In our ongoing seriesModel in the Spotlight, we get up close and personal with the world's leading male models.
Any model can tell you that the industry has a habit of getting in the way of even the best-laid plans. For recent college grad Tommaso de Benedictis, who came off a prodigious debut-show season last summer to land both the Gucci and the Cerruti campaigns this spring, his rapid ascent may have saved him from months of drudgery as an unpaid intern at a commercial gallery, which the art-history major says is what he'd probably be doing now if he hadn't started modeling. But sudden success also has its downsides, admittedly trivial as they may seem. "I had plans to go on a road trip with my friends through France that summer, which I missed," he says, laughing. "But now they understand. They're okay with it now that I'm in magazines."
Height: 6' ½"
Hometown: I've lived in a few cities, but I think I would consider Rome my hometown.
Agency: Tomorrow Is Another Day
How were you discovered? I was scouted while playing football in a little park in Bethnal Green in East London. Eva, the director of the agency, scouted me. It was a bit strange, especially because I was only there for a friend's birthday. I went to university outside London, so I came down for the weekend, and we just happened to go to that specific park at that time of the day. So many factors could have kept it from happening.
Did you immediately agree to it? I was immediately like, "I'll do it if they offer me a job," but I didn't pursue it. They called me back a couple weeks later, so I was quite glad and I eagerly went down to London to take some shots and talk with them.
What was your first modeling job? A Lou Dalton show. I was nervous, but excited as well.
What's the most memorable modeling job you've had? Shooting the Gucci campaign video. That was pretty intense, and it was cool, because it was almost like shooting a movie. The production was massive, and we had to learn all these martial-arts sequences from professional stuntmen. That was my first insight into publicity and advertising, too.
How did you decide to study art history and museology? It picked me. Honestly, it was my last option for university and the most reasonable path to choose, considering I was shit at science and math and interpreting books. I applied for this course because it was new and seemed cool. The museology bit was quite interesting, because it was a lot like anthropology. We looked at the paths that people take through museums, as well as more practical things like lighting and spaces.
You said you've lived in a few different cities in your life. Do you think that experience has been helpful for all the traveling you have to do now as a model? Yes, for many reasons. I was born in New York, and I lived here for three years. Then I was between Rome and London. I have friends in all those cities, which makes it a lot easier to get around. Plus, I can stay at their houses, which makes it cheap. It's a lot more fun if you go out in a city with someone who knows it well. Another advantage is languages—I know Italian and French quite well.
What's the most surprising thing you've learned about the modeling industry? Honestly, I never thought about the fashion world, so I didn't really have many expectations. I guess some of them were money and glamour, and half of that's true. You have to understand that I've been doing this for only half a year, so it's a big shock to start working as a model and have my own money. It's really nice to be independent like that.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given? I don't know if it's the best, but the one that really stuck with me is, "Don't borrow money." I've been able to stick with it quite well, but I might owe some people from bumming cigarettes.
—Jonathan Shia, follow him at @JonathanShia