C For Men

The Originals

by slh

Six pioneers of the modeling industry prove they only get better with age

In a world where being a male model is seemingly now a rite of passage for any photogenic guy with a social media brand to build, it’s easy to forget that back in the ’80s and ’90s, such a career path was viewed as taboo—and the exclusive domain of women. However, the six gentlemen on these pages, gathered together at The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel by John Pearson (widely regarded as “the world’s first male supermodel”), helped to break the mold and change the clichéd view of men in the industry. Proving they still have what it takes, the longtime friends and collaborators—Pearson, Olivier Debray, Hoyt Richards, Moose Ali Khan, Bruce Hulse and Cameron Alborzian—offer today’s up-and-comers a lesson in wearing well. “We’ve got this fundamental history in a business that has changed rapidly,” Pearson says. Adds Khan: “The hair is a little grayer hair, but the sparkle in everyone’s eyes, the humility and the charm is the same.”

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Fronting campaigns including Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Valentino and working with photographers such as Peter Lindbergh, Steven Meisel and Bruce Weber. Pearson starred with Stephanie Seymour in Herb Ritts’ Drakkar Noir ads and in George Michael’s iconic “Freedom ’90” music video, directed by David Fincher. BIG BREAK: A local photographer discovered Pearson as he was selling jeans in Northern England at age 18. “I thought, ‘Why not? You’re a showoff. You think you’re James Dean. You like the attention.’ I did a few pictures for him, and my sister sent them to a magazine in London. They immediately asked me to shoot a cover.” NOW: Pearson still constantly works as a model and consults for Sires Crown Eyewear. The Los Angeles resident is developing, co-writing and hosting an arts and culture show called Looking for Picasso and has been married to C fashion director Alison Edmond for 23 years.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Appearing in campaigns for Versace, Calvin Klein and Valentino, Debray was a favorite subject of the late, great lensman Herb Ritts. BIG BREAK: While working in construction in Paris, Debray, then 20, was discovered with his brother, Eric, by Andy Warhol’s longtime director Paul Morrissey, who showed a photo of them to Bruce Weber. “Bruce said, ‘I want those two guys on the next plane to do the new campaign for Calvin Klein.’” NOW: Based in Sherman Oaks, Debray now runs a successful construction business called Bulldog Investment & Development Inc. “I’m a builder again,” he says. “It’s full circle.”

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Appearing in campaigns for Versace, Valentino, Gianfranco Ferré and Cartier and working with photography legends Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton. BIG BREAK: While attending Princeton University, he was discovered on his way to football practice when a photographer asked him to pose for an on-campus shoot. A year later, after a shoulder injury sidelined his athletic ambitions, he pursued modeling full-time. “I had this 21-year-old mentality of ‘if I can’t be a football star, I’ll just be a star,’” he says with a laugh. “I linked up with Ford Models and met Bruce Weber.” NOW: “The whole time I’d been modeling I was involved in a religious cult,” L.A.-based Richards explains. “In 1999, I escaped.” While recovering, he discovered writing, acting, producing and directing, and incorporated his experience into an as-yet-untitled documentary, out next year.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Fronting campaigns for Brunello Cucinelli, Ermenegildo Zegna and Kenzo. Khan was also known as a catwalk king. BIG BREAK: “My brother’s girlfriend made friends with a model,” Khan explains of his introduction to the industry at age 19. “She organized a test shoot with a black photographer, a black stylist and ethnic models, and her agent saw the pictures…at that time [I was] considered weird.” From there, he and his brother, Chazz, soon booked Yohji Yamamoto’s Paris show. NOW: In addition to acting, Topanga-based Khan has gotten into music and yoga. He released three albums in which he sings and plays the “hang,” a Caribbean-inspired steel drum invented in Switzerland. He also travels to yoga festivals around the world and leads retreats.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: A favorite of photographer Bruce Weber for more than 30 years, Hulse worked for clients including Nautica and Ralph Lauren, and starred in a Calvin Klein campaign with Andie MacDowell and Iman. BIG BREAK: After earning a degree in Buddhist studies at Cornell University, Hulse played professional basketball in Europe, then tried, to no avail, to sign with a modeling agency. A short time later, a scout from Paris spotted him, at 28 years old, in a nightclub. NOW: In addition to modeling, Pacific Palisades-based Hulse has stepped behind the lens, shooting for Jaeger Sports, Prada and the Shangri-La Hotel. He has also authored a memoir. Hulse has a son and a daughter who periodically model alongside him. He says, “Old models don’t fade away, they move to L.A.!” 

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Appearing with Carrie Otis in a Guess campaign shot by Ellen von Unwerth and starring in Madonna’s 1989 music video “Express Yourself.” (“She called me up and was like, ‘Do you want to be in my video?’ I was a cocky, 22-year-old guy, so I was like, ‘Maybe.’”) BIG BREAK: Alborzian was discovered while walking down King’s Road in London. From there he moved to Paris, where he donned spandex and 7-inch women’s stilettos for Jean-Paul Gaultier, his first show. “I got to the end of the catwalk and I thought, ‘I’ve arrived. I don’t know where I’ve arrived, but…I love this.’” NOW: Alborzian is an accomplished yoga and Ayurveda practitioner who now goes by the name Yogi Cameron and splits his time between India and Huntington Beach. He has written a handful of books, including his latest, The Yogi Code: Seven Universal Laws of Infinite Success (Atria/Enliven Books). 

Photography by BEAU GREALY.


This article originally appeared in the C For Men Fall 2017.