Youth Spotlight: Joseph Culp
Local Youth a Supermodel
By Brittany Wilson | February 23, 2009Joseph Culp is "hot" — at age 20, he has been named one of the Top 50 Male Fashion Models in the world, two years in a row.
According to www.Models.com, "In person, this mild-mannered young Southern gentleman is low-key and sweet. In front of the camera and on the runway, Joseph transforms and the essence of a male supermodel emerges."
So, how did a young man from Bristol, Tenn. break into the fashion model industry? His sister, who reads fashion magazines, looked at her brother — who is 6'2" with eyes of blue — and told him he should be a model. She took a couple of Polaroids and posted them on www.models.com. Next thing the Bristol Tennessee High School graduate knew, at age 19, he was on his way to New York City, which is where he now lives. That was almost two years ago [March 2007].
When Joseph recently visited his parents in Bristol, he sat down to chat with A! Magazine for the Arts.
Joseph, tell us about your background.
I was a student at East Tennessee State University, studying to get a BSA and planning to go to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. I wanted to get into movies [in] production — painter production. I probably will still end up doing that. I paint daily. Modeling is a great job because it gives me a lot of time to paint and it has opened up many opportunities. It has given me connections in the art world. I am thinking about going to art school in New York City. [He laughs] I'll get fat and bald eventually and have to be a hand model. I can't do this forever!
How did you dress before you learned more about fashion?
[I had] no idea about fashion — I still don't know! Jeans with a t-shirt is my typical outfit. I don't put that much thought into clothing! They don't pay [models] in New York — they just give you clothes. So if I'm ever in style, it is completely by accident.
You have some heavyweights on your side — you are represented by Fusion Model Management in New York, d'management group in Milan, and Success Models in Paris. Is that how you keep yourself in the forefront of modeling?
Modeling is very interesting. It's a seasonal thing. If you're not up there every season, the designers and the public forget about you.
Did it take long for the glamour you saw as an outsider to fade?
You learn the realistic side very quickly. Fittings are very blah. You are at the bottom of the barrel as a male model. It is like being a professional vagabond. You don't know what to expect. Just travel and adventure. That's why I have fun.
Tell me about the bad side.
There are some bad experiences. You deal with snobby, abrasive, elitist fashion people but you just get away from them. Agencies are out to get money and you have to stay a step ahead of them. At first I would get mad; [now] I just roll with it.
How is the fashion circuit set up?
There are two seasons: Paris and New York. All fashion for the rest of the year is based on that. The shows in New York are afterwards. At these shows, your face gets known and then more designers and labels pick you up for [advertising] campaigns based on those two big shows. One is in the summer and one is in January. I take a big trip twice a year — and that's enough.
What are you doing when Fashion Week is not taking place?
There are contracts to Asia. Outside the [Paris and New York] shows you can go to Asia for a few months. I went to Korea and worked. I want to go to Tokyo in the spring.
How does Korea differ from Japan in fashion?
Korea is more conservative. Japan fashion is more crazy. America is cool to them. They use American models and Brazilian models, too.
What has been one of your best experiences?
I had a great time in Korea. But 23 hours [flying] home! The route is Marco Polo's and Christopher Columbus's adventures combined!
Do you see the same models every year?
There are new people every time. It's kind of like high school — like a three- to four-year run and then they're gone. You make good friends, though. Our agency puts us up in one hotel, so it's a lot of fun. We just run around the hotel together at night. In the day, everyone is going to the castings. It's a big adventure. My biggest thing is trying to make friends.
What do you think has enabled you to do so well in the fashion world?
The ones who focus only on modeling don't do so well. It's kind of strange — you have to not care in order to do well. Agents can sense when someone is desperate.
Who are some of the big designers who have hired you to model?
Prada and Raf Simmons/Jil Sander. I modeled for the H&M [advertising] campaign last year. I did the TSE campaign and ended up seeing myself on the bus stop [billboards]. Every time I went to get a sandwich, I would see myself [on a sign].
So, are you rolling in the big dough?
The girls get paid more, but that's ok — their jobs are harder!!! The guys don't take it seriously at all, but the girls do — they are much more competitive. Lots [of models] start when they're 14 and it kind of screws with them. The girls go to the extreme — they might look good to a designer by bleaching their eyebrows for a certain shoot but then, afterwards, they look crazy! I have only had to dye my hair for one shoot.
To watch an interview with Joseph, visit "JUST JOSEPH."
About Brittany Wilson: She is a member of the A! Magazine committee and a board member of Arts Alliance Mountain Empire. A native of Bristol, Va., she has been a student of piano since age 10 and of voice since age 13. She graduated from Virginia High School and earned a degree in Mass Communications at Emory & Henry College (2002). She is the Development and Public Relations Coordinator for the Dawn of Hope in Johnson City, Tenn. As a member of Impact International Church, she works in video production, sings with the Praise and Worship team, and helps with pre-teen and adult singles ministries.
Twenty-year-old Joseph Culp from Bristol, Tenn., top, is among the Top 50 Male Fashion Models in the world, according to www.Models.com.
Culp in various modeling jobs.