It’s a crowded but stylish affair as VMAN captures various fashion groups for spring: Eccentricity, Good Sports, Razor Sharp, and New Classic. Familiar faces from …Ben Hill is an elegant vision as he covers the March/April 2017 issue of Departures. The top model links up with photographer Arnaldo Anaya-Lucca. Demonstrating …
I was 220 pounds at the time—I was a big guy—so I decided that I was going to have to get in model shape to get signed to a fashion agency and to start making money like these other guys. I lost a lot of weight, and then I went to Next Models in New York and they suggested I try shooting down in Miami. They were my first real agency and I spent a season down there where I met the iconic photographer Bruce Weber.It seemed like it was a lot harder to get into the business at that time as standards for models were quite different than they are today. The industry has changed quite a bit. Social media has pulled back the curtain and the mystery and allure has turned imagery into content intended for likes and not imagination and creativity.
I think, particularly now, modeling is very much an aspirational career. If we go as far back as America’s Next Top Model it planted a seed and shaped what people thought modeling was.
I was born in Athens, Georgia and I grew up in a small town called Washington, a lot of people don’t know that, they think I’m from Sugar Hill where my mother lives. I return as often as possible to spend time with her and my family when I can. Unfortunately the pandemic over the past year has meant less visitation as I did not want to risk their health.That’s a very healthy and balanced outlook to have. Models are often treated as a commodities— particularly the females—there is no concern for their well-being. It wasn’t something I thought to do whatsoever. I wanted to be an actor, and I am still studying toward that goal. I did the college thing—I went to Augusta State University—and then I did an apprenticeship program at Georgia Tech when I was working for an electrical company as an industrial electrician. I started off doing an engineering program before realizing it wasn’t for me. After doing that, I picked up everything I had and moved to New York to try and become an actor. When I shot Abercrombie I realized this was something that I had potential to succeed with. Right after that I booked the Polo Blue fragrance campaign with Doug Pickett and Lonneke Engel. They didn’t run my images but it was a blessing in disguise because I did the Chaps campaign right after that before things started to slow down for me.I was optioned for so many projects but I just couldn’t seem to get a confirmation, it was really strange. I am not a person that ever gives up; if I start something I’m going to finish it. I had agents telling me I was too this or I was too that and I discovered it was because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings or scare me away. I have heard umpteen excuses, but I believed in myself and I found a few agents around the world I could trust my career with and get positive direction from.I made friends with the locals, and I had two roommates who were modeling, one of them was Swedish and the other was South African. While I was taking acting classes and auditioning, I noticed that they would go out and they would talk about how they made enough money in one day to last for six months while I was beating the streets. Eventually I put acting on the back burner, and the jobs are few and far between. I needed to make money so that’s how it started. I called all the agencies that I could find and started going to open calls. Quite a few people turned me down until two very commercial agencies took me on but I wasn’t under contract as they wanted to see how I did first.I went to see him for another project he was casting. It was stressful for me because I was told that he could make or break your career at the time. I met him and I got along great with him—he is a dog lover, as am I—and he booked me for Abercrombie, and things took off from there.The thing is, I always used to tell myself that I can hear these things, and I can do these things, and the fact is—if it is a business—then it is my business and I am the one that is self-employed and ultimately the responsibility lies with me. I started helping a lot of other models as well by sharing my experiences. The funny thing is that I was actually really good at giving advice to the other models, and putting them at ease, and getting their confidence up. Then I decided to apply all the advice that I was giving to all these guys to myself. I did, and miraculously I started to work again.