Matt Collins, the first male Supermodel

PEOPLE Magazine, 1978
Moody Moves the Merchandise: This Look Has Put Male Model Matt Collins at the Very Top
By Suzy Kalter

Matt Collins makes $1,000 a day for glaring icily into camera lenses. Though that's only half of Cheryl Tiegs' day rate, Collins at 29 is still the highest-paid male model in the U.S., a business he practically revolutionized with his celebrated scowl. With an income of $100,000 a year and one poster out and two more on the way (from the same folks who brought us Farrah in the bathing suit), Collins has no reason to look crabby—except for the absence of his one true love, a champion thoroughbred named Harreus.

One of five children of a coal executive in Waverly, Pa., Matt was horse-crazy as a kid. At the age of 14, he quit high school and took off for the money-and-manure country of Virginia, where he lived with a horse-owning family who needed riders. "My father said I was wasting my brains," says Collins, who has an IQ of 156.

Touring the horse show circuit in a Mercedes (in his early 20s, he was making $50,000 a year as a rider-trainer), Collins encountered a brown gelding named Harreus during the '74 season. "Nobody could ride him but me," Collins says wistfully. "He was smarter than any horse I've ever known." After they had spent that season together, the horse's California owners sold him to the Japanese government for its own Olympic team.

PlayGirl January 1981, Matt Collins and Patty Hansen

Collins' plans to start a stable with Harreus were dashed. Still brooding at the time of the National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden, Matt was spotted by model agency owner Wilhelmina, who checked out his sulky cheekbones and promised to make him a star. "I thought she was just another groupie," Collins says. Long pestered by women who find him gorgeous, Collins professes to think of himself as "too thin, with a long neck and a big nose."

He agreed to pose for two months between shows and has been at it for four years now—belligerent for Budweiser, morose for Marlboro, surly for "every shirt you can imagine." He's shared magazine ads with beautiful models like Tiegs, Shelley Hack and René Russo (his favorite) and done his own stunt work in the saddle for 10 commercials. The posters are aimed, as he describes it, at "the ironing board set" and emphasize the man and not what he's shilling. "If they sell," Collins says, "it will tell me that this terribly frustrating, degrading business of modeling has been worth it, I wasn't just another dummy standing there in the clothes."

From his portrait on the cover of Charles Hix's best-selling male beauty book, Looking Good, and his ride-on role as Rudolph Valentino in The World's Greatest Lover, Collins, in fact, has already been noticed as more than just a well-stuffed shirt. Because of the publicity blitz, he received 30,000 fan letters in one month. Now he takes acting lessons and has already turned down minor roles in the soaps and TV series plus a seven-year contract with Universal. Last year he signed with showbiz packager Allan (Grease) Carr, who sold Columbia Pictures Television the idea of a sitcom based on Collins' life. A pilot called, with typical Hollywood logic, Million Dollar Smile is being readied; Edward Albert is up for the role of stable bum turned top model.

Collins, who has never married and does not date anyone seriously, lives alone in a tiny Beverly Hills cottage that he's doing over in "bunkhouse chic"—leather furniture, horse blankets and smartly framed pictures of equine chums, mainly Harreus himself. "I love a dumpy house," Matt explains, "and I think living alone is a must for everyone. All I have is live-in dust."

Philosophically antifashion, he wears only old pants, shirts and hacking jackets, and no underwear except when working. He shies away from beauty and health regimens of all kinds, including exercise. "I wash my face now and then, but I don't have to watch my figure." (The only dish he can cook is meat loaf.)

Since his needs are simple, Collins' considerable fortune goes into East Coast real estate. "I'm wondering," he says, "what I'll do with the poster money." Up to now all extra funds pay for legal maneuvers to buy Harreus back from Japan. He rides on weekends, but hasn't yet bought any horses for the stable he still dreams of. "It will all be a perfect life," he says, "if I can just get Harreus back."


more about Matt:

I don't know what happened with him, I've just read that he died in the 80's.

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