Bart Grzybowski may be a rookie in the modeling game but he brings to the table a wealth of life experience. This Villanova graduate quotes Robert Frost and cites The Fountainhead as inspiration while having the blessing of veteran photographer Bruce Weber. I caught up with Bart as he waxed lyrical about his passions and explains why there’s more to life than being really, really, really ridiculously good-looking.

How were you discovered?

I used to do high-end, residential construction for Laurion Construction in Miami, but after the housing market crashed things slowed significantly and I ended up bartending on South Beach. I was approached by Jose Ochoa, who was an editor at Ocean Drive Magazine, and he told me I needed to start modeling. He sent me over to meet with Christian Alexander at Front Management and they offered me a contract the same day. Since I was planning on moving out to California in six months to try to become a General Contractor, I needed to save some money for the move and I signed the same day.

If you weren’t modeling what would you be doing?

Ever since I read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, I was inspired to build and work with my hands, so probably something to do with construction/development. I love the creative expression it allows and also the reward of seeing what you have accomplished at the end of the day. There’s something to be said for busting your ass all day and falling asleep tired. I know that 30 years from now I can go back to a home I helped to build, knock on the door and meet the family that has created memories in something I put on this earth.  It means a lot to me to know a part of me will be around even after I am gone.

How do you define success?

That is easy. Are you happy? If yes, then you are successful. If not, keep trying. I think the most important thing a human can do is spend a lot of time with that question: what makes me happy? Once you figure that out, do it. For me, there is always something more that can be done, so I am constantly changing my goals and adapting my game plan to achieve them. When I’m gone I know I will consider myself successful if I have left the people who knew and loved me a little bit happier and more inspired.

How do you handle the scrutiny and rejection that comes with modeling?

You definitely need thick skin when it comes to modeling. When your job is to make money off your appearance, every inch of you will be critiqued. However, I’ve never considered myself to be solely a “model” and so my success in this industry doesn’t define me as a person. I graduated from a good school, Villanova, worked hard jobs in social work and construction, and most importantly, have been through the pain of losing a parent which, all by itself, forced me to evaluate, scrutinize and come to love and cherish the person I’ve become. No matter what kind of rejection I get, I’ve realized that “maybe there’s more to life than being really, really, really ridiculously good-looking.”

What are your goals and aspirations for the future?

Eventually I’d love to be comfortable enough financially where I can provide for my family and help take care of my parents and siblings, but money isn’t the most important thing. It’s just a means to an end.  In the meantime I’d love to travel a lot more: Italy, Greece, Spain, South Africa, Brazil, to name a few. I’d like to design and build my own home out West somewhere, probably Colorado or California. I’d like to make an impact on the lives of others and help make this world better rather than worse. After my experience working for a foster care program in Miami, I promised myself that I would adopt a child when the time was right. I guess ultimately though, it is to be a good person and make the ones I surround myself with happier for knowing me.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I love all the amazing people and places I have met and seen and I want to send a big thank you to everyone and everything that has made this incredible ride possible. If I had to pick one moment, I guess the highlight of my modeling career was flying out to Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado for the Ralph Lauren Chaps shoot. It’s a small mining town from the late 1800’s that was converted to a nature resort where each miner’s cabin has its own natural hot spring right outside in the back. It’s like a blast from the past, I got to spend a few days with the RL Crew and Richard Phibbs basking in the raw, majestic beauty of our surroundings and really getting to know everyone personally. We had family dinners in the main lodge and we even did a Tommy Boy movie night. It was incredible.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Hmm, that my favorite movie is Legends of the Fall? I’m going to get my chops busted for that one.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about modeling?

That it is an easy job. Sure it pays pretty well, and there are a lot of perks, but like most things in life nothing is guaranteed. You never know when you will get booked, or how frequently for that matter. You have to take a leap of faith and have the will power to make your foray into the industry a successful and profitable one.  I see a lot of my friends becoming doctors and financial advisors and all sorts of high paying professionals and sometimes I wonder if that route would have been better for me, just based on the security it provides. But then I remember an often over-cited quotation, but one that is very fitting:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost

You seemed to bond with Bruce Weber when working together. Did he have any advice for you?

Bruce is a legend in the industry and has a wealth of experience and artistic talent. His style has inspired other photographers for decades. When he took me under his wing, he helped launch my career, as he has so many others: for that I will always be grateful.  I can’t say for certain, but after spending time with Bruce on numerous shoots and talking about my life and what I’d been through, I think he saw something more in me: that there was a story there. His best advice to me was to channel that and to never hide it. To come out of my shell and to show it to the world. In fact, it’s probably one of the reasons why I’m so forthcoming with these answers. I guess on that note, I should say thank you so much for the opportunity!

Follow him at @bartgrzy