James Gatenby may be a newbie on the modelling scene but he is already making a big impression. He opened exclusively for Louis Vuitton and is being courted by agencies in Europe and New York. Rarely does a model get the opportunity to tell their story at the genesis of their career and when stardom arrives it is even rarer. Here, James speaks to me and Emily Sandberg about his hopes and aspirations for his career and the highlights thus far.
How were you discovered?
I tried a new hair stylist, and it just so happened he worked for GQ. At first I thought they were just being nice when they said “You should be a model.” Surely they said that to every customer, right? Then it turned out they were serious and had booked me an interview at Priscilla’s (my mother agency).
You studied Biochemistry at university. How do you think this changes people’s perception of you as a model?
People usually do a double-take when I say I studied Science, it does seem a bit contrary to a pursuit like modelling. Hopefully they then realize that models can have passions besides modelling, we aren’t just one-dimensional. Some people don’t realize that a lot of models study even while modelling. They could be future doctors, lawyers or business owners.
How did you feel when you were booked to open exclusively for Louis Vuitton?
I was ecstatic, up until the show I don’t think I could stop smiling! I kept thinking, “This must be a dream, surely I’ll wake up soon?”, but I didn’t and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. My bookers were happy as well, one had tears in their eyes and had told their parents the good news. They really care about you and to me that was the most important part of being told about the job.
What are your aspirations and goals for the future?
In the short-term I want to travel, meet interesting people and do the best that I can in this industry. In the long-term I am passionate about medical research and when I find the time to go back to university I’ll be completing an Honors and a Ph.D.
What do you hope to get out of your modelling career?
I love that I am part of a creative industry producing works of art. Hopefully, that makes up for my deficiency in other artist abilities like drawing things that aren’t stick figures. I want to experience life in different countries, different cultures; travelling while you are young is an experience that everyone should be able to have.
How do you handle the pressure and rejection that comes with modelling?
I have never let my appearance define me, so when I am not right for a job it’s never a personal issue for me. That’s the sort of attitude you need to have in this industry – thick skin is a must. Sure, there is pressure to look your best, but I can’t change my bone structure or my metabolism so I don’t even begin to worry about those things.
What do you think people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I am Australian. Everyone says I don’t look or sound Australian. I have an interesting mix of European ancestry that has influenced my appearance and living in England at a young impressionable age has changed my accent ever so slightly too. Sorry for being confusing casting directors.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Apart from Louis Vuitton, I would say the moment when I was told an agency in Milan (2morrow) wanted to sign me. It was at that point that I felt like I could succeed as a model and make something out of it. They have been so supportive and I can’t thank them enough for all the work they have done.
What do you do to decompress from the pace of modelling and refocus?
When I need to clear my head, I often go for a run. It allows me to focus on the simple motion of my body and forget everything else. To relax, hot tea is always the best option.
How do you cope when you are away from family and friends in Australia?
Australia is pretty far away, but the internet is a fantastic tool for staying in touch with those close to me. I can call my family on Skype, see what my friends are doing on Facebook and anyone can follow what I am doing day-to-day on Twitter. It doesn’t replace face to face interaction and I can’t wait to see them all when I get back, but it helps me stay connected.
Follow him at @JimmyGModel