You know the names of the greats, from Kate Moss to Naomi Campbell, from Cara Delevingne to Kendall Jenner. They command your attention from runways to reality TV, but what about the “absolute hunks” and real life Zoolanders who stand behind them on billboards?
Sure there are big names: Sean O’Pry and Simon Nessman took a hiatus from their mega campaigns to hit the runway for beloved brands. There are up-and-comers like 16-year-old Serge Rigvava, the Austrian newbie who walked in 17 shows during his debut men’s fashion week. But how do these “ordinary” kids, who hail from Middle America to the Middle East, land on Europe’s runways and the glossy pages of fashion magazines? Well, there’s always the unexpected mall scouting or an America’s Next Top Model appearance, but the real key is social media.
All the way back in 2006, when MySpace ruled, Sean O’Pry was discovered from his profile page. The model now fetches nearly $1.5 million per year, making him the highest paid male model to date. Meanwhile, legendary photographer Bruce Weber found his model muse, Saville Dorfman and his boyfriend on Instagram; the couple later appeared on the cover of the high fashion CR Fashion Book. And even publications like W and VMan actively scout models through social media; VMan’s partnership with Ford Models in an annual (and somewhat competitive) search to find the new It-boy who’s photographed by Karl Lagerfeld ( the designer who recycled his real family for his family of male models).
But there’s much more than being “really, really, ridiculously good looking.” During men’s fashion week, these boys are forced on their feet day and night for nearly one-month. If they’re really good at it, they might go on to walk in women’s shows, but their industry is much less glamorous than its counterpart. In fact, male models earn chump change compared to supermodels like Joan Smalls and Gisele Bündchen, who clocked in at a whopping $42 million in 2013.
In a New York Times article on the model Brad Kroenig, Lagerfeld’s longtime muse, Kroenig compared the male modeling business to the women’s industry as the W.N.B.A is to the N.B.A. — that is, with the highest earning women’s basketball player Tina Charles earning $105,000 salary compared to the lowest earning men’s player, who’s salary starts at $400,000. Perhaps on the runway, sex sells better with women.
Though, very few male models will break out into superstardom like Marky Mark and Jamie Dornan did — from Calvin Klein briefs to the role of Christian Grey in the blockbuster film 50 Shades of Grey — some guys are retiring from the runway to pursue higher paid opportunities like Rob Evans, who scored a lucrative gig judging America’s Next Top Model.
So who will be the next Christian Grey? It’s a walk off!