asked of his personal criteria for a winning Miss Universe contender, the photographer said, "Charm is extremely important, and [being] sweet and kind. Those are very important and are actually very sexy."
"People think that sex appeal is about having a perfect nose, perfect teeth, and a great body, but that gets boring after a while. It does not matter what celebrity or star you are, too," he said.
Surprisingly, Tugonon's response to Barker's question turned out to be an echo of the photographer's own thoughts about the winning factor to become Miss Universe.
"What really makes someone special and stand out is the ability to go past [the physical appeal] and have a heart," Barker said.