By Jessica Bernstein, 17, Beverly Hills HS
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Does he need to work out more? Maybe this model from a 2(x)ist underwear ad looks cute, but from a professional's point of view, he could have a better bod.
The model pictured is not

It was any normal day surfing on the beautiful sunny beach in Malibu. "John" came in from a wave and a strange guy approached him and told him he could be a model.

John’s all-American look—6’2", tan, light brown hair and brown eyes—had caught the eye of a photographer. John was shocked but he took the guy’s business card and figured why not?

When John called the guy, he gave John his references; it turns out they vouched for this guy as a reputable photographer! Several weeks later, John called him again and the photographer set him up with a Los Angeles-based modeling agency.

"My father didn’t like the idea of his son taking time off from school to pursue the profession," John said.

As far as John knew, modeling was all about standing in front of the camera in great clothes while looking a certain way. John, who was only 19, was in for a rude awakening.

I personally am an avid watcher of E! Entertainment and the Style Channel, but after talking to John I found out more about modeling than I ever could by watching TV. I learned the secrets behind the beauty, the fame and the fortune. But John would only tell me what really happens if I promised not to use his name or picture. He’s concerned that it could hurt his career.

For two months after signing with a Los Angeles modeling agency, he worked out obsessively and was on a strict diet. Then he landed a big shoot for clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch.

As John modeled more he improved, and landed better jobs. After he shot the Abercrombie & Fitch spot, John was able to sign with a top agency in Milan, Italy and after he arrived there he quickly established himself by doing more photo shoots and soon became "known" to all the other agencies and other models.

John quickly learned you have to look your best, work hard and not get romantically involved with fellow models. Models need to look "available" and if two models are dating each other it would be difficult to maintain the appearance of availability.

To look good you have to sacrifice

Diet and exercise are two of the biggest parts of a model’s life. John assumed that he would have to change his eating habits, but he didn’t know how much until the agency told him. To get rid of any areas of unwanted fat, John does cardiovascular exercise, like running or aerobics twice a day. A typical day consists of:

8 a.m.: wake up and do 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, like running.
9 a.m.: take multi-vitamins, 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C, drink whey protein shake and glutamine. John says the whey protein shake isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great-tasting either. Thankfully they come in various flavors.
11 a.m.: eat eggs and two pieces of whole-wheat toast.
2 p.m.: two chicken breast pieces with one cup of brown rice. For a snack John can have cottage cheese.
5 p.m.: tuna fish and one cup of vegetables.
6:30 p.m.: the gym for weight training and more cardiovascular exercises, 20 minutes of running.
9 p.m.: another whey protein shake.

"This diet will keep your body fat to a minimum while still optimizing protein for muscular growth, in other words you’ll look and stay ripped—hard," John said. Wwhey protein and glutamine are important for muscle growth. Sadly though, there are foods that John cannot eat. "I miss many, many, many foods such as pizza, hamburgers, fries, ice cream, etc."

Of course John cheats a little. He loves M&M’s.
Every day John does 200 crunches for his abs. He also has a set routine where he works different parts of his body in addition to abs during his weight training sessions. Monday is chest. Tuesday is arms. Wednesday is back. Thursday is legs—both upper and lower parts. Friday is just abs. He does not weight train on the weekends.

Every month John goes to his agency for a "physical." This is where he stands on a table in his underwear while people at the agency pinch his body. If they find any areas of unwanted fat they mark it with a black permanent marker and tell him ways to improve it.

"My most stubborn area is the lower back side of my waist, known by many as love handles." He says it takes a lot of work to avoid adding fat to them, but it is possible with exercise and a restrictive diet.

But not everyone can make the sacrifices. John said he knows people who have quit because of what they have to go through.

"The degrading part is where you have to stand on the table in front of the entire agency in your underwear," he said. "Yes, I’m in a profession where looks are the dominant factor of the job, but there are less harsh ways of doing certain things. All models that I know feel strongly in this regard."

While standing on the table half-naked, John says he feels like a piece of meat. The one good thing, he says, is that they talk to him, instead of at him or to others as though he isn’t in the room.

"It’s gut-wrenching to the point where every mirror I come across, I stop, look and only see my flaws rather than any of my strengths," John said.

To be a successful model you must have few or no flaws, John said. "Your face must be defined and proportional to your body. Your body must be lean with little or no rough spots. Guys must be tall (6 feet and above, girls 5’9" and above). You must have good teeth, good hair, and most of all, a great personality."

The great personality means the model is full of life and energy. Models have to be able to have fun while posing sometimes in bad weather or uncomfortable poses. "If you are uptight and boring, the pictures won’t come out good, no matter how good-looking you are."

All eyes are on you

John said his first experience backstage at a fashion show was terrifying. There were people everywhere, stylists, designers, models, makeup artists and the press.

Everyone was rushing all over the place trying to do 15 things at once, he said. The designers were making last-minute adjustments, pinning and tucking clothes. The stylists were trying to fix everyone’s hair to be perfect. Meanwhile, the makeup artists were trying to make everyone look golden-hued and fabulous with all different kinds of makeup. And the models were trying to remain calm while all this is being done to them, and the reporters were trying to get someone to answer their questions. John couldn’t stop shaking.

"As I was being dressed, I remember the helper asking me if I needed a glass of wine to mellow me out. I did," John said. Even though he was nervous, he went out there. Later he was told what a great job he had done and his career only got better from there. He now has done several fashion shows.

"There is no other feeling in the world than right before you hit the stage dead center, you feel a sort of power over you. Right when that crystal stage light hits you, your eyes start to water and you walk. Straight down, no looking away, but out of the corner of your eye you can see everyone’s eyes focused solely on you. You feel admired, envied, huge, almost like a god."

But a fashion show is not exclusively about greatness on the runway. Men starve themselves during the hours before a show because it makes them look ripped, especially in the abdominal area, John said.

Women have to master an unnatural runway walk, which requires walking while learning back without moving the arms, John said.
For men, the runway walk is normal. "For a guy, just an everyday sort of walk [or] strut down the runway. Sometimes a designer will ask for a fast walk, fun walk or slow walk. The names explain themselves except for a fun walk, a fun walk entails walking with one hand in a pocket, smiling not smiling, turning your head, just hanging while walking I guess you’d say," he said.

Friends all over the world

A model’s life has its ups and downs and sometimes John says he feels like the advantages outweigh the mental anguish.

He’s modeled for top fashion lines like Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Abercrombie & Fitch, Calvin Klein and Diesel… to name some. John’s done runway shows in New York, Milan, Paris and London. Those four cities are where the fashion happens. They are the centers of the fashion world. He said his favorite place to stay is called "C1" apartments in Milan, Italy.
He has met great people from all over the world.

"I have friends in over 10 countries worldwide. I stay in touch via e-mail and when I happen to head back over, I’ll drop them a line and meet up." All of his friends are models, so they all have something in common.

"Then when you hit the clubs, you’ll meet local girls, but never any of the guys, and if so, never any you’d stay in touch with. The guys there hated us. We stole all their girls whenever we set foot in any club."

For John the real fun is modeling shoots that are outside in public areas.

"Having girls look at me, some knowing who I am, some not, just wanting to hook up with me just because of what I’m doing."

In the long-term, John sees himself completing his education—he has only two years left—and becoming an investment banker. "Sure I’ll continue modeling during summer and winter. Maybe even TV, not sure. I live day by day."