João Sousa @ Elite Lisbon
The weather was horrible in Portugal on the day of the shooting. Trains were stopped all over the country and, for a second, we though the interview wasn't going to happen this time. We were wrong. João got up early, stood up against the freezing weather, waited for a train, changed to a bus, waited for another train, got on the second train and arrived in Lisbon after five hours. All this to shoot with us for five hours and then travelling for another three hours to return home. This is professionalism. And they say it is easy, right?
How did you become a model?
When I was in high school I had already been approached by someone from a model agency who was giving out flyers and gathering potential models to go to the agency. Back then I talked to my mom, went there and it turned out to be one of those places where you had to pay to make a book and take a modeling course. My mom immediately said it was out of question. It was very expensive and, as I realized further along the road, you don't need a course in order to be a model.
I play hockey since I was three. One of my good friends from hockey lived in Lisbon and knew Rúben and Hélio, Elite Lisbon's booker and director, and was always asking me for a face and a body shot. I always answered " Taking pictures to make money? That's not for me dude". One day we went for dinner with my parents and he mentioned asking me for the pictures. My mom got it in her head, insisted on me doing it and talked with a photographer friend with whom I ended up taking the pictures. My friend sent them to Elite Lisbon and Rúben called me after two days saying I had to enter the Elite contest (Elite Model Look).
So you entered the contest. Then what?
It was all pretty awesome because whoever won the contest would immediately sign with Elite Milan and Paris and go to Milan for 15 days. After the contest, both me and Pedro went to Milan. This happened like this: Pedro won, so he was the one who had the opportunity to go, supposedly. But back then, Val (Valter), who unfortunately passed away, was Elite Milan's director and one of our contest's judge and he really liked me as well.
I remember it perfectly. I was in my golfing lesson and Rúben called me saying "so... Val liked you as well. What are you up to? Get ready because in 15 days you're leaving to Milan with Pedro". I was thrilled and immediately called my mom! We went to Milan for two weeks in November, again in January for Fashion Week and then I went back again in June. Unfortunately and although I've been in Milan, Shanghai and New York, I still didn't get my big break yet and the opportunity to do something really big, but I've had the experience and that alone, the opportunity to meet new people and ways of thinking, is already great.
Have you ever walked internationally?
I walked in Florence on my first season. Florence is incredible, a beautiful city. On my second season I was in Milan for a month during Fashion Week, but since there was a casting for the Tom Ford showroom, I ended up getting the job and didn't do anything else. It was pretty cool. Basically, clients go to the store and you dress whatever they want to see.
Yes, Marlon also told us about his showroom experience. His was similar to yours!
Yes, exactly, he was in Neil Barett's showroom!
Actually, it's funny because he also had the same experience you had with Val, from Elite Milan.
Exactly! He was the one that got us both in Milan. In my case was in the contest, and Marlon it happened randomly during ModaLisboa (Lisbon Fashion Week).
Do you feel models establish a close connection with their bookers? And other models they work with?
Yes, indeed. I have a "home" in Paris, São Paulo, Rio... I got along really well with Brazilians!
And from all the places you've been, which one was the biggest highlight?
New York! It's THE great city.
It has everything! First, all they think about is work: new yorkers, at least 60% if them, have two works. Everyone knows all they think about is making money. And in the middle of all this you have a lot of castings and jobs. It is, indeed, the city that never sleeps. You have everything 24 hours a day: gym, restaurants, bars... And then New York is composed of 50% Americans and 50% outsiders. That's also cool. I was living in Brooklyn. I went there and thought "I'm only going out when the sun is up in the skies... I see movies. All those gangs... if I leave the house I'm done". It wasn't anything like that. Very peaceful. I lived in an incredible neighborhood. New York really is THE city.
And do you have any story you can tell us?
Hum... well I can say that NYC was the best place I've ever been in and Shanghai was the worst. Although I also met really cool people. I was living with a Brazilian couple, a girl from Luxembourg and some models from my agency - it was a small agency. We all had an amazing relationship. But it was the worst place to live in. I was there for two months and was supposed to be for three. While you're not living their (Chinese) lifestyle and don't get used to their routine, it's cool. You see new things like a temple in the middle of the city near modern buildings. But, from the moment you start having a routine, you realize that the city is very dirty. After a month you start coughing non stop. I was there for two months and it seemed like I had a ball of dirt in my throat that wouldn't come out in any way. That feeling only disappeared 15 days after I got back! I had to breathe pure air for 15 days for my body to cleanse.
Cool stories, on the other hand, happened in New York! I love going out, chilling with people and drinking socially. One of the most amazing things I ever did was to go to the gym with 7 other models I was living with, plus the landlords. After a night out (we would all go out together) we went straight to the gym, pushing like 2Kg at a time. We weren't really exercising much. We were just there talking and talking. Those were the best moments.
What do you think was your career highlight so far?
Regarding work, maybe Tom Ford's showroom.
Regarding experience, New York was the highlight. No doubt. I was always that kid that liked changing schools. After two years in a school I would ask my mom to change. I wanted to meet new people. Being a model is amazing because of that. Obviously you want to work every day you are abroad, but the most incredible part of being a model is the experiences you get to share. People never have the same idea of the world you have. My way of thinking nowadays is a mix of all the ways of thinking I've ever came across with. I don't think like I did two years ago, when I started modeling. I didn't know anything outside of Portugal and, nowadays, I realize the Portuguese brain is very narrow-sided. I always give this example: (in Portugal) if there is an accident on one side of the highway, you'll have an accident on the other side as well because people will almost stop driving just to see the accident! This doesn't happen nearly anywhere else!
We've been noticing there are more and more Portuguese male models going abroad to work and succeeding. Do you have that feeling also?
I don't know. To work abroad is not easy. Sometimes people say "You're a model. You have tons of work, right?". No! To be a model is the second most pursued job by boys, after being a football player. You work in a market where the competition is enormous. If you don't to the job for x, someone else will do it for x-y. At the beginning, at least, you have to put up with it. There is a lot of offer, a lot of models. Nowadays we're not going to make money like David Gandy did. He is a men's fashion icon and one of the few that still works on his forty-something years.
So I don't know... Maybe it is true that Portuguese man can succeed internationally... maybe because we are composed of a mix of races and we adapt easily to any part of the world.
Reformulating the question: what do you think is missing in Portuguese models, men or women, in order to make it out there?
If I speak for myself, I think a bit of luck and a bit of attitude during castings. I think the most important think when you're going to a casting or meeting a client for the first time, is to show your personality. The client will have many similar faces to look at, but personalities... we each have our own! We're all different, even though we may look alike. The hardest part is to be relaxed enough during a casting so you can show who you are.
I know a model who is currently working a lot. Ryan Keating. As soon as you meet him, you see he is such a great guy. Someone you can talk to during a whole day and then still have something to talk about the next day. Once you start talking with him, you get his personality. Obviously some clients are maybe not going to love his personality, but some will still choose him because they couldn't really understand the personality of the other option they had, and with him they know what they can count on.
From what you've learnt so far, what is the most important tip for someone that wants to be a professional model?
Well, I don't work out, because I never had that habit and I'm genetically slim, but it is important to work on your body and face.
Besides modeling, what do you do?
I play hockey. Have been playing since I was three. I've played for Valongo until I was a Junior and then moved on to Fânzeres, where I'm currently at. This team lets me go out for two/three months and then come back. Of course, when I do, I don't play as much as my team mates, but I still play. And I love it. I never gave up because it always feels good to put on the rollerblades and play.
How about your goals?
My major goal is to be the world's best model. Even though it is a bit unreachable, I want to be the best at what I do. And to always try to out-do myself.
photography Gonçalo M. Catarino
styling Catarina F. Pinto
make up & hair Tiago Figueiredo
model João Sousa @ Elite Lisbon