Fashion: Off the peg - It's true. Beautiful people do have an easier life, says Melanie Rickey
Saturday 23 January 1999
Now imagine this: you are a 17-year-old public schoolboy helping out a family friend at his music business in London over the summer. A couple of people suggest you should be a model so, for a laugh, you visit the agency Select. Just as you are being turned away for having no pictures, someone says "hold on a minute"; three weeks later you are in New York working with Steven Meisel for Italian Vogue. Two weeks after that Miu Miu books you as its new face. For most people, this is the stuff of dreams, but fortunately for Malvern lad James Rousseau (right), who is now 18, this is the unbelievable truth.
Welcome to the wonderful Gattaca-like world of the male model. Both of these men are incredibly lucky, but then they are also absolutely beautiful - not hunky, or rugged, or conventionally sexy - but beautiful with their to-die-for cheekbones, mesmerising eyes and perfect skin.
Robert has the jammier deal. He has been employed under what is known in the trade as an exclusive, which means he can't work for another designer until the campaign featuring him (beginning in February issues of the glossies) is well established, and he is known as the Gucci boy, and nothing else.
James, on the other hand, is the Miu Miu boy, but he doesn't have an exclusive. Robert reliably informs me that there are only two of these deals on offer to male models. The other is for Prada, and Freddy Drabble, a London-based model, has been signed up for the second time running.
For any model, getting an exclusive is the big break. It could mean fame, it certainly means fortune and sometimes it means celebrity - it did for Kate Moss when Calvin Klein signed her up. Beefcake male model Marcus Schenkenberg found fame through Versace with such a deal.
Robert Konjic (pronounced Konich), however, is just happy to be the Gucci boy. It means he doesn't have to work too hard at modelling. He was flown to Milan two weeks ago to do the Gucci show but, ironically, was cancelled at the last minute. Tom Ford wanted "football hooligan" types and Robert was thought "too beautiful", which really makes him laugh. "Two years ago I was fitting engines at a Volvo factory; a year before that I was a cocktail waiter," he says.
He still can't believe he got paid "a lot of money" to take his clothes off and pose with a beautiful model for the Gucci perfume campaign (he also models sheer underwear and the mainline collection). The moment when photographer Mario Testino asked them to be intimate proved the hardest. "I was thinking, `Cow, cow, chicken, chicken', anything to put my mind off what was happening. Eventually I had to ask for time out, it was very embarrassing," he reveals.
As for James Rousseau, he is sitting four mock A-levels, and is back at college where, he says, "they put me back in my place".
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