torstar file photo
With all Jay Manuel has on his plate, it’s amazing he can maintain that metallic coif which requires frequent bleaching.
“In some of my contracts I’m not allowed to go back to my natural colour,” Manuel explained. “It’s become my calling card.”
Manuel is the dynamic host of Canada’s Next Top Model. He also hosts the makeover series Style Her Famous, is creative director/producer and executive producer on America’s Next Top Model, and works for E!
It doesn’t stop there. There’s his new makeup collection, Manual Override, with products designed to enhance the makeup women already own. The line premiered on the Shopping Channel on the weekend and is scheduled to hit stores in the fall (manualoverridecosmetics.com).
He is also an inspirational speaker, visiting women’s shelters to share his story from student in a wheelchair to TV star.
Manuel was born 34 years ago in Springfield, Ill. The family moved to Toronto when Manuel was two. By high school, his passion for fashion was already clear. “My bedroom was covered in magazine ads and I lived to watch FashionTelevision on Saturdays,” he says.
After high school, Manuel thought he might try pre-med. His father is a kidney specialist who lives in Thornhill. But Manuel had been singing in the Mendelssohn Choir and went to New York to audition as an opera singer. He did so well, he moved there at 19.
Then Manuel enrolled at NYU, and was focused on getting good grades. “Then one morning I woke up and I couldn’t walk.”
Manuel was diagnosed with sacroiliitis, an inflammation of the sacroiliac joints, which connect the spine and pelvis. “It was completely debilitating... That was the turning point for me, accepting and pursuing my dream.”
Once he was walking again, there was no holding him back. The makeup artistry he had been doing as a sideline blossomed into a full-on career after he primped Pavarotti for an album cover. In 2001, he helped Iman launch her cosmetics line, and when Banks debuted Top Model in 2002, Manuel became the show’s makeup artist and photo director. The next season, Manuel art directed Top Model’s photo shoots and graduated to producer.