This, ladies and gentlemen, is a male model. You can tell he's a male model because he looks like he belongs in a museum, he isn't smiling, and he has a six-pack.
And here I am, a perfectly normal 24-year-old guy who lives and works in L.A. I'm at a museum in this picture... but I certainly don't belong in one.
But what would happen if I, an average Joe, attempted to live the life of a male model? Never one to leave a glaring question unanswered, I set out to attempt the unthinkable: walk in a fashion show as a male model, and live to tell the tale.
The first step in my journey to modeldom: I submitted a picture to Style Fashion Week (L.A.'s fashion week) so they knew what I *really* looked like. NO CATFISHING ALLOWED.
My PR contact for the show seemed really excited that I was over 6 feet tall — NO SHORTIES ALLOWED IN FASHION — and she laughed when I asked if I had to be shirtless in my test shot (yes, I did, in fact). Also, taking this picture was really awkward because I had to shoot it RIGHT outside my office across from an all-girls Jewish school. Mazel tov, I guess.
Also, funny story: I asked my friend whose boyfriend is a model for a little advice. Mainly, I wanted to know what he does before big shoots. He responded that his BF might take laxatives the day before a shoot in order to be all ~cleared out~. I wasn't going to do this because a) I'm very regular, thank you very much, and b) the last thing I wanted to happen was to need to go number two right before my modeling breakthrough.
My journey starts with LAFW casting, held at the Biltmore (a FANCY hotel) in Downtown L.A.
Things are off to a rough start when I see a sign for "Model Castnig" and the inner editor in me seethes, but I let it slide — pretty people can get away with bad spelling, I guess. I walked down to the ballroom, and there it was: a line of ridiculously attractive guys and girls, all really tall. I swallowed the lump in my throat, and hopped in line. IT HAD BEGUN.
1. No surprises here, everyone was really good-looking.
The massive line of potential models was filled with a LOT of pretty people. I mean, duh: That's like finding white bros at a frat party — it's bound to happen. But still, seeing THIS many beautiful people in one place at the same time was a little jarring.
I wasn't shocked to find that the female models were all REALLY tall — like, human-skyscraper tall — but the guys didn't seem that big in comparison; I'm 6'1" and I really didn't feel out of place. That being said, one of my fellow male models said you could guess who was signed to an agency by the fact they were over 6'2". After he said that, I definitely tried to stand up a little straighter.
But what was REALLY surprising to me was I didn't feel like I was the least attractive person in casting. There were a fair amount of people you wouldn't peg as professional models. In any case, thanks for the good genes, Mom and Dad.
2. A LOT of people want to be a model, and the modeling world is a small place!
Basically, casting for LAFW was like some nightmare version of America's Next Top Model.
The line to be cast snaked from the back of the ballroom all the way out into the lobby, and this was the second of two days of casting.
The guys I was in line with seemed to be pretty chill with one another, even though it seemed like they might be competing for the same gigs. Apparently, since they all look different (but are still ridiculously attractive), they're not really competing with one another (i.e., a blonde and brunette pair of guys wouldn't be after the same spot in a show). BUT the girls can apparently get really competitive.
Also, I asked if they hear a lot of Zoolander jokes and I'm happy to report back that yes, they do.
3. There's no beating around the bush: You're basically there to show off.
Even if you attend casting, you're NOT guaranteed a spot in LAFW; therefore, everyone was fighting for a spot to walk! You first had to take your test shots, then you lined up to do a practice walk. All the while, an entire row of designers, casting agents, and PR people are lined up against the back wall, lit'rally sizing you up. After you're done with your practice walk, you stop by and talk with each of them, and they'll let you know if they're interested or not. It's sort of like speed dating from hell (complete with loud, awful dance music being played by a DJ; I think I heard "I'm an Albatraoz," like, a million times), but where only one of the people is trying to impress the other.
4. Right away, you realize there is some serious technique involved in walking down a runway!
During my practice walk, I REALLY concentrated on staying in step with the other models so I didn't stand out as a complete n00b, and also not smiling because male models never smile DUH.
Then after I did my practice walk, I talked with all the designers in the back row. There, I also met with a REAL model who also was helping run the event. I asked her to level with me: How did I REALLY do on my walk? She said I was "average" (being average never felt so good) and then proceeded to give me some pointers.
Here's how to #nail your runway strut:
— Don't drag your feet.
— Push your shoulders back, but not too far back.
— Stand up straight, DUH. Slouching is never sexy.
— Don't just have a blank look on your face — RELAX the facial muscles. You kind of have to look a little severe. Like someone took the last slice of pizza without asking, so you're scowling the rest of the day.
— At the end of the runway, pause for three seconds and give two "looks" or poses. TBH, I just decided to put my hands in my pockets and it seemed to work for me.
And that's how you walk like Tyra.
My show was Sunday night, but I had to prep for it all weekend.
Everything about fashion seems to happen, like, really fast. Seriously, everyone in fashion needs a lesson in time management. On Saturday afternoon, I was called downtown for a "fitting." What REALLY ended up happening was I was introduced to the designer, he looked at me, and told me I would be fitted right before the show tomorrow. When you're a model, you have to be pretty flexible with your schedule.
On Sunday, I headed back downtown where the venue for LAFW was — but not before receiving some final words of advice from my mom. I told her I was walking as a model that day — she thought it was pretty funny — and she let me know that I "better not trip." THANKS FOR THE SUPPORT, MOM!
5. Everything is super-duper fancy, including the porta-potties.
This is what the porta-potty looked like at LAFW. THE PORTA-POTTY. Like, I legit thought I was in Versailles or something, the porta-potty was that classy. Also, everyone is dressed really fancy at fashion week. And they drink fancy drinks! Way to keep it 100, fashion week.
6. A lot of work goes into making the models look THIS good.
You would think being a professional hottie doesn't take a lot of work, but it in fact DOES.
The first thing I did when I got to the show on Sunday — well, the first thing I did after I peed for the first of many times — was go through makeup. I had two women apply makeup to me (all the other models had just one, so maybe I was special? Or I just needed a lot more work done than everyone else LOL) and I got really excited when I realized they were "doing that contour thing" that the Kardashians are famous for.
After I went through makeup, I went over to the hair department, where my hair was styled and slicked back. TBH I was obsessed with how cool my hair looked slicked back, but I wasn't a fan of the makeup. It made my face look a little too pristine — like, almost like Photoshop IRL — but you learn pretty quickly as a model you're not there for yourself, you're there to be a prop for the designer.
But perhaps most surprising of all, I learned that you need makeup EVERYWHERE. Including your abs. Yup, I saw guys with makeup being applied to their six-packs. What a time to be alive!
SEE! I wasn't kidding about the abs makeup.
7. Models are people — ridiculously good-looking people, but still people!
In my hours of downtime, I got to spend some time talking with my fellow LAFW models. I say "some time" because a few of them seemed a little cliquey and/or too quiet to talk to me, and I was warned by a co-worker who used to model to not bother the other models if they didn't want to talk. So I didn't.
But those I did talk to were engaging and eager to share their knowledge and stories of how they broke into the industry. Several of the female models helped guide me through what the walk-through (the practice show) would be like. As for where they came from, one guy just happened to be discovered on Instagram by a casting agent; he was new to the scene, but was giving modeling a full-time try. Another one of the male models also acted and danced — he said he was an extra in one of Kesha's music videos — and was just dabbling in modeling. He ALSO swam and ran track in college (that explained his body, I guess). Talk about being talented!
Anyway, long story short: Some models are friendly, some aren't! And like us regular folk, everyone has a different story.
8. You will be waiting around. Like, for HOURS.
I arrived on the day of the show at 3 p.m. and went through hair and makeup pretty quickly. There was a walk-through that lasted about 45 minutes... And then the waiting began. Like, lots of waiting. Our show started a little after 9, so there was a period of several hours where there was nothing to do except sit around and also pee a lot, because all I consumed backstage was the free lemonade they had (there was also *SOME* food, but I was nervous about being bloated for the show, so I passed).
9. You better be OK with being naked in front of a ton of people.
There were no changing rooms backstage, so I saw a lot of boob and butt — it was sort of like being in an HBO show — because everyone was changing as fast as possible. I didn't have to get naked, because all of my looks required underwear. Like most people, my real job requires me to wear clothes — I couldn't roll up to the BuzzFeed offices in my briefs, because most of my co-workers wouldn't be here for that. But when you're a model, being comfortable with your body and showing some skin is just part of the job!
10. As soon as you see your outfits, you realize there's a difference between "fashion" and what you wear on a daily basis.
The line I walked for was Heterophobia, which is run by Finnish designer Antti Asplund. All of the clothes he designs are gender-neutral. Basically, the aesthetic is sort of Hunger Games chic where Katniss AND Peeta could wear the same outfit and President Snow would let them get away with it.
Also, these clothes seemed more like art projects than something you would pick up at the mall. Like, they were REALLY what we mean when we say "statement piece." I wore clam-digger shorts with HUGE pockets in the front and these crazy red pants, to name a few of my ~zanier~ clothing items — and I was dressed conservatively for the show. To top it off, we were supposed to wear these goggles on the runway that you COULDN'T see through, AND these free-form rubber boots that were really glorified trash bags you buckled around your ankles. I'm sure I have, like, a gross foot infection from them, they were so gnarly. But it's all in the name of FASHION!!!
11. Once the show starts, all the careful prep work goes right out the door.
As soon as the show starts, everything goes to complete shit. There were 16 models in my show, but nearly 40 looks, so everyone had to wear two or three outfits. My first "look" was scheduled to be #13 in the show, and the girl immediately in front of me was supposed to be changed into her SECOND outfit before she went ahead of me. Seriously, who thought that was a good idea?
But, such was my luck, she wasn't ready to go on time AND I was missing a pair of gloves I was supposed to wear for my walk. Being the total n00b I was, I didn't know what to do. Then one of the male models SCREAMED at me to just get on stage and walk, and the two guys in charge of sending the models off on stage didn't protest (even thought they should have been in charge?) so I just did it.
The funny thing was, all that chaos doesn't matter: The audience cannot see what is going on backstage, and they don't know if something goes wrong. They didn't know about the messed-up order, or the fact my gloves were missing.
12. Walking down the runway is a RUSH.
As soon as you set foot on stage, all the chaos of backstage is forgotten. You've got ONE job, and that's to strut down the runway and sell the outfit you're wearing. You have hundreds of eyes on you, and are walking toward a gaggle of photographers at the end of the runway. And they're there to see YOU — or rather, what you're wearing. The rush of adrenaline is incredible.
13. But after you get offstage you have to change REALLY fast.
As soon as you got off the right side of the stage, you had to sprint around to the changing area to get into your next look. I had to change outfits twice, and it was PANDEMONIUM. I had three — THREE! — people helping me get dressed. Why can't that be a thing in real life? One would help with my top, one with my pants/shorts, and the last one would put on my boots. I had to have it done in about a minute, because I had to line up right away to go back onstage. Really, there wasn't even time to screw up because you were moving so fast.
The closest thing I can compare it to is running (or swimming a race). You're scrambling around to get ready, you get to the starting block — or in this case, the moment right before you hit the runway — and then you just GO for it. Although I will say, speaking from experience, you look a lot more fabulous at the end of a runway show than you do all sweaty and gross after running a half-marathon.
14. Of course, you have to end your runway experience with a meal from In-N-Out.
Or at least that's how I roll.
15. But most important of all, I know I won't be quitting my day job to be a model anytime soon.
Modeling is hard. The hours are long, and it's surprisingly boring. It also seems kind of lonely — you might see the same people over and over again, but at the end of the day, you're a hired gun who is there for yourself and only yourself. Yes, there's a rush when you walk the runway — but that lasts all of 45 seconds, and you have hours and hours of prep beforehand. It's a hard job, and SO much more goes into it than just standing there and looking pretty (trust me, I already had that part down pat).
But I also was reminded of how important it is to be feeling your look. Not to get all hokey on y'all, but it felt amazing to look amazing. I'm no Greek god with an eight-pack, but walking in the show reminded me confidence is like hair gel: A little goes a long way.
And at the end of the day, shouldn't that be what fashion is all about — looking and feeling better than you ever did before?