21 years Joel, how much has the business changed in the years. What year did you start?
It all began in the summer of 99, in rainy London. Ironically, it was at Storm Models. To this day, good things have always happened when it rains. The concept remains the same. In a work sense, I’m doing precisely what I was doing 20 years ago. In a business sense, massively so. I was often asked by the photographer to hold a polaroid under my armpit to speed up the developing process. Fast forward to now, and we are in a digital age with instant access. Getting around wasn’t so straightforward either. We all had an A-Z. For those of you who are now looking puzzled, that’s a Map, in a Book.
Thoughts on the Gen Z’s and Millennial’s?
It’s great to be working with a new wave. This generation wants to be more inclusive and break down stereotypes. We are seeing far more diversity. At work itself, I find the youth engaging and open-minded. I am amazed by the depth of our discussions too. I’ve always thought that from the consumer’s point of view, seeing our generations together is far more relative. The Digital Age has also brought about another platform. Social Media has seen the rise of Instagram and the Influencer. This group can also express themselves as content creators, sharing their style of living. Models are now effectively creating their own brand.
How’s working in your 40s?
Life experience feels so beneficial. For me, it’s gotten a whole lot easier simply to be myself. Self-expression and character are born from circumstances. It’s a great time to be on this journey too. We are loosening up and stepping into our characteristics. Everything feels more natural. Fulfilment outside of work is essential too. Living your passions and taking that energy into work. I feel extremely blessed to have that balance. From my perspective, it’s the secret to living young. I cannot contain my joy when I see fellow models working in their 50’s, 60’s and still continuing their own journey. It is truly inspirational.
Tell us about Alopecia?
A variety of factors are thought to cause Alopecia Areata, possibly including severe stress. The body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss,’ I recount very clearly, the first moment I discovered a large circular gap near the front my scalp. At this point, I had a lot of hair. I’d been working in Rimini just twelve days prior to my discovery. Later, I learned that the shedding can be extremely rapid. I booked a video consultation during lockdown in March 2020 and began applying a nightly topical treatment. I shaved my head too, which felt immensely liberating. Within six months, I had accumulated a little crop of shiny new hair. It’s important to note that the Alopecia has since returned; it’s an ongoing process. Accepting the condition helped, and amazingly, work has increased. Every cloud has a silver lining.
How did covid affect you?
The earlier lockdown, I spent the time in London. Public exercise was still permitted, which felt so precious. I was speaking to friends in Milan, unable to leave their houses. Towards the latter part of 2020, coinciding with my new crop of hair, I had my busiest period of work, I got the work bug. Airports were eerily deserted, and planes were wonderfully empty. Paperwork became a necessity, and all meals were consumed in the hotel room via delivery. Any annoyances were quickly forgotten when I considered how blessed I was to be working and moving freely during the lockdown.
One of the most advantageous parts of this job has to be the destination. At 20 years old, I was exploring alone in Thailand for months, after the client had kindly extended my ticket. Tokyo almost felt unreal, a futuristic world. Magic mushrooms were legal at that point; it certainly added to the trip. Moments with nature will always stand out. Table Mountain, Mont Blanc in a blizzard and the Sun rising over the Atlas Mountains during a long bus journey through Morocco. My most unforgettable adventure to date is not work-related. Being within touching distance of wildlife in their natural habitat whilst on safari in the African Maasai Mara, is something I’ll always cherish.
let’s talk about music…
It has always struck a chord with me. I remember my first nylon string guitar, a gift for my seventh birthday. I cannot read music; I play by ear. In my early teens, I played the bass guitar in a small Christian band and also joined an enthusiastic group at Brighton beach every Sunday Eve, playing the African djembe drums. By my early twenties, I was DJing at various bars and clubs in London. Vinyl was still very much the thing. In my later twenties, I returned for a short stint, albeit with a wallet of CDs. It’s funny how things change. Nowadays, I’m content to pick up my nylon string and, take a moment, sing a verse. I take a little inspiration from all artists. Music gives back to me.
Did you ever consider acting?
I remember studying the script intently. I was playing a cowboy in a short sci/fi film. We were sat around a table, the only remaining beings on the planet. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on set, working with other actors, and felt even greater freedom of self-expression. I also saw first-hand not just the technicalities but also the time, skill, and mental dedication that are required in the profession. I apply a fraction of the fundamentals to my work. With every assignment comes a new role. Generally speaking, we are shown a mood board beforehand, a selection of images and films, which can give us an insight into what the photographer/videographer would like to achieve. Then it is down to self-interpretation. From my personal perspective, each day at work, I’m in character and looking to bring my own version to life.
Tennis in Berlin?
I’ve managed a few sessions here so far. My tennis racket comes everywhere with me. The release that I get from exercise is part of the reason why I am able to bring so much energy into my work. I still experience those same butterflies, like a child, stepping out onto the courts. Sport during my childhood was an unfulfilled obsession. I made do with the football column in the daily newspapers as I wasn’t permitted to pursue or watch any sport-related activity outside of school hours. Cushions made for great replacement footballs, and the paper lampshade became a regular fixture. Frisbees were fashioned from plastic container lids; we were inventive and persistent. Maybe I’m still making up for a lost time as I now dedicate as many hours as possible to Sport. The real beauty of this job for me personally is the time it affords for my passion.
Leave us with a quote?
“Waves are immeasurable, yet so is your ability to overcome.”
Joel, how did you get your favourite scar ?
I was probably a little too young at 11 months, for my first cup of tea. Not that I drank any. I came up with the novel idea of pouring it over my left arm. I went into shock and spent a day in the burns unit.
The scar made for great tales of bravado at school. A shark attack or a chainsaw..
As I’ve grown and developed, the scar has shrunken in size but it will always feel like an attachment of me. After all, every scar has a story.