1987 New York Times article

Male Models Follow Their Dreams to Paris
By GORDON MOTT, the New York Times
Published: Wednesday, September 30, 1987

Everywhere you turn in France, the men selling European products in magazines and on television are Americans. Darkly handsome Joe Gogol of Cleveland shows off suits sewn in Italy. Blond, sun-burnished Christopher Jacobs of Coral Gables, Fla., touts washing machines made in the Netherlands. Wavy-haired Troy Alexander of Laguna Beach, Calif., escapes from spies in Hong Kong by paying bribes with Danish beer.

Joe Gogol, modelscomposites.com

The demand for the tan, muscled bodies and the bright, straight white teeth of the ''American look'' is so overwhelming that men's modeling agencies in Paris say that Americans constitute more than 80 percent of their rosters.

However, for every Joe Gogol, Christopher Jacobs or Troy Alexander, all of whom earn in excess of $100,000 a year, there are dozens of young American models who scratch out a living. Some go deeply into debt in the hope that their big break will be the next fashion magazine casting or television commercial audition or try-on for a top designer's collection.

Or they seek out extravaganzas like the grand parade at the second annual International Fashion Festival, held this month, when 100 male models joined 880 female models in marching down a specially built runway that stretched two blocks through the plaza of the Palais de Chaillot and down to the Seine.

''Every year, I invite about 100 to 120 American boys to come try it out in France,'' said Paul Hagnauer, the director of the Best One modeling agency, which provided more than 70 male models for the fashion festival's parade. Mr. Hagnauer generally finds the Americans through agencies in the United States. ''I make two trips a year in the United States, looking for young men,'' he said.

Of that group, he said, ''5 each season will do extremely well, 5 or 10 will earn a good living and the rest will just survive or can say they have visited Paris.''

Representatives of other modeling agencies estimated that about 500 men find jobs as models in Paris each year. Most of the models already working in Paris have a well-known marketing appeal or a special look, and that makes the life of a newcomer even more difficult.

But new faces are constantly being recruited in the States. The reason is that this is a short-lived, fickle business for young men - a model's average productive career is about five years. The ''American look,'' according to the agencies, is constantly shifting between the blond ''beach boy'' look to a more sophisticated, dark-haired style.

Brad Lee, modelscomposites.com

Bradley Wodiske, who calls himself Brad Lee professionally, told a typical story of how he spent half a year working only three or four times a month. ''It was enough so that I didn't go into debt,'' said Mr. Lee, who used $1,000 in savings as a cushion. By the time he began working regularly, that had dwindled to less than $400.

''It can be a living hell because you sit around and wait, or go from casting to casting,'' said Mr. Lee, who is 25 years old and is from Saratoga, Calif. ''After a while, if you're not working, everything becomes depressing. The rain. The smog. The subway. The people. You miss the beach and the sun. Even television is a bore.''

Mr. Lee said the majority of the men who work as models here arrive with less than $500 in savings to live on. To keep them afloat, he said, the agencies lend them money until they begin working regularly. Most models' initial earnings, he said, go to pay off accumulated debts.

Some agencies require models to purchase a round-trip plane ticket, which is held in reserve, and some rent their models rooms in an agency apartment and bill them for the cost of putting together a portfolio of photographs, or ''book.''

That requires sessions with photographers, hair stylists and makeup artists. Before auditioning for the first job, the newly arrived model can be $1,000 in debt, a sum that ''is very hard to get out from under,'' Mr. Lee said.

Mr. Hagnauer, who makes his models pay their own airfares, said: ''I don't advance them more than 5,000 francs. You can't give them everything. They are like little kids.'' Five thousand francs is about $830. Once the model reaches an agency's debt limit, which can be as high as 10,000 francs, and has not found work, the agency usually re-evaluates his prospects.

''The risk is ours,'' said Jerome Bonnouvrier, the director of the Glamour agency, which has a roster of up to 50 male models in Paris. ''If it doesn't go well, it's on us. We advance the money, and we lose it. It's like the gaming table. You have to know when to quit.''

Catherine Dejoux, a booker at Mr. Bonnouvrier's agency, said the wait usually is not too long. ''You know in the first month whether someone is going to get work,'' she said. ''If they don't, it's likely they will never work.''

Mr. Bonnouvrier admitted that the modeling industry played on the dreams of young men to entice them to come and work in Europe.

''The whole industry is a dream,'' he said. ''But we try to explain that to them. The dream will not happen unless they decide to work at it. It's up to them.''

Mr. Hagnauer said he scrupulously explains the pitfalls to young men who he believes have a good chance to become successful models: ''I'm very picky, very selective, and I help them. It's up to me to help refine their look and put together a book. But ultimately, they are independent, and they have to help themselves.''

''Oh sure, some agencies promise to make them stars or make them a lot of money, but that's a myth,'' he said.

Christopher Jacobs, modelscomposites.com

The myth, however, is truth for some. Mr. Jacobs, 29, told stories about jet-setting weekend parties with Christina Onassis, dancing with Princess Stephanie of Monaco and exotic photo sessions on the beach in Madagascar with models for the French Playboy magazine.

Such success stories attract the likes of Scott Forbes, 20, of York, Pa., who has a broad face and a wide smile. Mr. Forbes receives financial support from his parents, who are counting on his looks as a potentially lucrative investment. ''In one year, I'm going to be one of the top models,'' he said.

Scott Forbes, modelscomposites.com

Money and the jet-set life are only two reasons for young American models to venture abroad. In addition, there are simply more opportunities in Europe, because there are more fashion magazines and couture houses, and there is less competition, since fewer Europeans choose modeling as a career.

Fees are also generally lower, so an unknown face entails less risk for a client. Mr. Lee said his average fee runs about $120 to $150 an hour, compared with rates starting at $250 an hour and up in the States.

In addition, models are essentially salaried employees of the agencies, a system that complies with French tax and labor laws, instead of being independent contractors, as most models in the States are. Models here often get less than half the hourly rate because 20 percent goes to the agency and up to 30 percent to the tax authorities.

But starting out in Paris can translate into a booming career back in the States. ''In general, for American models, European experience is necessary,'' Mr. Bonnouvrier said. ''It is a training center for the modeling business. If you make a name here in Paris, you will have a name in New York.''

Troy Alexander, modelscomposites.com

Mr. Alexander, 27, who works at Best One and has made a half-dozen television commercials in the last year, said his two years in Europe have been worthwhile, especially since he began working immediately after his arrival. ''I've gotten good experience, and I've become more of a professional.'' But why Americans? Irene Silvagni, the European fashion editor for the American edition of Vogue magazine, said: ''They are taller; they are bigger. They have better skin and teeth. They are built different than European men. They are better looking for modeling.''

Mr. Bonnouvrier added that Americans were harder workers and didn't complain as much as some of the top European models.

''Americans play hard,'' he said, ''but when they work, they work hard.''

Photos of male models (NYT/Jean-Luce Hure) (Pp. C1 and C10)

A version of this article appeared in print on Wednesday, September 30, 1987, on section C page 1 of the New York edition.

No comments:

Post a Comment

:)) ;)) ;;) :D ;) :p :(( :) :( :X =(( :-o :-/ :-* :| 8-} :)] ~x( :-t b-( :-L x( =))

Blog Labels

Look for more ads, models or editorials:


New! An advertising database covering more than 20 years of stylish male imagery


"Nineteen" by Daryl Janney

Recent blog Posts

recent Comments