Justin Gossman: model or mythical Rock Prince?
NOMINATED BY ANNE-SOPHIE BERBILLE
INTERVIEW BY KATE LAWSON
At 21 and hailing from La Jolla, California, model Justin Gossman has become one of the most talked-about new faces in fashion, his breakout moment landing in a glam rock shoot alongside Stella Tennant for V magazine clad in Saint Laurent. One look at his endless cheekbones and foppish rocker-ready hair (he’s also in a band), and it’s clear to see why his hippy-esque vibe has made him a muse-of-the-moment. From Instagram selfies with stuffed leopards in Paris and posing in hats by celebrity milliner Gladys Tamez, along with the odd inspirational shot of a young Mick Jagger - with whom he bears a slight resemblance in that cult 70s music hero kind of way - Gossman’s dandyish get-up redefines the idea of masculinity, falling into the new style androgyny reverberating through both the streets and runways today - his decadent flamboyancy exuding a charm which appeals to both fangirls and boys alike. We caught up with the model in between New York and Paris castings, to talk phobias, bad habits and why his life motto and constant hashtag is #satisfaction - unlike Mick, can he get any?
Who discovered you and suggested you try modelling?
I just walked into Ford, Wilhelmina and Next (model agencies) in Los Angeles one month and said I want to model for you - in the end I signed with Next on the spot. A lot of people in my life were just telling me I needed to start modelling, so I gave it a shot. It seems to be working so far, haha!
What was your breakout model moment?
Dani Brubaker (photographer and director) kinda hooked me up with an awesome editorial that we shot at the Ace Hotel in LA. The shoot helped my portfolio for Europe, then I had a real commercial job that I shot for 30 minutes or less that gave me the money to go out to London for my first time, and shoot for V magazine with Stella Tennent wearing Saint Laurent. I got acquainted with Next London too and the whole aspect of travelling in another country and using their public transport.
You appear as if modelling just comes naturally - have you always had this inner confidence?
I’ve always felt comfortable in front of the camera, I don't try to be something I'm not when the cameras roll out, a lot of people think modelling is going and striking a pose for a photo when it's not like that, it's more about capturing natural emotions and movement. You can't re-create stuff like that by posing. If you can, good for you Zoolander!
And what do you think about when you’re walking down the catwalk?
When I'm walking down a runway I don't really think about much in terms of materialistic things, I'm honestly usually humming a tune in my head or thinking of new lyrics or lines to a poem. I'm also wondering how the show will turn out with photos to press, but in the end that's all really inevitable, so I think there is no point in putting too much thought and worry into something I have no control over.
Do you care about and style the way you look, or are you a roll-out-of-bed and just go kind of guy?
That's a strange question for me, I'm kind of a roll out of bed guy but I'm definitely fashion forward in terms of what I like to wear. I'm not down to be an average kook but at the same time I don't need to shower every day of the week and I don't mind getting or being a little dirty (I used to work in construction!).
There must have been moments so far where you’ve been given something to wear and thought, ‘Omg, do I really have to put this on?
Oh yeah, but that kind of thing doesn't happen to me anymore, it happened once and I made sure never again, haha!
And what about how models are often pigeon-holed in the brains vs beauty debate - you’ve stepped into an industry obsessed with looks, what’s your opinion on it all?
I honestly have no clue on this one, I'm kind of an old soul I hear some people say, so maybe the old brains could be right about a thing or two - and beauty will always be a debate since it's an opinion to think ‘something is beautiful..’
Well you know what sells beauty-wise now then, so what would you say is your best feature?
Some of my worst mistakes were haircuts, but I think my hair is treating me well at the moment! I hear some people say they like my teeth, but I’m not too fond of them. I’ve got blue eyes, but that's a mutation so I'm not really sure... different for everyone I guess.
Are you a perfectionist?
Can the cow jump over the moon? Imagine.
“Can the cow jump over the moon? Imagine.”
Ok, but you perfectly fit into that rocker pin-up aesthetic without really trying, and you’re in a band too, tell me more?
I'm currently in a group with a friend from high school who I grew up skateboarding with. It’s a combination of the blues being our inspirational roots, as well as psychedelic rock mixed with indie, punk and grunge. The group is called The Hollow Suns and I guess you would say I’m one of the front men, I sing chorus and verse, depending on the song. I also play rhythm guitar and harmonicas. I go back home in August after the fashion show season, so hopefully we will have something to put out to the public music-wise before my next run of shows.
You obviously spend a lot of time travelling during the shows, what’s on your iPod while you’re waiting around at airports, in fittings and backstage?
I can't stop listening to a play list I made consisting of The Doors, 13th Floor Elevators, The Rolling Stones, The Small Faces and The Velvet Underground.
What about films you’re into - if you could choose a genre that really fits your vibe, what would it be and what role would you play?
I would try to play a role that I felt best fitted my understanding in life. Maybe the rock 'n'roll, trouble maker type, who rebels against his family or work due to differences in views and the way life can be seen through a different pair of spectacles. I think it would be fascinating to try and portray a rock star, specifically the lead singer, like Mick Jagger for instance - portray them and their struggles or hardships, whether from the difficulty of the business, drug abuse, or friendships - I can empathise really well with that sort of role. I’ve experienced most of that and am currently still in the struggle.
“I would try to play a role that I felt best fitted my understanding in life. Maybe the rock 'n'roll, trouble maker type. I think it would be fascinating to try and portray a rock star, specifically the lead singer, like Mick Jagger.”
Is yours a struggle to find success - does the money and fame aspect drive you a little or a lot?
I honestly think there isn't an easy way to fully answer that, it's sort of black and white. Of course I enjoy the ride, but as in every career most people are looking for a way to be self sufficient. A million bucks sure wouldn't hurt though, haha!
When are you at your happiest then - are you an optimist or a pessimist?
I'm happiest when I'm free to do what I want. When I have gathered together a good group of friends around me and it's just good times, good music, good weather... I see the glass half full in life.
Do you ever like to escape and seek adventure, or do you prefer to play it safe in life?
My life is an adventure. I hit rock bottom and built my way back up. I’ve risked everything I had to be where I am today. Still taking risks in the hope for a better tomorrow.
Are there any bad habits you can’t break?
I'm pretty good at breaking habits.
What if you had 24 hours and were told you could do anything you wanted - what would you do?
I would set up a free concert that would go mad like the Altamont Festival or Hyde Park, the gigs where The Rolling Stones hired The Hells Angels as security guards. It would be a mix of how the Beatles played on the roof tops in London and I would have a location where the whole town could see us for miles... it would be a dream, imagine.
Is there a motto that you live by, something that’s helped shape and define your outlook and why you keep taking risks?
I need some SATISFACTION, I want some SATISFACTION because I ain't got no money, I'm all alone. Haha!
“I need some SATISFACTION, I want some SATISFACTION because I ain't got no money, I'm all alone. Haha!”
Ah, that explains the use of the hashtag #satisfaction which you caption on every instagram shot you post - the fans obviously love it as your followers are rising daily?
I do all my social media, yes, but I'm quite lazy at it to be honest. It’s a groovy thing to have people stoked about the work you’re doing, it's very up-lifting.
Ok, so secrets out - have you ever blocked someone on Instagram and why?
Yeah it's happened! Drama or annoying spam kinda stuff will push me towards suppressing whoever it may be. It doesn't happen often though...
And with your growing fanbase, it must be easy to meet potential love-interests - have you ever used the line ‘I’m a model’ or ‘I’m in a band’ to get a girl?
Haha! When you talk to people that stuff just comes out, I don't do it to try and win people over though. It can turn people off actually, so I just be humble and be nothing but myself.
Good answer! And do you have time for relationships?
I don't really have too much time away from work, so I tend to find myself hanging out with people in the industry, or surrounding art world.
And where do you hang out when you’re not working and have time off?
When I'm free until the next day, I just go wherever the road takes me. When I’ve got time to go to San Diego I hang out in Del Mar and Surf at 7th street (been surfing that spot for nearly 8 years now) or I'll chill in Hill Crest / North Park where my buddy owns a few cottages. Honestly though I enjoy writing and playing music, that’s what my biggest hobby and past time is.
Where is home for you now and how does that particular place influence and inspire your daily life?
I don't have my own place actually. My friends call me "The Wanderer" - I'm currently on the road all the time working going from Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris and Milan. When I find time away from work I like to go back to San Diego and spend a bit of time with my good friend and brother, but I don't get to do that as often as I would like. It makes it a bit more special when I see them though.
“I’ve learned the good the bad and the ugly. Remember who you say you are and keep your nose clean.”
And what’s coming up next for you?
All the season’s shows and I'm hoping to have some music released before the end of this year.
On your journey so far in the industry, what have you learned?
I’ve learned the good the bad and the ugly. Remember who you say you are and keep your nose clean.