Neil went behind the raw flashes with Justin Axiak to discuss the intricacies that go along with being a professional model.
At face value, people might think that modelling is just a glamorous profession, full of sunshine and rainbows. In an attempt to reveal the good, the bad and the somewhat ugly sides of the world of modelling, I decided to interview Justin Axiak, the 22-year-old model who also happens to be the winner of ‘Mr. Supranational Malta’ and ‘Mr. Supranational Europe’, also placing 6th in the World.
Justin’s career as a model began after a model scout came across some of his previous photo shoots on Facebook, and offered him a modelling contract. I know for a fact that even though I myself have a Facebook account, no modelling company would ever get contact me, especially considering that I look like most characters from Guess Who.
The hardest photoshoot that Justin has ever had to endure, was his first – a baptism by fire – as he was modelling for a swimsuit campaign in the freezing, bitter cold. This was not only demanding since Justin had relatively little modelling experience, but he had to pose in a swimsuit in the icy February sea, a task that would even make Aquaman uncomfortable.
Although Justin is part of the fashion industry, he doesn’t consider himself to be narcissistic at all. He explains that in some cases, and with some people, models might feel less confident especially after a particularly tough photoshoot. Justin says that a model needs to develop a thick skin in order to survive in the modelling business. Considering that a model needs to look as close to perfection as possible, the photographers might ask them to try and mask their imperfections. Although for some models this might begin to sound like white noise after a while, for others, this might cause serious distress, seeing as the people in charge are constantly gnawing away at their insecurities.
Even though Justin has been a part of some pretty stunning photo shoots, he has also had his fair share of embarrassing experiences. Being the big man that he is, Justin jokingly admits that once, during a photoshoot for a big Maltese company, the stylists had prepared the wrong size of clothing for the shoot. Justin was left with nothing but his underwear on as the stylists had to go back to their store and replace them. As a result, he ended up waiting for 45 minutes in a hotel corridor, looking like a low-budget action hero – if that sight isn’t enough to give a 10-year-old a stutter, I don’t know what is.
In Justin’s opinion, the toughest thing about modelling is the constant judgement. He indicates that you get rejected for modelling opportunities a lot more than you get accepted. A model might get rejected nine times before finally being booked for a job. This can be especially strenuous if you are trying to make a living off of modelling alone, which he remarks is particularly difficult in Malta.
Despite what I thought, Justin doesn’t find the catwalk to be particularly stressful. This completely went against my preconceived idea, because if it were me on that stage, I would be sweating like a heroin addict on withdrawal. Although, to be fair, he did say that he knew some other models who did in fact suffer from severe stage fright. So perhaps his calmness on stage could be attributed to his extroversion and his previous stage experience as a bodybuilder, rather than a universal trait for all models.
As a model, Justin has had to go through several dietary changes. His worst dieting experience to date was during his preparation for a bodybuilding diet shoot, “I was hangry (hungry and angry), moody and weak all the time.” Not only did he faint on multiple occasions, but since he was repetitively going through the same grind and routine for a long period of time, it became very taxing on his body. Justin clarified that, perhaps, the mental struggle was more difficult than the physical one. It developed into a battle with his brain – challenging himself to see how long he could withstand the weakness and hunger and if he could bear to sacrifice the good things in life because of some restrictions.
Towards the end of the interview, I wanted to get his thought on the aspect of gender in the modelling industry. More specifically, what he thought was harder; being a male model or a female model? Justin replied that being a female model might be harder. Female models are judged much more harshly than their male counterparts, and they might feel more inclined to try their hand at modelling, resulting in some steep competition. However, on the upside, they get paid substantially higher than males, who get paid peanuts when comparing the two.
When asked about the competition with the other male models, Justin said that since you are essentially competing for the same thing, there can be a hint of friendly competition. However, Justin emphasised that this is just healthy, neighbourly competition and it never goes past that. As a matter of fact, he still keeps in contact with some of the other participants, whom he supports whenever they are about to embark on a new project.