In our ongoing series,
The hardest part of modeling can be having faith that more work is coming. But veteran Mark Cox knows from personal experience that sometimes there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. The former car salesman burst out of the gate several years ago with his Gucci, ck Calvin Klein, and Prada campaigns, but admits to having doubts when things started to slow down—even as he became a recognizable-enough face to serve as a celebrity coach on a modeling reality show in his native Holland. But his perseverance has paid off, as 2014 has brought a renaissance of sorts, with ads for both Bottega Veneta and Etro this spring. It's a fitting turn of events for an undaunted optimist who says, "Even if you know you're going to fail, you've got to try it."
Height: 6' 2"
Hometown: Zeist, the Netherlands
Agency: DNA Model Management
How were you discovered?
I was at a jazz club in Amsterdam and there were two scouts from Elite Models who told me to drop by to take some pictures. I thought it was going to be a nice summer job or a weekend job, but it ended up being a real job. I was busy working and playing field hockey, which took up all of my time. I never thought I would give up sports, but I loved the opportunity to travel, so that's why I went for it, and before I knew it I was in New York.
How did you decide to move to New York so early on in your career?
The first time I was here, it was for a casting for Calvin Klein. They flew me in and everything was paid for, so I stuck around for two months, and luckily I got to meet with DNA and they took me on. They wanted me to stay in town, and I wanted to be in New York anyway. When you do something, you have to do it 100 percent. It was kind of a release because it was a new start. You move away from home and you start your new life, which I was excited to do because I was getting bored of my old job as well. The only thing I missed was my friends and sports.
When did you realize modeling was something you could do full time?
It took me a while because I was setting limits for myself. I started off really well by doing two good campaigns, Gucci and Pringle. When I did those, the pressure became a bit lighter, and I was like, "OK, this is fun to do, let's keep going." Then there was a dip in my career and it was quiet for like three years, so I was asking myself, "Is this worth it? Do I want to keep doing this or am I wasting my time?" But then something pops up again—like the Bottega Veneta and Etro campaigns—and it gets brighter and then it takes off again.
How did you keep up the motivation to continue modeling even when work slowed down?
I still love traveling, and modeling has brought me so many good things and opened so many doors, I couldn't think about quitting. There's so many things to do on the side and there's so much free time, and if you use that in the right way, you can do so many more things than just be a model. I think that's one of the most important things a lot of models are doing wrong—they're wasting their time doing nothing. It's a good thing to keep going and find things to do. There's so many industries here in New York, and we're privileged in a lot of ways.
What's the most memorable modeling job you've had?
That's so hard. You can't really say, because every campaign you shoot is very special, and a few editorials were very special as well, like the one for W by Mert and Marcus, which I shot with Lara Stone and Edita Vilkeviciute, or anything with Steven Meisel, who's a great photographer. Those are all great moments. You can't pick just one!
You were a coach on the Dutch modeling competition reality show The Face in 2012. What lessons did you learn from your experience being on the other side of the industry?
I think the biggest lesson I learned was to be a little bit more relaxed about everything and to try not to stress out about small stuff. The whole industry became clearer overall as well, because as a model you are often wondering why you do or don't get chosen. It's fun to be on the other side, to say, "I want to choose you' or 'I don't want to choose you." The thing you have to understand as a model is that it doesn't revolve around you. It's not because of you, but because of the whole process around you—the clothes or the idea the designer has—so you don't have to book every job. You don't have to drive yourself crazy about getting jobs if you can't influence that. You can't force it.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Nelson Mandela said that "the greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." It's one of my favorite quotes, because no matter how many times you try, you always have to keep trying. You become stronger by failing.
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—Jonathan Shia, follow him @Jonathan Shia