Sitting at the feet of : a Male Model

A decade ago in a town of eight thousand people two hours away from St. Louis lived a class clown named Logan McNeil. Logan always talked. Logan always entertained. Whether by photo bomb or family portrait, he loved getting his picture taken. “Never. I never thought those characteristics would lead to modeling.”

Modeling remained far off—some Holy Grail whose unattainability made Logan seek other paths. “My approach was go to high school, have a plan, achieve that plan.” He started summer internships and went to a school of nursing. “I wanted to be an anesthesiologist. Summer of our senior year, I got approached at St. Louis Galleria by a talent scout. Being from Salem, that wasn’t something I tried to pursue. They’re like, ‘You got the look. You should model.’ I didn’t take them seriously.”

But his sister did. While Logan prepared for college and mapped out steps toward the workplace, his sister talked to scouts. One day, his family drove him to St. Louis to “go shopping.” They turned and said, “Here’s the deal, Logan. We’re taking you to get pictures taken.” The photographer told him he had what it takes and they sent photos off to people in New York.

After that came IMTA where he performed well. “Still wasn’t thinking this was gonna be a career.” That year, he won two awards: male model of the year and most sought-after male. If he chose to pursue modeling, how hard should he pursue her? Agents wanted him to move to New York or head overseas. He was eighteen. “Mentally, I wasn’t ready.”

As his senior year concluded, he booked paying jobs. Bookings made life tough, but the spark of something different motivated him to learn. Assuming the posture of an autodidact, he took his family’s suggestion to hold off college for a semester and test the waters.

That meant Italy. “I was homesick. …eighteen, not knowing the language, being there by myself.” Culture shock rattled his home-grown small town mindset. Different walks of life evoked curiosity and adrenaline. “I was making money but I didn’t think I wanted to keep at it. That’s why I chose to go back to school for a semester.”

Like most of us at that age, he didn’t know what he wanted to do, but experience allowed him to choose where he wanted to model. He knew Ford ran part of their agency six short hours north in Chicago. Consistent gigs cleared room for Logan to grow. “It was different. It wasn’t editorial, it wasn’t high-fashion. It was catalogue stuff. I caught my stride.” In Chicago, he never had to gfight for big-exposure jobs. Macy’s, Myers and Mervin hired him for department-store modeling, providing a routine of easier shoots.

“I was living in Chicago—the biggest city I had lived in—and I loved it. I fell in love with modeling. …Chicago was doable. All my friends were in college and I felt like I was missing out on this college experience. They were meeting people and growing up and I kind of was envious. But in Chicago I was able to drive down to St. Louis and visit friends if I needed to, I was able to come back to Salem on the weekends and enjoy my mother’s home-cooked meals.”

Life came easy as modeling sired a career and Logan started traveling stateside. The modeling industry at that time still required a six-month commitment for big overseas jobs. Stateside travel cut that down to bundles of four or five weeks. Every winter a large season came to Miami. In this time he learned Miami and New York enough to navigate them both with ease. This went on for three years, until he reevaluated his future:

“I know there’s not a longevity to the career of modeling. Guys can definitely have a longer career than most girls. There’s a chance that I could still be modeling in my mid-thirties, late-thirties and on after that there’s always a market for everybody. But I started wondering about acting.”

Back when he won male model of the year, many people advised him to contact acting agents as well, but eighteen seemed too young for him to pursue something on that scale. L.A. stowed itself away in his mind and after three years of routine work that met expectations, he decided to bring on the unexpected.

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“That’s one of the things that bothered me about modeling. I never had a solid address where people could send me things. I was always on the road or living somewhere different. I was ready for a residence.”

Residents of Los Angels call it a retirement home for models. Compared to Chicago and New York, little work emerges. Around that time, he realized that he had never worked a nine-to-five. Modeling was all he knew. But at eighteen his manager had recommended that he see the world first and then come back when he felt the itch to act. The time had come and his old contact said, “Let’s go. Let’s do it.”

He moved there unsure of how long he would stay, but fell in love with L.A. and made friends with screenwriters. Tales from the Script sums up these friends. The film shows screenwriters at work elsewhere. Screenwriting’s different—you can’t cling too tightly to your words. “In the old days, you had playwrights who had respect because they’d write a play and the actors delivered their words. As a screenwriter, once it gets out of your hands, the final product of the movie can be something one-hundred-eighty degrees different.” Many write their own passion project, shoot it for nothing and hope people come out to watch. Getting movies made isn’t the same as it used to be by any means. Modeling and screenwriting have that in common.

But unlike screenwriting, nobody wrote a modeling bible—you either pick it up intuitively or get out of the game:

“I look at these eighteen-year-old kids and… It’s weird being twenty-five and feeling like a veteran. I never took any classes (other than the runway for high fashion). You just pick it up. Photographers know this and being a model, I have an eye for what works, what doesn’t. …As a model, it’s all about working with your lighting source. Like anything else, the more you do it, the more comfortable you get, you know what the client’s looking for. Modeling’s been the best training for acting—to get a great photo, you have to act. …They always say, ‘What feels awkward in 3D looks great in 2D.’ You’re suppose to point your chin toward the light, never look down because it creates wrinkles on your neck. It’s all small, subtle things like that. I look back on my earliest photo shoots and I look stiff, awkward. Now it comes easy.

“I don’t want people to think it’s kicking off your shoes and having a photo shoot. It’s a job. It’s not glamorous. You have your photographer doing his job, your art director, your stylist. Like anything, they have to… maintain their schedule, maintain their numbers so that they’re not losing money.”

One shoot for the Guess denim guide left him sore. The amount of body movements—twisting, bending, flexing—put his legs in perfect photo opportunities, but he felt it the next morning. That adaptability, that continual change in facial expressions and body motions to unveil the best angle on clothes, is modeling.

Having worked a long career for a male model—eight years—Logan looks forward to the future. He keeps up with old contacts in Chicago and New York, maintaining those jobs, but in L.A. he’s adding a new element to life in front of the lens: moving pictures.

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I mentioned C.D. Wright’s view on ellipses, on knowing when to pause. I also brought up Wittgenstein’s admonition to “pass over in silence” those things we don’t quite understand. Logan responded: “All great minds keep something in their back pocket that doesn’t need to be said.”

For now, we’ll all sit back and wait for the next season of Logan’s story…


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PS> If you have spent a significant amount of time on something, you might be an expert worthy of an interview. Send an email to lanceschaubert [at] gmail.com — I will take on all kinds of people from celebrity to lone wolf, filthy rich to newly bankrupt, foreign or domestic. “But Lance, what if everyone that knows me has no clue that I’ve spent so much time on this?” Email me anyways.

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