James Eysenbach: “It’s a cruel but ironic fact that despite being paid 79 cents on the dollar throughout the economy as a whole, female talent still rules the world of fashion”
08 ago, 2016
What’s up, World of Models?! Such an honor to have a chance to chat with you guys Well, where do we start – I grew up in the historic city of Boston and into an era of unprecedented dominance in New England sports. The Patriots, Bruins, Celtics, and yes, even the cursed Red Sox were racking up championship trophies and throwing seasonal parades with what seemed like hubristic audacity.
Naturally, I set out to join their ranks as any dutiful Bostonian toddler is apt to do. As soon as I could walk, I was playing ice hockey, lacrosse, sailing, and skiing. Alas, a medal in the Junior Olympics of sailing was as close as I would come to professional glory, but athletics did open another shiny, synchronicitous doorway – one that thrust me headlong into the world of fashion.
How did all begin
Any self-respecting New England sports fan spewed their Samuel Adams lager all over the bar the first time they saw Tom Brady posing like a princess in his first Ugg Boots campaign. I happily counted myself among them.
My ignorant dismay quickly turned to self-interested curiosity, however, when I was “discovered” playing hockey by the man who held the keys to the modeling castle, my future “Mother Agent.” Mother Agents act as professional headhunters for the top modeling agencies in the world, connecting the Fords and Wilhelminas with fresh faces for their talent rosters.
My first test could aptly be described as shooting a deer in headlights, but forgivingly these mediocre polaroids were enough to land me a contract with David Bosman’s Boss Models in New York City. Despite achieving the illustrious status of “signed model,” my parents were never shy to remind me that my actual title read more like “student-model,” with the academic indicator proudly occupying the poll position.
So it was, I placed priority on finishing my undergraduate degree in Political Science and eventually a Masters in Business at the University of Virginia – commuting back and forth several times a year for New York Fashion Week as well as my debut in a paid shoot.
True to its name, The United Colors of Benetton offered me my first look at the diversity of New York fashion, and what a colorful palette it was! I turned out to be the tolkien white guy in that print campaign, and have found that the minority modeling market (which I don’t occupy) has been on the rise ever since.
Posing to photographers
I love working with photographers that have an obvious and palpable passion for their work; ones that truly live and breathe it. The photographer I shot with last week, for instance, was one such character. His name was Jack Guy but he could have easily taken over for the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World.
He was a 60-something man with slicked back snow-white hair and devilishly handsome looks who clearly just walked out of a Patagonia Catalogue and onto our set in the Malibu Hills, his veritable backyard. He raced about in 85-degree heat, a boyish grin planted firmly on his face, and repeatedly challenged us to take the “fun way” up the cliff as opposed to the “easy way.”
His enthusiasm and excitement was simply inexhaustible – I loved it! Jack fused us seamlessly into the landscape and some of the shots he got were nothing short of awe inspiring.
As for birthday suits go, I can’t say I’ve ever been naked in front of a professional photographer, although my current girlfriend has enough blackmail to keep herself well-stocked in anniversary presents far into the foreseeable future.
The closest I’ve come on set was for a promo campaign I did with VH1 for their TV series “Dating Naked.” Now I wasn’t on the actual show (my grandmother’s much to faint of heart for that), but I did have the privilege of being one of 16 models accompanying the two main stars of the season for a shoot to promote the upcoming premiere.
You can picture it now: 16 models all butt ass naked, mind you, save for thongs and nude-colored nipple pasties. To help us ease into our comfort zone, production provided a wide assortment of tropical blow up toys ranging from dolphins to beach balls, and everything in between. What ensued was probably one of the most hilarious three-hour shoots of my life. Despite endless calls for “professionalism” from the directors, we shamelessly proceeded to smack and duel and parade about with our respective blow up toys, bumping into body parts here and breaking out into spontaneous song refrains there – Oh, WHAT an afternoon!
The runway shows
I’ll never forget when one of my more experienced model friends gave away his secret runway strategy for killing it on the catwalk. He had walked in a number of high-profile Fashion Week shows from New York to Milan, featuring Dolce, Louis Vuitton, among others. He was showing me a few shots from these experiences, and I couldn’t help but notice the alarming facial expression he was wearing in each of the pictures.
His visage looked more akin to a serial murderer’s than one of the top international models of his day. “Oh, that,” he replied breezily, when I pointed this out to him, “all part of the show. The key to runway is to make sure you just look as pissed off as humanly possible when you’re out there.” I stared appalled. “…unless you’re doing Victoria’s Secret,” he added as a conclusive afterthought. The reason it stuck with me for so long is because I was almost sure he was joking.
What kind of designer or brand would want that to be part of their emotional message to the consumer? It wasn’t until I walked for Oakley in the first runway show of my career, that I realized Govan had been serious. Dead serious.
Male models x Female models
It’s a cruel but ironic fact that despite being paid 79 cents on the dollar throughout the economy as a whole, female talent still rules the world of fashion. A furtive glance at Forbes’ “Highest Paid Models” list from the past year is all that’s needed to make this point: they’re all women. Giselle Bundchen has long reigned supreme atop the rankings, cashing in on a breathtaking $47 million last year.
Meanwhile, the golden boy on the other side of the aisle, Sean Opry, didn’t even crack the top 20 with his paltry $1.5 million. Even as you leave the heavens above to look at the average working models, women best men $41,300 to $28,000 according to Payscale salary data. Of course, the competition is far more fierce among females, who compete for a much richer array of categories including lingerie, beauty products, jewelry, and female fashion.
Both sets of pay gaps are closing, however, which is great news for women in general and male models in particular (or everyone with a moral compass).
While I don’t have a history of following male models altogether too closely, a lot of my favorite women work the runways for Victoria’s Secret and Guess. Shooting with those angels would be a dream…
James´stye: a fashionista?
Moving to LA has definitely raised my fashion sense but I still view expensive designer labels with relative askew. Studying abroad for my Masters in Southeast Asia where we visited factories labeling the same clothing with several different brand logos certainly didn’t help. Some of the ones that I wear most when I’m not in workout gear are: Zara, Guess, and John Varvatos (from Nordstrom Rack).
Imagine u a famous model surrounded by a huge crowd!
I laugh and tell them there are probably more famous people in the crowd that are better-deserving of the attention they’re flattering me with. Nonetheless, I do love making new friends and taking large group selfies so a photoshoot ensues.
On show business
I think show business, much like Hollywood, can simultaneously be incredibly inspiring and depressing. People the world over dream of pursuing their artistic careers to critical acclaim and widespread recognition and our LA Entertainment hub is frequently viewed as the launching pad. Hundreds of thousands of people move to and from the City of Broken Dreams every year in an attempt to “make it big.”
While it is a courageous journey, the sad truth of the matter is that the vast majority of these dreamers will last little more than two years, failing to gain traction despite a myriad of unrecognized talents. It is a small sliver of a fraction of a percent that break through into the limelight and manage to support themselves with their craft. Show business is brutally hard work that requires failure after failure before success has any real chance of coming to fruition. It is an essential pillar of the American Dream but one that seldomly springs into reality.
But – at risk of sounding cliche – for the ones that do find what they’re looking for, the platform for change and transformation it affords them can leave a lasting legacy for generations of dreamers to come.
Having fun, meeting new cultures around the world and enjoying life
I’ve touched a little bit already on my passion as a Boston sports fan, so I’ll delve a little bit into my love life…I’m the kind of person that craves spontaneity and experience over structure and material things. I would so much rather travel to a new foreign country (31 so far and counting!) with someone I have a crush on than simply take them out to a dinner, show, etc.
Novel experiences in an unknown land bring a host of challenges (and romantic opportunities) that most people don’t encounter everyday living within their comfort zone so I think you can learn a lot more about someone by taking a leap of faith together.
My amazing girlfriend, Nicole, and I did just that – zipping off to San Diego, Mammoth Mountain, and The Bahamas before we even started officially dating! When it got to the point where each time I experienced something memorable, I’d wish she were there to live through it with me, I knew I was doomed
Superpowers and Superheroes
My Superpower: Teleportation
Favorite Superhero: Harley Quinn
Attracting someone´s attention: Surprise
Craziest thing ever done in a Summertime season
Captain a yacht to Ultra Music Festival in Hvar, Croatia with 150 other boats on Yacht Week
Favorite Body Part: My eyes and smile because they remind me of my mother
Favorite Underwear: Calvin Klein
Favorite Booking so far and why: Shooting a commercial for the massage app “Soothe” because I was unbelievably paid to just lie down and get massaged by two different models for several hours – rough day!
Music and Food
Favorite Musical Artist: Kygo, Avicii, or Thomas Jack
Music on my iPod: Tropical House
Favorite Food: Umami Burgers
Guilty Pleasure: Buckets of popcorn at the movies
Earliest Memory: Sailing along the coast of Maine with my grandparents, parents, brother, and sister
Nickname: Captain America
Yourself In 10 Years
I will be married and moved to San Diego after living abroad in both Sydney, Australia and Berlin, Germany. I’ll be pursuing modeling, commercial work, medical sales, and working with research non-profits. I’ll probably be thinking about running for public office as well.
This has been such a blast! I have several campaigns that should be coming out soon including: Kay Jewelers, Luxury Magazine, Tinder, and Victoria Gardens. My next shoot will be for Merve Optik, an eyewear brand, and I’m working on putting together something with a travel show soon, but more details on that later! If you want to catch up on where I’m at or what I’m up to, just check out my instagram, twitter, or facebook @JamesEysenbach
Hoping to head to Brazil for a Yacht Week sailing trip this New Years but will obviously be following the Olympics with avengeance.
Bummed I couldn’t get down there for it but sneaking into the Olympic Village in London with some of my friends competing 4 years ago will be a memory I think fondly of as I watch this year’s events!
Thanks for having me, Ed! You Americans get your ass out and vote this November!!!
Full Name: James Eysenbach
Weight: 175 lbs
Agency: LA Models http://www.lamodels.com/
Comercial Agency: Osbrink Agency http://www.osbrinkagency.com/
Mother Agency: George Starr
Interview by Ed, the Brazilian editor