How did you become a model? Did you try to become one or were you discovered?
People who try to become models – it doesn’t really work out usually. I got scouted when I was 16 years old, when the whole punk, fashion renewal happened, on St. Marks St. sitting with a bunch of freaks drinking beer, with a foot and a half long mohawk. I was probably the anti-looking-to-model person, the complete opposite. My first modeling job was for V magazine -- it was all about the mohawk.
Describe a typical day in the life of a male model.
I haven’t had a typical day in a long time. But what would be a typical day? You wake up, pick up and call the agency and it could be anything from going to Japan or London that day, that night for a job. You live on the whim of your agency.
You go all around about 4 times a year, twice for the men’s shows, twice for the women’s shows and then you start traveling to Tokyo, to London and hit all the seasons, the campaign seasons… and it’s only if you’re really into that that you can make some real money. But you’re also spending a lot of money traveling.
The Agency doesn’t pick up the tab?
Of course not. Why would they?
I bet if you’re Cindy Crawford they do…
Oh, well, yeah, sure. But, actually, male models don’t get paid as much as females. We make, like, 1/4 as much as women do. I mean, who cares about beautiful men? Women, of course, they love to look at them, but do they really care about them? No.
Oh come on. Make us jealous. Paint a true-life scene for us that noone but a model is ever likely to experience.
I did a shoot for W magazine in the Hamptons. It was the house that Ben Affleck and J-Lo were renting out when they had their thing, and it was 6 girls and 6 guys there for the weekend. We were just drinking the whole time, and the shoot… it was about having a party.
So you guys had a party?
We had a ridiculous party, all weekend, sleeping in the movie theater place they had there. Giselle was there. I mean, I can’t even explain to people about how Giselle’s getting naked every 20 minutes during the shoot.
Is this off the record?
No, it happened. So, of course you can publish it. I mean, I feel bad knowing it. But that’s kind of the most ridiculous part about it. We all hung out together because… well, we just made our stories true by hanging out with each other, all the male model guys. We’re just getting by, but we’re hanging out with these ultra-rich supermodels. And we’re supposed to be their equivalents…
But somehow you don’t feel that way.
You can’t feel that way. We were literally… I mean this was like a vacation for us every time. It was work for them. It was like, you got paid to be shuffled around the world to hang out with beautiful women and that was half your payment right there.
Don’t forget, I was young too, hanging out with Giselle… the best one was Mila Jovavic, she was an unambiguous star to me... But the funny thing about all those girls is they, really, just like to have a really easy good time, not some intense huge party. They’re down to earth people.
You’ve probably done okay with women, no? I know you have a girlfriend, so I don’t want to get you into trouble here, but…
Oh, she was a model too. She’s dealt with this. Yeah, I did great with women. It was… I mean, what else is a 17-year old kid going to do when he gets pushed off to Europe and has no friends and he’s just wandering around all the time? It was great, horrible, and…
It would take at least a day. But, you know… we would hang out in “gangs” of model guys. It was hilarious. You’d waltz into a place… you’re all 6-foot tall plus, all cut, everyone’s from a different country -- you almost slightly freaked out women at first…
But then they’d want to take you home?
Exactly. It’s the strangest experience and it took me a long time to get used to it. I was never a big one night dude, but, hey, you almost get cultured into this, like, okay, you’re going to be here for a month? Get your good month in, then go on to the next place… c’est la vie, you’re never going to see the person again. You get sucked into it.
Ever strike out?
Oh yeah. Of course. Aim high.
How high did you aim?
Always higher than I should.
At what point did you decide to make the move into acting…
I was in some little things when I was really young. But it was always in the back of my mind. When I was having a great time and doing modeling I kind of put it on the back-burner, but then when I was about 20 and I was like, this is getting absolutely ridiculous, I finally just settled down in New York. I love New York. It’s got the best people and the best theatre groups.
Are you taking acting lessons?
I’ve been taking serious method classes for about a year now. It’s a lot of fun, and I took improv comedy classes before that which was also a lot of fun. It opened my eyes to the world of acting. It was really just… having a great time. It’s not as nerve-wracking. Noone’s going to make a million dollars as an improv comedian or actor. It’s just for you and it’s a great way to just feel what it’s all about.
Go to the theatre much?
We always stop by and get the… at 5 o’clock you can get the half-price tickets, for us broke, aspiring…
…making-a-quarter-of-what-the-females-make male models?
I’m doing even worse than that now.
So, did acting have a negative effect on your modeling career?
It had a strange impact, because I had a good relationship with all the photographers, a lot of the designers -- they’re very passionate people about their work too -- and they didn’t necessarily kick on about me doing something for myself. They just want what they want, and if it helps you out then great, but they don’t really care if you put extra effort into being a person rather than a model.
They look at you in more of a confused state, wondering why you’re not absolutely psyched about their show. If you haven’t been waiting to do their show or waiting to talk to them they don’t know what’s going on.
But, yeah, it definitely kind of killed it.
Who has the bigger egos, the photographers or the models?
It varies. I’ve met great people and the worst people of my life too. The ratio is probably about the same. I think everyone who’s doing really well, pretty much, has to have an ego.
Did you ever experience the “dumb model” phenomeneon? You know, where people condescend to you or assume you’re an idiot?
Of course. The drunk sports guy who finds out you’re a model, immediately puts you on the level of… below everything. Everyone. You feel like you’re not worth anything. What you’re doing, even though it is something to a lot of people, it’s worse than stepping in crap for some people. They really look down on it.
Ever feel like a piece of meat?
I just did a job two weeks ago in Central Park on top of, inside of, a four story fragrance bottle for six hour shifts in 100 degree weather. For mediocre money. I felt like a slab of meat being cooked out there. It’s one of those things you just take it in stride and enjoy it.
It was a great time though, we had a bunch of people there.... I mean, that’s one of the parts where, especially now in my career… I remember when I was doing a lot of big name fashion companies, like Prada, I was treated way too well. It’s definitely strange how quickly it can change.
How does that happen?
You get overused. I was the type of person that got typecast for all the Grokker stuff and everything like that, and you know, everyone gets… actually, for a while I supposedly got bigger, for instance, and that’s a funny thing to deal with…
I’m talking to you here, and you’re voice is quavering a bit. Feeling a little bit put on the spot?
Oh yeah. I feel bad. I feel nervous telling you these stories because I never really talk about it that much because, well, one, noone really cares and… it’s strange sounding these stories now that I’m older.
Ryan, you’re 22.
But that was all happening when I was 18. That’s how short-lived it was.
Are you in some way embarrassed by it?
Embarrassed? Almost, but not really. I feel like it shouldn’t have gone on, but, yeah, it was a great experience. All of it.
But you were gettting nervous, and here you are, you want to be an actor…
Acting has nothing to do with… see, it’s your energy and how you express yourself in life. It’s your imaginary self, which is the great thing about it sometimes. You're anything you want to be.
So are you at all uncomfortable being you sometimes?
In a way, yeah. I was a dorky little kid growing up and I’ve always had that nervous kind of energy. I think that’s why acting is a kind of great thing to pursue…
You prefer the mask?
You could say that. Of course. Who likes to deal with their own problems? When you’re in front of the camera it’s a rush of energy. Some people get nervous, some people start jumping around and some people can really push that energy toward being creative, which is what I feel like I do.
At 22, do you ever feel washed up in terms of modeling?
For the record?
I don’t necessarily mind saying it’s on the record because it doesn’t really bother me. It’s an awakening. I had a great experience with modeling and I don’t mind it if it’s over. If you want to experience life … well, I’ve basically just taken what happened in those great years and I’ve moved on.
Everyone thinks beauty is very superficial. You think of looks. But beauty is more than looks. It’s about esteem. It’s about the way you live your life. It’s about style, passion, it's in the way you step.
Know anything now that you didn’t know five or six years ago?
I started off with this everything is of the moment attitude. Nothing is long term. Everything is day to day, including your livelihood. I mean, you can party all the time. You have so much. But you don’t have anything. You’re not doing anything for yourself. You’re being manipulated by everyone else. I guess what I know now is what I don’t want.