Andy Nelson 1992

Andy Nelson poses in line with beliefs A MODEL IN MANY WAYS
March 15, 1992| By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

First, the face:

At a glance, it's more a study in geometry than a series of features. The jawbone as angular as an isosceles triangle; the faint lines etched like graph paper around blue eyes; an aristocratic nose, long with a squarish tip; and setting it all off, a nest of blond curls.

Put all these together and you have the face that has launched a thousand ads -- clothing, liquor and cologne -- and made its owner, Andy Nelson Jr., one of the most celebrated local models.

From the pages of GQ to the runways of Giorgio Armani, the man with the chiseled good looks and easygoing style has worn everything from tuxedos to torn jeans for the camera. In the process, he's earned a reputation for being a professional in a world of prima donnas. And that has brought its reward: an annual six-figure salary.

Brand: Miguel Cruz
Year: Fall/Winter 1986
Model: Andy Nelson
Ph: Robert Mapplethorpe

But behind the money-making visage is not a glamour guy but a devoutly religious 38-year-old man who now refuses to do liquor ads or to accept assignments that keep him from his wife and two daughters for long.

His decision raises a question: Can a man with scruples make it in the modeling business?

To ask Andy Nelson Jr. that you have to travel far, past haystacks, rolling hills and grazing cows to a small white cottage he rents on a horse farm in Glen Arm.

His wife, Christine, and daughters, Natalie, 3, and Olivia, 17 months, come tumbling out of the back door dressed in floral cotton outfits. Cats and dogs roam around the picnic table, and the sun shines for the first time in nearly a week.

An ad team couldn't have created a more idyllic image, but what's being sold here? Despite making a living from his looks, in person Mr. Nelson doesn't try to impress. Words like "ain't" and "gotta" pepper his speech. His gray trousers are ripped at the seam. And sure, he'll show you pictures of himself taken by celebrity photographers Francesco Scavullo and the late Robert Mapplethorpe, but what he really values is a portrait of his father, Andy Nelson, a former defensive back for the Baltimore Colts football team.

"Modeling is a business," he says. "Most people think that all you have to have is an interesting face and somehow it's like easy street, but there are so many people like that. You have to work at it."

Aside from his distinctive features, Mr. Nelson has been praised for his physique -- a 6-foot, 1-inch, 180-pound frame he keeps toned through daily exercise -- and his ability to vary his looks.

"He can be a businessman. He can be a rough-looking, outdoors-type person. He can be slick, very stylized, and he can be all-American," says Ken Eggerl, vice president of 3 West Casting, a local modeling agency that represents him.

Mr. Nelson never intended to live his life in front of the camera. Growing up the eldest of seven in Towson, he planned to play pro football like his father.

Andy's father saw no early signs his son would choose modeling. "He was a skinny little fella," he says. "He wasn't pretty or anything like that. He kind of grew into it."

During his teen-age years, Andy "drank a few beers, had a battle or two, but I never had to go get him out of jail," he adds.

After graduating from the University of South Carolina in 1976 with a degree in physical education, Mr. Nelson tried out for the New York Jets and quickly realized he lacked the speed for the big league.

He moved on to managing a chain of local fitness centers, a profession that led indirectly to modeling. A club member who worked in advertising asked him to pose for a hospital ad.

"I said, 'No man, I ain't going to do that' . . . I assumed that all [male models] were gay. After doing some research, I found that wasn't the case," he says.

He never seriously considered switching careers until the fitness chain went bankrupt, and he found himself jobless at 29.

Not everyone liked his decision to try modeling. "My dad wasn't too thrilled about it, but then I showed him a few paychecks," says Mr. Nelson, who routinely makes $150 an hour.

Brand: Miguel Cruz
Year: Spring/Summer 1987
Model: Andy Nelson
Ph: Robert Mapplethorpe

He eventually signed on with the prestigious Elite Agency but only after promising to spend a year in Europe building his portfolio.

"Europe is almost like a farm team," he says. "When I got to Milan, it was full of models -- kids from California looking for a wave they couldn't find. I was a little older and I had a little more savvy."

During that year, Mr. Nelson also made another decision about his life: He wanted to marry his girlfriend Christine, whom he had met years before at a fitness club.

"I had a big crush on him," recalls Ms. Nelson, who grew up in Highlandtown. "I always dated . . . truck drivers. They weren't anything like him."

While he was attracted to her, he was intrigued by her traditional values, particularly her interest in born-again Christianity.

She persuaded him to attend services with her, but it wasn't until he lost his job at the fitness club that he became serious about it. "During that period when I was without work, I developed a relationship with Jesus Christ," he says.

He now attends Bible study groups and leads his family in regular prayers. An ideal day begins with a morning devotion, he says.

But at times his faith has been in conflict with his profession. Two years ago, he started declining liquor and cigarette advertising. "I don't think it's wrong to have a beer or a cigarette, but . . . I want to try to be an example that I can live without it," he says.

Although he has graced the pages of Esquire, Playboy and Men's Health, he admits that the decision has damaged his career. "I take it on the chin for that. At my age that's what I should be doing. Those [ads] are the home-run balls," he says.

Mr. Eggerl agrees: "He loses a couple bookings over it. Andy's now getting in that range of the Marlboro man."

Yet Jan Gonet, president of Nytro, a New York modeling agency, has mixed feelings about his client's decision. "There's a positive and a negative side to it," he says. "The negative, of course, is you don't get put up for the big money-making campaigns. You '' have to work harder to make it. The positive side is he can look at himself in the mirror in the morning. I have to respect that."

His wife supports his decision, too. Since becoming active in their church -- Cub Hill Bible Presbyterian -- his personality has changed dramatically, she says.

"He was really wild before," she says. "His personality was different. He was arrogant. . . . He wasn't faithful to me when we were dating."

Now family is such a priority that Mr. Nelson tailors his bookings around his family commitments, sometimes accepting less prestigious mall fashion shows instead of New York assignments.

Spending the last nine years modeling hasn't changed him, his family says. He rarely tells his parents what he's working on, so they are often surprised to open magazines and see him.

And his own taste in clothing is still less than stellar, his wife LTC says. She shakes her head when recalling how he once appeared on a talk show wearing pants that ended at his ankles.

"He's really a country bumpkin turned model," says Mr. Eggerl. "He's not part of the model community. They all stick close together, and he doesn't hang out with them. He does a show and goes home to his wife and kids."

He and his wife tried living in New York briefly after they married six years ago. "We had no grass, no backyard. We had a little 450-square-foot place, and that was it," says Ms. Nelson.

Since returning to Maryland, they have been unable to sell their New York condominium, which has put a crimp in plans to build on the 4 acres they own in Glen Arm.

As age 40 nears, Mr. Nelson admits he's looking toward his last photo shoot. He works occasionally as a personal fitness trainer. But most of his spring and summer months are devoted to Andy Nelson's Southern Pit Barbecue at Valley View Farms, a carry-out and catering business he and his father run from April to December. They recently began selling the family's 80-year BAMA barbecue sauce and basting dip to area gourmet shops and are negotiating to open a restaurant.

But surely there's still some place Andy Nelson Jr. longs to see his face one day.

He looks over at his daughter, Natalie, sitting on her mother's lap, and smiles.

"Yeah," he says, "over my daughter's mantle in her own house someday."


Occupation: Model.

Born: Dec. 14, 1953; Memphis, Tenn.

Education: B.A. in physical education from the University of South Carolina, 1976.

Current home: Glen Arm.

Family: Married since 1986 to Christine; two daughters, Natalie, 3; Olivia, 17 months.

Hobbies: Exercising and listening to arch-conservative radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh.

How he deters female fans: "I just show them my wedding ring and show them pictures of my kids."

If he didn't look like Andy Nelson Jr., he'd like to look like: "Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's got a big smile and big muscles."


One of Pat's Brothers said...

Thanks for the photos and articles on Andy Nelson...he's long been one of my favorites!

One of Pat's Brothers said...

And I never knew he posed for Mapplethorpe!

Johec said...

strange combo, I mean, the article says that he is very conservative and religious, Mapplethorpe was the opposite way around, image the scene ;) :-o

He was veeeeeeeery handomse, I wonder how he looks now at 57.

One of Pat's Brothers said...

Guess that's all it takes to lure you away of the evils of Robert Mapplethorpe and his den of homosexuals...the love of a good, God-fearin' woman!


Johec said...


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