Abercrombie & Fitch Male Model: Brad Kroenig

See Tarzan swinging on a rope at the end of the CoverGirl makeup commercial?

Don't change that dial.Tarzan is Brad Kroenig, a former soccer standout at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, who's now rated the world's top male model by Models.com.

"Two stuntmen were there to help me out. It was harder than it looked," said Brad, 25, as he relaxed on the couch at his parents' house in south St. Louis County. Instead of a loin cloth, he wore a white T-shirt and ripped Christian Dior jeans with white Dior sneakers.

He offers this advice for men wanting to look fashionably hip.

"You want it to look like you didn't try (to look good) but you did."

Hanging tough has helped Brad get to the top. Being punctual and easy to work with at photo shoots has gotten him top jobs. Brad keeps his 6-foot-1 frame muscular and lean by eating lots of protein and few carbohydrates. He also works out daily.

His parents, Mark, a standout athlete at Belleville Township High School West in 1969, and Barb Kroenig, aren't surprised by his success.

Barb will never forget that special call from Tokyo. Brad was in the middle of a six-week fashion shoot when he called home with the great news.

"He was a little choked up because he has been saying from the beginning that he would be No. 1 someday," said Barb. "When he played basketball and soccer, he always wanted to be the best at everything he did."

Brad was home for a quick visit at the end of August. Two years ago, Sunday Magazine featured him as an aspiring model.

"I always sleep best at home," said Brad, as he sat on a twin bed in his childhood bedroom that hasn't changed since he left home for college. His lamp is shaped like a baseball glove and the blue walls have a baseball-themed border.

Brad has appeared on the cover of the Italian version of Vogue for men and has modeled for Fendi, Roberto Cavalli, Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors.

"Cindy ( Crawford) said the Vogue cover is what did it for her," said Brad, talking about the breakout job that launched Crawford's modeling career. "That's what did if for me, too."

Along the way, he's met some of the biggest-name designers in the industry.

"(Kors) laughs a lot and likes to tell stories. (Ralph Lauren) is more serious, but he's a nice guy."

Brad's also had shoots with renowned fashion photographer Karl Lagerfeld. He's especially proud of a black and white photo signed by Lagerfeld that uses shadows.

Consumers see Brad's wavy, long blond mane and see him wearing crisp shirts and pants. What they don't see is all the behind-the-scenes work, which can last up to 18 hours for one shoot.

"In Japan, I was up at 4 or 5 in the morning and didn't finish until midnight."

Clothes have to be perfect for the photos.

"If there's a wrinkle, the shirt comes off and they steam it and press it and we do it again," said Brad.

He's modeled with Gisele, Isabeli Fontana and Molly Sims.

While he has some say in photo shoots, most times he follows the direction of the photographer.

"With (fashion photographer) Mario Testino, you just do what he says," said Brad.

Barb and Mark look for Brad in magazines and have asked stores for posters of their son when stores are finished with them.

Brad began modeling three years ago for Abercrombie & Fitch. He had transferred from SIUE to college in Florida to play soccer, but quit school to pursue a modeling career after his first Abercrombie shoot.

Brad admits a career in modeling is a gamble, but so far he has no regrets.

He was chosen as the No. 1 model by Models.com, a Web site used by the fashion industry to rate models based on factors such as prestige of he photographer, number of photo shoots with renown companies and earnings per shoot. Brad says the ranking stands for one fashion season, six months.

Pay varies depending on the type of modeling job, but he expects to get $40,000-$60,000 for the Tarzan spot.

Modeling has affording him with enough cash to buy a $600,000 loft apartment in Florida.

Being 25 is not over the hill for a male model, Brad said. As long as he stays in shape, he could continue modeling well into his 40s and longer.

As for dating, there are a few female models he wouldn't mind taking out for a night on the town, but realistically, traveling with work prevents a serious relationship from happening.

While he plans to stay in modeling as long as he can, Brad could see himself selling expensive real estate some day.

For now, he'd like to keep the No. 1 spot as long as he can.

But when he comes home, there's no fancy clothes or cuisine. A trip to Ted Drewes for apple strudel custard is more like it.

"At home, he's just Brad," said Barb.

Source: Belleville News-Democrat, September 12, 2004