Marlon @ Elite Lisbon
In fashion, like in life, there are stereotypes. In fashion, like in life, there are people that have the ability to overcome those stereotypes and be unique while being "just" a person, living their life. Meet Marlon, a model that has been overcoming stereotypes, proud of being in control of his own body and mind and enjoying life.
We tried to find some information about you but it wasn’t very easy…
Ahaha, that’s great! Nowadays, it’s really hard to keep things private.
How did you start modeling?
It was in a very modest contest in my hometown (Leiria) and it was because of a friend. She kept insisting that I should go, but I wasn’t much interested in that kind of things. She kept saying “come on, you are tall, you have to try it!”. At the time, one of the judges of the contest was Vanessa Veloso (currently the director of JUST Models) and she noticed me although I didn’t even win the contest. They brought me to Lisbon and I’ve been represented by JUST since the beginning, when I was 17.
I started doing some editorials and then I did my first runway shows at Moda Lisboa. At 19 i got lucky because after a show at Moda Lisboa I was approached by Valter, the director of Elite Milan at the time, who told me immediately that I should go to Milan. I was pretty excited with the idea and that’s when things seriously started for me.
How long were you abroad?
I did several seasons there. I used to stay there 2-3 months, then I would come home for a month and then would return for another season and so on. I basically came back just for vacations, to spend my money! (because all the work I was getting was in Milan).
And you had the chance of working with some major brands…
Yes, the first client I got was Prada. Can you imagine? I got there, not knowing much about this industry… and then started with Prada. It was really cool and gratifying to be inside the industry and learning how things were. At first I did mostly fittings for them, but it was a great way to start because not long after, I got to work with Dolce (Gabbana) as well.
Already on a first name basis !!
Hahaha, yes, it’s easier and that’s what they call it there! Later I worked with Neil Barrett which was one of my most important clients. I worked for him for a long time. I did the the winter collection lookbook about a year and an half ago. And I used to do pretty much everything: fittings, showroom and lookbook. The only thing I didn’t do much in Milan were the runway shows. I think that’s difficult because of the trends that are always changing… like, one year they wanted mostly blond guys with blue eyes, and I was like “ok, i got green eyes but i’m not blond, so i’m fucked”, that’s why I ended up doing mostly other jobs. But that’s cool because in this industry you have this thing… you have guys that are like the “show boys” that do mostly the runway shows and eventually one or two campaigns. Then you have the fittings, showrooms, shootings, etc that go to the other guys. The same type of guy and body doesn’t work equally in the runway and in the showrooms.
And what is it that you like the most about fashion?
Meeting people! That’s the coolest part. I’ve met really awesome people.
You get to know almost every type of person… actually, I think that whatever you do in this life, the best of it all is the people you meet and the places you travel to.
You get to meet from the most ridiculous people to the most interesting ones and I think that’s awesome. I got to know people from all over the world and I feel that if I want to travel somewhere it’s quite likely that I’ll find someone I’ve met. I shared apartments with very different people and I remember this Israelite guy that kept saying I had to go to Telaviv! You can create a very strong bond with these people, specially the ones living with you in the same apartment. You get that kind of feeling that one day, if I need a place to stay, I can get in touch with one those people, no matter how long it’s been since we last spoke. It’s good to feel that.
But you’ve been in other cities, besides Mlian, right?
For fashion purposes, I’ve only been in Paris and London.
“Only”? Those are like the european fashion capitals…
Hahaha, yes. I would like to go to New York, but it hasn’t happened yet. I had a chance once, but there were some bureaucratic issues with the visa, and I didn’t get to go.
Well, men usually have a longer career in fashion…
Yes, that’s true, I’m sure another chance will come up.
Let’s talk about your tattoos… did you have them when you started modeling?
Not one! I did them all after. At the time I didn’t even have piercings.
Really? We were curious if that was something that would set you apart from the other models… but moving on… didn’t that get you in trouble with the agencies? Because we know that the portuguese market is still a bit conservative about that.
Yeah, specially back then when I did it, but not so much nowadays because it’s seen as a trend. After doing the tattoos I never got to work with clients like Prada and Dolce again. But I really felt like getting tattooed and I never felt that I should stop doing the things I wanted to because of the fashion standards. And fortunately, my agency understood that and accepted it. It’s my body, so…
I knew I was limiting myself because I wouldn’t be accepted for certain jobs. But that’s normal with guys… you have several types of male models: the tall ones, the thin ones, those with all the muscles and built up bodies and then you also have the ones with tattoos and piercings. When you decide to do such a thing, you should know in advance the repercussions of that. But the market and the trends are always changing, so, eventually there will be a time when there will be a bigger demand for people with this kind of look.
And the resistance you felt here in Portugal, was the same in Italy?
Yes, yes. They are also a conservative country.
From all your experiences so far… from London, Paris, Milan… is there any particular story you’d like to share with us?
I don’t know… there are so many! What really sticks with me, is this whole experience. When I first went to Milan, I had never been in a plane before… I had never travelled alone and had never been alone in a foreign country. I had no life experience at all. It was a brutal experience in terms of self knowledge. But what I retain the most is this whole experience, what makes you grow as a person… all the things I had to learn by myself. I mean… you get to know some people, but only for a brief period and you try to get along well with the people you have to share the apartment, otherwise things can get unbearable.
Fortunately I never had any odd people living with me, but sometimes things get tough and you feel lonely and then you call your family and your friends, after you spend several months away from home and you really miss them.
But at the same time, I met awesome people, specially Brazilians! The best stories were always with Brazilians. They really know how to make you feel welcome. Of course that speaking the same language helps, but they are very united and sometimes I envied that. Maybe it was because most of the people I use to be with were also models, but with the Brazilians things were different. I always remember them making those big dinners and their typical barbecues and always eating the best food. And then at night… they are totally crazy! Wherever they’d go, they’d own the place!
You mentioned the loneliness and how you were a kid back then. How did you avoid getting into all the bad things that surround this industry?
The most shocking thing to me weren’t the drugs or the alcohol. You can find that pretty much everywhere. What really shocked me were the things I was told I had to do if I wanted to go up in this business. This happens everywhere, I think, but in Milan I was approached directly by several people that talked about it openly. Both for men and women. And they made it sound like a legit thing. That really shocked me!
When you are at a casting and you meet clients and you listen to people talking… you realize how knowing the right people can help you get up in the career. That shocked me because I always followed certain principles and moral values and in my opinion those things I was listening were just not right.
It’s sad to see all the greed and excessive ambition that leads people to this kind of behavior. Even nowadays, I still see some models adopting this kind of strategy… maybe that’s why some of them get booked so much more than others… I think it’s mainly a moral issue. I find it wrong to achieve results in that way, but that’s their way. I have a very different perspective and that’s why sometimes things are more difficult for me.
Generally speaking, what is the most common and wrong idea that people have about the fashion industry?
The classic idea is that being a model is easy. I mean, you get to travel and generally speaking you can get well paid, that is true. But, what people don’t see and don’t usually think about is all the psychological and physical stress evolved. I know there are always people in worst conditions than us. But from my experience, getting up at 3am, taking a train to go to another city, do the job, then getting back, take another train to yet another city for another job… this is all well and nice on the first days, but after a couple months on this rhythm… it becomes very wearing.
And then there is also the emotional part of it all… most of us get into this at a very young age, I’ve seen a lot of teenagers that were in a foreign country, completely by themselves, without any kind of support having to deal with the pressure of the agencies and the clients, being faced with all these things for the first time of their lives, when they are just kids.
Based in all your experience, what is the most important advice you can give to those who want to be professional models?
Perseverance! Perseverance and commitment. It’s not like I’ve been doing this for ages but I see changes every year. In this business, changes happen at a really quick pace. From the models, to the clients requirements, the collections… everything changes every year! And the requirements are getting more and more demanding, not to mention the competition. I mean, there has always been competition, but nowadays, you can go to a casting and stay in the waiting line for like 3 hours. And you just can’t leave because the client has to see you if you want to get a chance of getting booked. And then you get home after an entire day of castings, with like 8, 10 castings in a row, and you have no idea if you got booked in any of them. Sometimes I would get home after a day of castings and think to myself “fuck, i’m worthless!”
That’s why I think there has to be a lot of commitment in what you are doing and perseverance to keep things going. I believe that if you want it, you can do it! And this goes for pretty much everything in life. You just need to keep focused on your goals, because if you start thinking about quitting, you have got like a thousand other models willing to take your place. Without a strong will, nothing can be achieved.
Besides fashion, what is it you do on your free time?
The funny thing is that every time I was asked what my hobbies were, I would say it was fashion. I never looked at fashion as a full time job, I always looked at it as a hobby, despite the fact that I was doing it full time. I always had a temporary feeling about this, like “I’ll be doing this for a few years, but I can’t make a living of it”. I think I always looked at it as a hobby that I enjoyed doing and that I could earn some money with, but I’ve always been aware that it would end soon. Apart from that… Living is what I do :) I like to be with my friends and having a good time with them. I try to enjoy every bit of it so I would say that my hobby is having fun :)
We noticed on your facebook and instagram that you like to share quotes and thoughts. Is there any particular one that you can easily relate to?
Yes, there is one I use a lot, that I read in some article and later I heard again from a speaker that I’m very fond of at his speech in TED Talk in Cascais. This speaker, José Pedro Cobra, who is a lawyer, said: “life will always give you what you need, but not necessarily what you want.”
This makes perfect sense, specially because of the way I see and live my life. Whatever happens to you, it happened because it had to. Although we’re responsible for our own choices, life will only present you with what you really need and then what you make of it, it’s up to you.
This is the quote that best encompasses everything.
photography Gonçalo M. Catarino
styling Catarina F. Pinto
make up & hair Lenka
model Marlon @ Elite Lisbon