My career started when I was barely 14 years old. I was in Milan, at the gym, and one of the two biggest photographers in Europe, Oliviero Toscani, came up to me and said, ‘You should model.’ I wasn’t in the industry, so I had no idea who he was. I remember giving him my father’s phone number. He called my father, hired me for a big campaign and things took off from there.
I came to New York City at 19 years old, walked into the Ford modelling agency without an appointment and walked out with a contract. The next day, in the gym, I got a call and was asked to meet with Barry McKinley, then the biggest photographer in the world. He hired me for the biggest campaign in America – the launch of the Gap. At that time, if you were one of the top male models in the world, you could earn $120,000 a year. My first job, straight away, was close to $150,000. So I set new standards.
I think I was the first really muscular model. When I started modelling, [clothes] were a 40-inch regular; here I am coming in with a 56-inch chest. I couldn’t fit my arm into a suit.
Some writers saw me and said, “I want my hero to look like this guy,” and approached me for their book covers. Then I’m doing 15 or 16 book covers a day.
When shooting those covers, it’s simple: you’re hugging a beautiful girl and you think about making love to her. You look at the camera and you go, “I’m serious – if I get hold of you, I’ll do a number on you. I would make you lose your sanity!” You play a character, otherwise it would be just another empty picture. People would look at your eyes and expression – and they can tell.
I’d be the biggest hypocrite if I said I really worked very hard for my career, because it was given to me on a silver platter. I can’t take any credit. My major focus was sports and going to the gym.
Miracles exist – you just have to believe it. A lot of the time when people pray to God they aren’t specific enough. I always tell people God is the god of details. You have to ask for the detail. So, you want a car – what kind of car do you want? Do you want a Cherokee, a Ford, a Chevy, a Bentley? An off-road vehicle? What about the trim and interior and the wheels? Be specific, then when you get something like that it will be no coincidence. I always prayed to God and that’s why I saw my life as a miracle.
They offered me everything – movies, shows, so many things I could have done. I could have been a million times bigger. But the question I asked myself was, “If I accept all this work, am I going to be happy or miserable?” The answer was loud and clear.
They wanted me to be Tarzan, but that would have meant living in Mexico for three or four years – and there’s not enough money in the world to make me want to do that. Some places you just want to visit. No way. I don’t think so. I’m out.
People come to Los Angeles and sell their soul every day. It’s sad. Here, the mentality is that everyone has a price. But I say no – no money can buy my soul. I’ve had so many offers that I didn’t think were proper and I’d say sorry, I don’t need it. I didn’t want to work my butt off and not be happy. I’ll always choose happiness and life over all the money in the world. Across my entire career, I had respect in the industry, because I was the one who never sold out.
People ask if I’ve made a pact with the devil to still look like this – but I say I’ve made a pact with God. I go to the gym for 60 minutes at least four times a week. In my property, I have a very tough trail, and I do hiking and running and motorcross enduro, then in the gym I do regular cardio and lift weights.
When you have a bad day, you have to think about how lucky you are. You think of people with cancer, people coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq [with] no arms or legs. And you say, “how can I be getting upset because I had a bad hair day?”
I lost my younger sister to cancer. So I know that you have to live day by day – you don’t know what’s happening tomorrow. I have perspective. Life is so fragile; you have to treasure it. And you have to have fun – you cannot take yourself too seriously. Look at Napoleon.
To tell you the truth, I really don’t care [about Instagram], because I have a life. I don’t want people to know what I’m doing or where I’m at. I understand that [models] are using it to make a business and a life for themselves, but I’ve already made so many businesses. I have the most amazing line of nutrition – the highest quality, pretty much, in the United States – and it’s going really well. I can be taking a shower and my distributor is taking orders. I don’t need to be on Instagram.
The only thing left in my life to do is find a wife and get some kids. All the rest, trust me, it’s done. But you always find one person that might be a contender and then afterwards you get disappointed. So I always keep my eye open.
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