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Sun, Jan 10, 2010
Urban, The Straits Times
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Man on a mission
by Karen Tee

Being a male model has got to be one of the most stereotyped jobs around.

Just ask David Gandy, the chiselled British hunk best known for posing in his underwear for Dolce & Gabbana's Light Blue perfume in 2007.

'I think everyone has misconceptions about male models thanks pretty much to Zoolander,' says the 29-year-old of the satirical movie on dumb hunks.

'While everybody knows female models like Gisele (Bundchen) or Naomi (Campbell), the man on the street probably can't name a male model. So the only real access people have is to this film and they think you are going to be an airhead.

'Hopefully I'm changing that a bit with the interviews I do.'

He was in town last October to attend Dolce & Gabbana's opening party for its duplex boutique in Ion Orchard.

With interests ranging from antique furniture to fast cars (he drives a supercharged Jaguar XKR), the 1.88m charmer is more than capable of holding a perfectly intelligent conversation.

He is also one of the top male models in the business - Forbes Magazine named him the world's third most successful male model, behind American Sean O'Pry and Canadian Matt Gordon, in June last year.

He plays down this honour by pointing out that the men 'are not even in the same league' as their female counterparts.

Bundchen, for example, earns close to US$15 million (S$21 million) a year.

According to the Forbes article, top male models earn about US$200,000 to US$500,000 annually.

Still, this is a far cry from his previous part-time job of delivering cars to car magazines for reviews while he was majoring in multimedia and computing at the University of Gloucestershire.

He ventured into modelling when his friends submitted his picture to a modelling competition in 2002, which he won.

He spent the next five years working mainly on shoots for look-books - catalogue-style portfolios that show the latest collections of fashion labels - until the Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue ad campaign turned him into modelling royalty.

'When I first came into the industry, it was all about the androgynous skinny model,' he says of the early noughties.

So when Gandy, in all his beefy, six-pack glory stripped down to his briefs for Light Blue, the fashion industry and hot-blooded women around the world sat up and took notice.

A year later, he was the sole star of Dolce & Gabbana's 2008 calendar (above, left).

He has since appeared in ad campaigns for brands ranging from Ermenegildo Zegna to Zara and worked with top photographers such as Mario Testino and Steven Meisel.

'I hope I've helped to split the industry 50-50 so that guys who are like me can share the limelight in the fashion world,' says the London-based bachelor.

There is still a disparity between the fashion world and the real world though.

'I fit into Dolce & Gabbana well but not many other brands. Recently, I tried on Paul Smith and some other brands in size L but they were still too small for me,' says Gandy, whose fitness regimen consists of gym workouts five times a week.

Besides defying stereotypes of body size, he has also made it a point to not be seen as just some arm candy of female celebrities.

'A lot of male models are known because of who they date. There's Jesus and Madonna or Jamie Dornan and his ex-girlfriend Keira Knightley. That is how they get famous and I've been avoiding that.'

Even though British tabloids often link him to fellow Brit model Chloe Pridham, he declares: 'I am single.'

He adds: 'Apparently I've been dating a musician in the United States and also a Victoria's Secret model, so my life is made out to be a lot more glamorous than it actually is.'

This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times.

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