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Matt McGlone, Marc Faiella and Alex Michels are promising young models who are starting to get good assignments and make decent money. They are represented by the powerful IMG Models agency, which relaunched its men’s division last year. But the field they have chosen is treacherous, with no guarantees. For every Sean O’Pry or Tyson Ballou—the rare male models with any kind of staying power—there are thousands of good-looking guys who come to Manhattan and get a taste, only to crash and burn.
On a springtime evening in Manhattan, McGlone, Faiella, and Michels were at a Calvin Klein Collection party at the company’s Madison Avenue flagship store. Still in the same clothes they had worn all day, McGlone, 25, and Faiella, 22, grabbed flutes of Champagne from passing trays. They seemed at ease, although the other guests at this affair, held to advance the cause of marriage equality, included Uma Thurman, Lloyd Blankfein, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jonathan Tisch.
McGlone, a brooding-jock type from Park Forest, Illinois, has a fondness for motorcycles and firearms. On his chest he has a pair of tattoos: twin cats in top hats. When I asked him what they signified, he said he really didn’t want to talk about them. He had recently worked a Calvin Klein show in Milan. “Since I did Calvin,” he said, “I haven’t had to even say yes or no to any catalog work. It’s been crazy fast.” He had a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers hanging from the neckline of his Henley shirt and a glass of Champagne in one hand. “I’m here to make a career,” he said. “I’m not here to try it out for a couple of months.”
Faiella, a delicate type with electric eyes who is a student at Parsons The New School for Design, earned some credibility last summer when the French label Lanvin chose him to walk the runway in the first and last positions. “Opening and closing is what put me where I am now,” said Faiella, who grew up in Holbrook, Long Island, and now lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn. “No one cares about the fifth or the sixth look.” Unlike so many of his colleagues, Faiella actually has a love for and deep knowledge of fashion. As he surveyed the room that evening, he recognized all the players, even the insidery figures, such as Bergdorf Goodman head buyer and senior vice president Linda Fargo.
Michels, at age 20 the youngest of the three, stood wide-eyed at the party. He is from the suburb of Walnut Creek, California, where, he said, an exciting night on the town means heading on down to The Cheesecake Factory chain restaurant. Unlike the other two, Michels had actually bothered to clean up for the night. He was wearing a fresh polka-dot short-sleeve shirt from H&M, dark Zara jeans, and a denim jacket he had received (in lieu of cash payment) for modeling at a Rag & Bone presentation. Michels was not drinking Champagne—“I don’t like alcohol,” he said, “it hurts my belly”—but he did help himself to the macaroons. “I’ve had, like, seven,” he said.
The actor Alan Cumming, lately starring in a Cumming-heavy adaptation of Macbeth at the Barrymore Theatre, was standing nearby. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind giving me his impression of male models. “Many have made an impression on me,” he said, “and I have made an impression on a few. But it’s not enough to be young and tall and pretty. All the great models have some spark of personality. They shouldn’t be things to hang clothes on. You should want to be them. Or you should want to fuck them.”
Beyond Cumming, in the crowd was Italo Zucchelli, the 48-year-old director of menswear design at Calvin Klein. He is the man who discovered O’Pry. I sidled up to him and asked what a male model needs to have, needs to do, in order to make it.
“There are very few who have long careers,” he said. “You’re looking for confidence and masculinity and character. I don’t like casting people who are bland, no personality, that cannot carry themselves. When I see them walk, they need to be—boom!—confident.
“One of the most important things, in my experience,” Zucchelli continued, “is how their agency is handling their career. If I have a new guy, and he is amazing, it takes three seconds for me to lose interest. If I see him in a catalog, I don’t want him anymore. I don’t want to see him in a catalog three months after my show.”
I asked him about Matt McGlone, in particular, given that he had recently walked the Calvin Klein runway in Milan.
“I don’t know them by name,” Zucchelli said, almost dismissively. “If you show me the picture, I can tell you.” And then there was a flickering in his eyes. “Tattoos?” he said suddenly. “Two cats?” He gestured toward his chest. “Here—and here?”
Yes, that was it.
“Great face,” Zucchelli said. “Great walk. Great body. Masculine! Athletic! Confident!”
Not much later, when he saw McGlone from a distance, the designer summoned him over and took him in an embrace.
After the party, the three male models, who have gotten to know one another over the course of the last year, took a cab downtown, toward The Standard hotel. They dined at The Standard Grill and, on the way out, Matt McGlone stopped to give his number to an attractive hostess. She told him she had a boyfriend, and I asked him what it felt like, to get turned down.
“Just because there’s a goalie doesn’t mean you can’t score,” he replied.
Then it was on to Le Bain, the nightclub located on The Standard’s top floor and rooftop. But first, on West 13th Street, there it was, the velvet rope, the ultimate symbol of who gets in and who doesn’t in New York. Stationed there, too, was a bald bouncer in a black suit who asked the models to show some ID.
McGlone handed the man his Illinois driver’s license and quickly got the nod. He was in. Marc Faiella showed his New York license and he, too, was waved through the door. Alex Michels presented his California card—and got turned away. Perhaps a different bouncer would have let it slide, the fact that he was below the legal drinking age, but not this one. The crestfallen Michels headed uptown, toward his charmless east side apartment. His night was over.
Inside the club, Matt McGlone ordered a Bulleit Bourbon. A photographer from this magazine took aim at McGlone and Marc Faiella, who struck modelish poses without seeming to.
Noticing this, a tipsy young female tourist from China photo-bombed them. Then she asked to have her picture taken with only McGlone and invited her husband to join the scrum. When he stepped into the frame, he looked mere-mortalish in such close proximity to McGlone.
Faiella, sipping a Coca-Cola, looked on.
On the rooftop, Matt McGlone said he had a confession.
“I told the guys I’ve been looking at apartments all day. But, really, I went up to the Poconos to shoot guns with a girl I met at a shoot. She was a stylist’s assistant. All I want to do lately is spend a day with someone, and it was great to spend a day with this girl and just go shoot guns with her.”
When he finished speaking, he was looking at the lighted 1 World Trade Center rising in the distance, almost completely built.