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It's safe to say that not many new models—many of whom are even barely out of high school—have the life experience and background of Adam Butcher, who put in years at a stock brokerage firm and a tutoring center before making a splash walking exclusively in Prada's Spring 2014 show last year. Since then, the Ontario native has been on a meteoric rise, landing a slew of runway spots and editorials in place of the usual teenagers. Butcher admits he is a still a bit stunned by the path his life has taken over the past year, all of it stemming from his somewhat-spontaneous decision to stop into Elmer Olsen Model Management in Toronto after coming to a dead end of sorts in his career. "It seems a little too good to be true that the first time in my life that I instill some discipline in myself to achieve a goal, it is just going so well," he says. "It's like the universe was trying to tell me, 'Yeah, this is what you can achieve if you try, if you're focused.'"
Hometown: Oakville, Canada
Agency: IMG Models
How were you discovered?
I walked into Elmer Olsen Model Management in Toronto during open call hours and they told me that I had potential and to keep in touch with them. Then I set up a test shoot with my friend who was a photographer and I sent the pictures to Elmer Olsen and they said they were interested in representing me and getting me started.
What made you decide to go in for that open call?
It was really just a sense of adventure to try something new that I had really no idea about. It was a test for me to put myself in a place to be judged and critiqued, because often a fear of rejection can hold you back.
What were you doing before?
I'd had a lot of jobs before that. The most recent was as the manager of a tutoring center for high school students. Before that, I worked in the financial industry as a salesman and customer service representative for a brokerage firm in Toronto.
What expectations did you have for your career before you started?
I didn't really think that far through. I thought of it as just a personal test and a challenge for myself to set a goal, a specific goal, and my goal was to get signed by Elmer Olsen. My goal wasn't to do any particular job. I didn't even know what it was going to be like being a model, but I decided on something, and I wanted to see if I could follow through.
What's the most surprising thing you've learned about the industry?
Nothing really surprises me, because I didn't have any idea of what it would be like. I just sort of learn as I go. Every experience so far just seems like an amazing opportunity and a blessing, really.
What was your first modeling job?
My first job was the Prada Spring 2014 show in Milan. I guess because it happened so quickly and all of a sudden I was in this whole new world, I was not nervous at all. I couldn't really keep a smile off my face because I was just looking around like, "This is crazy, this was a good idea." When Elmer Olsen took me out for lunch and told me what a big deal it was to get booked as an exclusive for Prada for your first job and he told me that my life was going to change, I was pretty excited. I patted myself on the back like, "Good job, you did it," because I felt like that was it and I felt like things could go really well now that I was in this positive state of mind.
What's the most memorable modeling job you've done?
I think the most memorable job was doing the Prada Iconoclasts shoot with Edward Enninful and Emma Summerton. It just felt like things were really progressing. It felt like a really solid moment where I could feel like I really belonged here and that I could really succeed at this because of how well the shoot went and the positive feedback I received.
You're a few years older than a lot of the other new guys. How do you think you approach the job differently?
I think the main difference is fewer distractions. You are more confident in the path that you're on and where it could possibly take you. Having had so many previous careers that didn't feel like they were in line with what I wanted to achieve and how I wanted to live my life makes it more evident how much of an opportunity this is for me, so it helps me not to get distracted by things that might deter me from taking full advantage of this opportunity while it lasts.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Just before I started modeling, I was in between jobs and I had been through so many different career paths—things I didn't want to do—and I really didn't have a clear idea yet of where I wanted to go. I was feeling a bit of pressure and stress at that time, and I was kind of in a stagnant phase, and my dad said that life's not a straight line and that it'll work out. Simple words, but it meant a lot to me at that time. It took the pressure off and I realized that, yeah, life's not a straight line, there might be ups and downs, but it'll all work out. So I sort of let it go and just woke up the next morning with eyes open to whatever opportunities come my way, and that's when I thought about going to audition for modeling.
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—Jonathan Shia, follow him @JonathanShia