In our ongoing series
They say modeling is in the genes. Take, for example, Paolo Anchisi, a runway and editorial staple who has fronted campaigns for H&M, DKNY, Zara, Yves Saint Laurent, Versace, and Dolce & Gabbana, just to name a few, and whose mother, Lynne Koester, was a top model in the late eighties and early nineties. Anchisi, who grew up between Italy and America, says he knew nothing about the industry despite having a mom who encouraged him to follow the family trade, which now regularly takes him from his home in North Carolina to Stockholm, Milan, and the Maldives. Fittingly enough, he has relished the opportunity to take it all in as it comes, especially when the work is, as he says, "interesting every time."
Hometown: Asheville, North Carolina
Agency: Ford Models
How were you discovered?
My mother was a model back in the day, so she helped me. I had just graduated from high school, and I was living in North Carolina. I was going to go to New York with my father for a little vacation, and my mom was like, "Well, just meet with a couple agencies to see how that goes."
What expectations did you and your mother have for your career before you started?
I never thought that my career would be the way it's been. Growing up, my mother and her friends would tell me to try modeling, so I always thought maybe I could get a job or two, but not nearly what I've had. I don't think she could have predicted this either.
Did your mother give you any advice when you decided to start modeling?
We never really talked about it. She basically quit modeling when I was born, except for a couple of runways or certain jobs as I was growing up, and I'd see that, but she wouldn't really talk about it at home. She has her pictures all around, so I grew up with it, but she never really said much about the fashion world. The only thing she ever told me is to watch out for the lighting.
What had you been planning to do before you started modeling?
Nothing special. I was going to graduate high school, and I was probably just going to go to some local college. I was going to study agriculture and horticulture or farming, something out of an office. I was planning on moving out of North Carolina, though. I was probably going to head out to California or something.
You spent a lot of time in Milan when you were little. What was it like to move to North Carolina after that?
It was completely different, but I like it because I love nature. I love to go outside and hike, and there's beautiful waterfalls. It's a different kind of lifestyle, because it's the country and it's mostly horse people and show jumpers. My first job was actually working in a barn shoveling, fun stuff.
What was your first modeling job?
I definitely remember this one. It was Vogue Hommes Japan with Hedi Slimane and Nicola Formichetti. I was 17 at the time, and they flew me out to Paris, and I'm thinking to myself, "Okay, Vogue Hommes Japan," getting excited and pumped up, but not knowing exactly what it was at all. I get to the shoot and they basically glue a mullet to the back of my head. So then I'm sitting there like, "Oh my God, is this fashion?" I live in North Carolina, where there's hicks with mullets, and I just went all the way to Paris to get a mullet. But then the pictures came out, and you could see the style of the shoot was about the eighties, and it needed to be different, and it worked. I would definitely say that was what started my career. I remember hearing what a big job it was. It was a little crazy, but the pictures looked good.
What was the hardest thing to get used to with modeling?
I'll guarantee you one thing: If I plan anything, a vacation or some kind of event, I'm going to get booked for something. One time I had planned a vacation for me and my girlfriend to go to L.A., and the day that I was supposed to leave, I confirmed a job in New York. I ended up flying with my girlfriend to L.A. and spending an hour there, having dinner with her mother, and then I flew to New York on a red-eye. I landed and I did the job that day, and after the job I flew back to L.A. It's just part of the job, I guess. After a while, the traveling and the flights and everything get a little bit easier.
What's the most surprising thing you've learned about the industry?
How small the business is. It's so big, because it's worldwide, but at the same time, it's very small. You always see the same faces.
What do you think you'd be doing now if you weren't modeling?
I don't know. I definitely wouldn't be living in North Carolina anymore. Now it's the place I can go back to. I'm traveling so much, so North Carolina is a nice place to relax. As I said, I was trying to move to California, but I probably would have ended up working with my father. He has a business called Escape to Shape that offers fitness-oriented vacations, so he's always traveling to Bali and Croatia and Marrakech, and I probably would have gotten into it as I got older, because he probably would have made me.
Have you thought about what you want to do after you finish modeling?
Kind of. Obviously, I've got to think of my future, but right now I'm just going to go with the flow and do what I can. Then my plan is to figure out more of a guideline of where to go, but at the moment I don't have anything figured out. I might want to do something with reusable energy, maybe work with solar panels, but that's just an idea for now.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
If it's about the business, I'd say it was what my mom told me about the lighting. But more generally, I think it's that you've got to work hard to get where you are. You've got to work for your dollar.
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—Jonathan Shia, follow him at @JonathanShia