Michael and Joel 95

People Magazine


Scores of women, no doubt, have pictures of nearly naked model Michael Bergin taped up in various spots in their offices and homes. But nobody has a better reason than his mom, Lorraine,
who has given Michael's famous 1994 Calvin Klein underwear ad a place of honor in her kitchen. "Just like any mother would," she says proudly, "I put my children's work on the refrigerator."

Well, better on it than in it. Bergin doesn't like food analogies. "I don't consider myself beefcake," he says. "I want to be skinny, lean and cut." With a little help from a mostly low-fat diet ("Cheese is evil, but I love it," he says), his wish has been granted. At 6'2'' and 180 lbs., Bergin has the looks clients love. When he snagged a lucrative contract with Calvin Klein last year, he also won Calvin's beautiful publicist Carolyn Bessette, 28, whom he dated until she hooked up with another buff body, John F. Kennedy Jr.

Of course, managing quadriceps and biceps is easier than managing love affairs, and Bergin has been building his body since high school in Naugatuck, Conn., where he made both the
varsity baseball and basketball teams. At the University of Connecticut, where he majored in marketing, Bergin took up weight lifting and, he says, "got huge and cut" in just one
year. After graduation, when he discovered that designers like their models thin, Bergin started running. Now, he says, "I change my body when I have to," depending on the demands of

These days he is also branching into acting. He has appeared in CBS's Central Park West and snagged a bit part in the forthcoming Merchant-Ivory film The Proprietor. "I want to be
viewed as a person, as Michael Bergin as a whole," he says. Which is at least as good as the sum of his parts.


His boyhood years on a 60-acre quarter horse ranch in Indianola, Iowa, sound like a Ralph Lauren fantasy. He had his own pony, and everybody wore cowboy hats. Still, 22-year-old West looks back on those days as anything but idyllic. "I was a sensitive kid, and I wasn't really into the lifestyle," says West, whose family owned a rodeo arena. "I didn't like horses, and the rodeo clowns hung out at the house, drinking beer."

Adds his mother, veterinary technician Jan Gipple, who was divorced from his father, Rob West, in 1989: "It was real important for Joel [below, at 5, with little brother Jake] not to be labeled 'country' or a hick." Instead, at Indianola High School, West recalls that he created a different image: "Total prep. Tight Guess? jeans, penny loafers, nice plaid shirts and the woven belt with the end hanging down." By the time he enrolled in Buena Vista College in Storm Lake, Iowa, he had grown into his oversize lips and almond-shape eyes. With encouragement from a local photographer, West left school in 1994 and headed for New York City, where he landed runway work and print campaigns for such designers as Calvin Klein and Versace. Now he has fame, fortune--and the underlying basics. At the end of every modeling gig, he says, "I always take the underwear and socks."

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