In our ongoing series,Model in the Spotlight, we get up close and personal with the world's leading male models.
We frequently hear stories of everyday guys getting swept up into the world of modeling overnight, but none of those stories can hold a candle to Philip Witts'. After working with two modeling agencies in his native New England to no avail (neither was able to deliver any work for the poor guy) he was ready to give up, but not before entering a VMAN/Ford Models model search with the grand prize of starring in an editorial shot by Karl Lagerfeld himself. The doe-eyed Witts won this past summer, and has since enjoyed shooting a Dior Homme campaign and travelling to Europe several times over—a complete 180 for a 21-year-old who, just a few months ago, had barely traveled beyond the Northeast. (Did we mention he's doing all of this while finishing off his undergrad?)
Hometown: Dracut, Massachusetts
Agency: Ford Models
Congrats on winning the VMAN/Ford model search. Thank you! I definitely didn't expect to win. I'm hoping this is just the beginning.
What was it like being shot by Karl Lagerfeld? Karl is awesome. I kind of just waited on the couch until Karl arrived, he took like 10-15 pictures of each look and we were done. He's wicked quick and he makes it pretty fun.
Do you have a favorite on-set moment from the work you've done so far? My favorite and most memorable moment so far was definitely when I shot with Karl for the Numéro Homme editorial. In Karl's studio he has his computer set up over to the side and when we're done with each look, we usually go over and take a peek to make sure we got the shot. We went over and Karl said to me, "Do you like it?" and I responded, "Yeah, it looks pretty good. Do you like it?" and he said, "No...I love it." That was kind of a nice confidence booster coming from the man himself.
How do you balance your newfound modeling career with finishing college? It's not as bad as you would think so far, but sometimes I find myself using modeling as an excuse when missing assignments. I'm doing online classes next semester so I can try to book my first runway show. I'll also be able to travel more often without negatively affecting the attendance portion of my grade.
Best thing about modeling so far: Traveling and getting to see different parts of the world that other people don't normally get to see—nevermind getting paid to go. Up until the beginning of this year, I had never even been to New York City. Now I've been to Europe multiple times.
Most challenging thing about modeling so far: Finding out that I've been booked for something three hours before I have to be at the airport or train station. I know every model does it, though, and I'm already starting to adapt.
Any pre-show or pre-shoot rituals or superstitions? I don't really believe in superstitions besides keeping quiet while a pitcher has a no-hitter going in baseball. I just try going into shoots knowing I was booked because the client likes me so I have no reason to be nervous.
Describe your personal style in three words: Swag, Out-the, Ass. Just kidding. More like: Casual, comfortable, sporty.
Do you have a grooming routine every morning? I wash my face with Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleanser every day, and since I look like I'm 16 I rarely have to shave.
The one item from your wardrobe you'd save in a fire: I'd probably save my Dior jacket. I don't really wear it but it's kind of a special item because Karl gave it to me.
How do you stay in shape? You're going to hate this, but I haven't been to the gym in months. Last time I was there was to pick up my roommate. I usually just sit on the couch and eat junk food.
Your best quality: I like to think I'm really nice and personable. The stereotype of some models is that they're arrogant and think they're above everybody else. I remember a time at the end of my Dior shoot, the stylist's assistant had a bunch of bags to carry so I asked her if she needed help and she said, "Models don't carry these things. We can get somebody else to do it." And I just thought, "I learned something today."
Your worst quality: I'm an extremely shy person before you get to know me. I'm usually not that confident talking to new people. I have to get to know people a little bit before I break out of my shell.
If you could change one thing about your body, it would be: I would probably like to be a little bigger. I'm really skinny and it's not like I do something special to stay skinny. People probably laugh at this and sarcastically think, "Oh you have a big problem there," but it's actually pretty frustrating.
Best piece of advice you've ever been given: My parents always tell me I have to get an education. I'm in a good spot right now but my look could be out before I know it (but hopefully it won't be). I need to have something to fall back on in case this doesn't work out.
—Todd Plummer, follow him @toddkingston