Abercrombie & Fitch Male Model: Brad Kroenig

WITHOUT a doubt, he's one of the most sought-after models in the world.

He's worked with Karl Lagerfeld in the south of France. He's posed for Tommy Hilfiger ads, Fendi billboards and Roberto Cavalli campaigns, and has steamed up the covers of dozens of magazines -- mostly in Europe.Sitting leisurely in a white T-shirt, Christian Dior blue jeans and black leather Dior running shoes in his parents' living room in Oakville, Brad Kroenig looks charming.

Maybe it's his thick, sun-drenched blond ringlets and taut, rail-thin frame. Or perhaps that restrained smile and prominent after-five shadow giving him a handsome ruggedness.

Whatever the appeal, it has brought the 24-year-old model superstardom and a super bankroll.

That is evident by the dozens of magazines spilling over the coffee table at his parents' house.

Although he began his modeling career no more than two years ago, Kroenig now commands $30,000 to $45,000 for photo shoots.

Tapped by the prestigious Ford Models Inc. agency in 2001 while he was in Miami on a soccer scholarship at Florida International University, Kroenig took up residence in the Big Apple shortly thereafter and hasn't had much time to look back since.

Agent Sam Doerfler says Kroenig's first year with the agency focused mostly on "growing the hair out" and "losing the weight and developing the portfolio."

"Technically, he's new," Doerfler explains, adding, "As a model, he will definitely be huge. He's a top model, on the cusp."

Stephen Gan, creative director for Harper's Bazaar magazine and editor in chief of V and V-man magazines, says, "Certainly, I think Brad Kroenig is the next big thing. And I think that when you think of male models right now, there's no one else in the forefront as much as he is."

Kroenig has been featured on the covers of Italian Vogue and London's Loaded Magazine, as well as V and V-Man. And he strikes a series of sizzling poses with veteran supermodel Gisele Bundchen in a 12-page spread in the November issue of Harper's Bazaar.

"Kroenig has the uncommon ability to go from an All-American college-jock golden boy look one minute to a cutting-edge, avant-garde rock star the next," Gan adds. "He has a brave and modern outlook on men's fashion. All those qualities, believe it or not, don't often come in one package when it comes to male models."

Always on the go, Kroenig rarely spends time in the quiet neighborhood that his parents call home.

But when his schedule permits, he likes to hang out with friends. And while he sometimes dates "model girls," he says he mostly just goes out with girls he grew up knowing.

Barb and Mark Kroenig have adjusted to being empty-nesters times three. Brad commutes between St. Louis and his one-bedroom apartment in New York (although he has commissioned work to begin on a two-bedroom/two-story glass loft in Miami Beach); their daughter, Julie Kroenig, 22, works as a television reporter in West Virginia; and son Matt Kroenig, 26, is a doctoral candidate at the University of California-Berkeley.

Brad isn't the family's first model. Both his sister and brother modeled as children. And even mom did a couple of fashion shows in her hometown of Tuscola, Ill., during her youth.

But Brad is the first to make it big.

This past summer, when Kroenig found out that he was being featured on the cover of Italian Vogue, he bought some copies of the magazine. On the cover of one, he wrote an inscription to his parents: "Mom & Dad, Would never have been here if it wasn't for you two..."

Even though highlights of his early life took place on the soccer field, Kroenig has easily adjusted to life as a supermodel.

Often he darts back and forth between London, New York, Paris and Los Angeles, not to mention Bora Bora and other exotic locales. "I feel like I'm supposed to be there," he says of these places.

Some of Kroenig's assignments have teetered on the risque, such as when he posed partially nude for the 2002 Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.

"It was fine," he says of one of his first assignments. But he admits that his mother choked a bit when she saw it.

"I think she said something like, 'You can't show those to Grandma.' But now she is used to them," he says.

His mother remembers that day. "When I showed it to people, I showed them every picture except those," she recalls. "It's still kind of hard to take as a mother."

While Kroenig is a hot commodity now, it wasn't always that way. His first ad job for Cosmopolitan magazine, he said, brought in only $150.

His look appears tousled and effortless, but Kroenig works at it. He never colors his hair, but does get a tan once a week. He runs five miles four times a week. And, he adds, "I watch what I eat. I stay thin and eat right. And no carbs."

Right now, Kroenig says he's doing exactly what he wants to be doing, burning up the modeling scene. "I always like it," he says of his job. "I do even more now."

His ultimate goal? "To continue to be a model. As long as they keep paying me, I'll do it," he says.

And if it doesn't work out? Kroenig doesn't waste energy on such thoughts. "Right now, it can't fall through. It'll go for a while," he says. "People track me down. Now we turn down jobs."

Nevertheless, his future goals include getting more involved with real estate.

His advice for others trying to make it in the business? "Go to a big city, like New York. Go to a top agency, like Ford Models Inc." he says.

Barb Kroenig says her middle child has always been a "personable person."

And better yet, she says, he never forgets where his heart is. "Every day, no matter where Brad is, he calls home," she says.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 22, 2003

Abercrombie & Fitch Male Model: Gray Smith

For most of her life, Kelly Donovan, 19, has rejected anything she considered "girly." The Merrimack College sophomore never cut her hair or manicured her nails. Her preferred look: sweat pants and sneakers. Her favorite pastime: playing basketball. Most of all, she loved poking fun at her older sister Kristen, a part-time model.

"Who wants to put on makeup and smile at a camera?" Donovan would say. "I'm an athlete. Basketball is my priority.Then, in November last year, Donovan contracted Lyme disease and spent four months in and out of the hospital. "They thought I had multiple sclerosis or a tumor in my brain." Playing basketball was too physically demanding. Modeling, all of a sudden, didn't seem so bad; it's typically sedentary and the pay is great.

Enter Click Models Boston, an agency Donovan approached in March. Before she could say cheese, the Bourne native was taking her first airplane ride, to New York last month for an Abercrombie & Fitch fall fashion shoot with famed photographer Bruce Weber. Her pay for three days of light work? $3,600.

"All my clothes are from Abercrombie," says Donovan, who cut her hair 6 inches for the job and even arched her eyebrows. "I love Abercrombie."

The 5-foot-8 1/2-inch blue-eyed brunette was one of two Massachusetts models from Click selected for the Abercrombie catalog shoot, which included 65 models from around the United States and countries such as Brazil, Israel, and Holland.

Gray Smith, a 19-year-old freshman at Harvard University, was chosen based, among other things, on his high school prom picture. "This is one of those things you don't expect to happen in the real world," says the 6-1 hazel-eyed blond.

The Abercrombie & Fitch clothing catalog - called the A&F Quarterly - is a magazine-style catalog that includes clothing for sale as well as articles on topics such as "cool summer internships." The $6 book is available in Abercrombie stores and via subscription.

In the past, issues have included sex tips from a porn star, cocktail recipes, and game suggestions like Naked Twister. Two female models in the summer 2000 issue are shown in skimpy bikinis and a T-shirt, pulling down the bikini briefs of a male model. Another scene depicts four young women surrounding a man at the beach. His pants are unzipped and pulled down to his thighs, revealing his red underwear.

Such content has sparked parental protests in numerous states, including Massachusetts. As a result, Abercrombie - based in Reynoldsburg, Ohio - began carding catalog buyers in stores nationwide last November, requiring them to prove with a photo ID that they are at least 18 years old.

This kind of restriction has made the retailer only that much more appealing to some teens. According to an April study by Teenage Research Unlimited Inc., a Northbrook, Ill., marketing research firm, Abercrombie is rated the second-"coolest" brand (after Nike) among 12- to 19-year-olds surveyed.

Career cultivation

From a modeling perspective, appearing in such a hot book can only boost one's career, especially when the photographer is Weber. "It's like the ultimate," says Suzy Marden, director of Click Models Boston. "Everyone who sees that catalog all over the nation will see these kids. This is a biggie."

Ironically, Smith, an Atlanta native, could care less about career possibilities or any controversy surrounding the fall A&F, which will be released in July. He's more concerned about declaring a major at Harvard. "I don't see much future in a career as a famous model," he says. "I wouldn't want a career where you're too old at 27. . . . I want to start my own company and move back to Atlanta."

Smith, a self-described poor college student, is modeling only for the pocket change, he says. He's not into fashion, and he never shops. Instead, he waits for his family to give him clothing, such as jeans and Polo shirts, as gifts. Although he likes Abercrombie's style, he says the brand is too expensive for his budget. "I usually wear whatever I can find on the floor that's clean," he says.

Smith fell into modeling as a fluke, after he accompanied a friend to pick up a paycheck at Click and the agency recruited him.

His first job was in March, posing as a delivery man for the Internet shopping service ShopLink.com. He then appeared in a spring clothing catalog for New Hampshire-based retailer Poore Simon's. In April, Click asked him to attend a casting for Abercrombie at the Sheraton Hotel. More than 60 potential models showed up, but he got the slot. Says Smith, who used to work at Abercrombie as a sales clerk in high school, "I never expected this to happen."

Donovan arrived at the Abercrombie shoot two days before Smith. For her first assignment, she was asked - of all things - to play basketball with another woman against four young men. Her outfit? Something really familiar. Gray sweat pants, a yellow T-shirt, and sneakers. "My hair was in a ponytail and I had no makeup on," she recalls.

Later, Donovan participated in a jazz club scene where she danced in a red wool plaid dress. "Bruce made me dance by myself in front of everyone."

On her second day, Donovan met a group of about 15 other models in her Manhattan hotel lobby at 6 a.m. to take a bus to Princeton University in New Jersey. Donovan's role for this campus scene was to "jump a lot. Throw books up in the air, throw basketballs. They brought in three golden retriever puppies and we played with them. It was more acting than posing."

On her third day of work, Donovan met Smith. The two spent more than nine hours waiting at a Harlem nightclub with about 25 other models for their chance to appear in a college party scene. "My role was to just talk, standing up, with a couple of kids. I had a glass of juice in my hand," says Donovan.

Smith says his assignment was to stand behind two young men arm-wrestling at a table, cheering them on. He wore a red T-shirt and blue-and-white Hawaiian-print shorts. In another scene, he stood at a bar drinking soda and tossing popcorn in his mouth. "Once he started taking pictures, I got real comfortable with it," says Smith, who was paid $500 for a day's work.

Smith's second scene was a cocktail party at a jazz club where he sat on a bed surrounded by several women. He says it's "strange" that the company placed a bed in the scene, but he didn't question it. "We were all just talking, drinking fake cocktails. . . . Our conversation was `Where are you from? What do you do?' It was kind of surreal."

At home, discomfort

Donovan's and Smith's mothers weren't thrilled about their children appearing in the catalog. Says Donna Smith, who owns an art store in an Atanta suburb, "We were stockholders" in Abercrombie & Fitch. "We sold the stock when we saw the catalog a couple of years ago. We haven't stepped foot in the store since. . . . It bothers me that they promote underage drinking and, in the current climate of AIDS, promiscuity."

Says Nancy Donovan, a social worker in Falmouth, "I think the catalog is very sexualized. I said to Kell, `Your grandfather will be looking at this. You need to realize that what you do impacts your family.' "

Both parents stress that they trust their children and give them freedom to do what they want. Gray is "completely an adult," says Donna. "We don't tell him what to do at this point." Says Nancy, "We've warned [Kelly]. You hope that what you've been teaching her has taken hold."

For his part, Gray is preparing to return to Atlanta during Harvard's summer break, and plans to work for the local Click office. "It's easy money," he says. Still, come September, Gray promises he'll be back at Harvard. "I'd probably like being a famous model for a week or a month. But I don't want that life. I want to start my own business in school, some sort of Internet consumer service."

Kelly, on the other hand, is taking a sabbatical from school in order to move to New York and pursue modeling full time. Her sister Kristen, who graduated from the University of Connecticut this month, is joining her in the same pursuit. "There's no sense of jealousy," says Kristen. "If Kelly can get the jobs, that's great. If I can, that's great too. I'm more interested in runway. I'm 5-11. Kelly has more of a look for print work."

Says Kelly, "This is my prime time. I look at it as an opportunity. I don't want to miss anything. I can always go back to school. But if I land a big job, I can earn $50,000 a day.

Source: Boston Globe, May 31, 2000