In our ongoing series
In an age of oversharing, it can be refreshing to find someone who likes to maintain his privacy, especially if that somebody is Benjamin Eidem, whose classic good looks have become a common sight on magazine covers, storefronts, billboards, and even the sides of city buses. But you won't find him on Facebook or Twitter, even if his campaigns for Valentino, Emporio Armani, Tommy Hilfiger, and Calvin Klein have made him one of the most prominent faces in the game today.
You can, however, find him on Instagram, which he joined somewhat reluctantly earlier this year, a canny choice for the sometime-professional photographer. Those of us who struggle to find interesting shots among the daily minutiae of our lives can take comfort in the knowledge that Eidem says that even a life of constant globe-spanning travel can leave him at a bit of a loss. "I've found it kind of difficult, actually," he told us, laughing. "I don't know what to post sometimes."
Hometown: Gothenburg, Sweden
Agency: Re:Quest Model Management
How were you discovered?
I was scouted in Miami outside a restaurant when I was 18, but I didn't want to do it then. After a couple of years, when I got bored with my job at an electronics store, I decided to go to an agency and try it out. I thought the money sounded good, and I thought it might be fun. I think waiting a few years and starting a bit later might have helped me treat modeling more responsibly. I don't really party as much as a lot of the younger guys, and I try to always be on time and everything.
What expectations did you have for your career before you started modeling?
I never expected to go outside Sweden for work. I just wanted to do it a little bit in Sweden, and then it was all over Europe, and then they wanted me to go to America.
What's the most memorable modeling job you've had?
I guess it was opening the spring 2011 Prada show. I was extremely nervous. I sort of regretted being there until after it was over, then the experience was nice. It wasn't the most fun job I've ever had, but it was definitely the most memorable. It was the first really big thing that I did.
What's the biggest splurge you've spent your modeling earnings on?
My boat. I sort of grew up with boats, my family always had some kind of boat when I was little. It's almost a dream boat for me. I've always wanted one that was all wood on top and plastic underneath, to keep it simple. I sailed it home from Denmark for the first time with my girlfriend and some friends, and I had an amazing time. About a month after that, I went out on it again, and the engine broke down and then we had some leaks in the roof. The engine has been under repair all winter, and I fixed the leaks myself, but it ended up costing me a bit more than I expected in the end.
What's the most interesting place you've visited for work?
Out of all the places I've been, the one I always wanted to go to even before I started was New York. At first, they sent me to London and Paris, and they were nice, but I wasn't that excited until I found out I was going to New York. Now I've been to New York so many times, but usually I'm just there for a couple of days, I do my job, and then I go back home. I haven't spent that much time there, but I really like it.
What's the hardest thing about modeling?
It's lonely. You spend a lot of time traveling by yourself. You go to new places, you work, and then you go home. It's just airport, airport, airport, hotel, sleep, work, and then back to the airport. Definitely the hardest thing is being alone.
You started later than a lot of other male models. Have you ever given any thought to your longevity in the industry?
I guess I haven't, really, but then again, I always consider that my next job might be my last one. I'm going to keep on doing this as long as I can, but some models can go on for a long time and some can't. I don't really know what I'd do afterwards. It's different for people in Sweden compared to America—here you can get a simple job and make a decent living from it. I can see myself doing so many different things, because I don't know yet what I would like to study. I might want to be a police officer, or I might go work in a grocery store. I have no idea.
You spent a long time avoiding all social media. What made you decide to finally join Instagram?
One reason was that I saw a few fake accounts pretending to be me and I wanted people to know that I was the real one. I also thought it would be fun to follow people and just have a look at what Instagram is like. I think I started too late to get a lot of followers, though. When you first start, everyone writes so much about you on blogs and The Fashion Spot and different websites, but then they get bored. If you're a new face and you open Prada, like I did, everyone's going to look and follow you on Instagram. But three years later, you're just a model, and people probably looked already and think you don't even have Instagram and they're not interested to look anymore.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
When I started and it started going well, I had to travel so much—I was flying everywhere all the time—and I thought it sucked. I didn't want to do it anymore, but then someone told me that I should enjoy it while I can. So I learned to appreciate these opportunities while I have them, because this isn't something everyone gets to do.
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—Jonathan Shia, follow him at @JonathanShia