While visiting Bali, Elias came across a serendipitous opportunity to test-shoot as a model. The photoshoot galvanized a burgeoning career in modeling, and he’s been making waves since. Check his story out below.
Say hello to Elias:
Where are you from? Where have you been?
I’m a Melbourne boy, spending my youth growing up in the inner-northern suburbs of the city. I’ve spent a lot of my time between Australia and South East Asia, but have also lived in Milan and around Western Europe.
What’s your favorite place in the world?
Where the jungle meets the ocean on a tiny little island in Indonesia that I would rather not say because it’s best kept a secret. I adore anywhere tropical, by the ocean and off the grid. As much as I love bustling, vibrant cities like Barcelona and the coffee-scented laneways off my home city Melbourne, I love nothing more than being away from the bright lights, hidden away on a secluded beach somewhere with my surfboard, a few close friends, and a campfire.
What’s on your “bucket list” of ideas to create?
I’ve always wanted to design and invent things, ever since I was a little kid. I still do a lot of work in design and have a few products I want to launch in 2017 – you will just have to hang tight if you want to find out what they are.
You founded Indo Custom Motorcycles – tell us more about this venture.
In 2013, after traveling through Indonesia on a surf trip, I partnered up with a friend and started looking at importing custom built motorcycles from Indonesia to Australia. We gutted out an old villa in Bali and turned it into our workshop and got our friend, Rik Lee, to deck the place out with artwork. From there, we started sourcing old Japanese bikes and stripping and rebuilding them from the ground up. Often, the only thing left original was the frame. After our first import to Australia, we started looking at markets in Europe and began importing to the Netherlands and then the UK. All the bikes were built to order, and built to client specifications. Our last build was for a client in Dubai which was a chopped out Kawasaki Ninja. We turned the super sport motorcycle into a beach going tracker style bike which gained us global attention in the custom motorcycle scene. Unfortunately, working out of Bali proved to be a challenge with modeling (which began gaining some momentum), so I focused my attention on business back home and staying active in the modeling scene in Australia and abroad.
How difficult was it to become an agency-signed model? Any advice for models seeking agency representation?
I was scouted by an international representative and placed with an agency in Milan, so perhaps I’ve had it easier than most in terms of getting signed. I left Australia unsigned and upon returning, had a number of offers with representation in Australia. The best advice I could give would be to keep taking photos, hit up anyone you know with a camera, and keep active with test shoots. Then, it’s a matter of networking and persistence. This industry isn’t for the faint-hearted. If you get knocked back, just try again – don’t take no for an answer. I’ve met a lot of models who were told they were too short or their look was already covered etc., but they persisted and networked, and eventually got to where they want to be. Social media is also a huge draw – having a strong presence on social media platforms will inevitably get you signed.
You’re quite a talented guitar player – any plans for a career in music? 😉
Hahaha, I actually laughed when I saw this question. I’m mediocre at best, and have always kept my guitar playing under wraps until recently. No career moves planned there, but if you’re ever around a campfire and pull out a guitar, I will happily have a jam.
Tell us about your career. How did you get into it?
I was in Bali on a surf trip, due to fly home that evening and enjoying my last breakfast on the island, when I got approached to do a test shoot. It seemed like a fun way to end an amazing trip, so a last minute shoot was thrown together and I spent the afternoon in a studio overlooking a rice paddy just before flying home. I got asked to do another shoot with renowned photographer, Wong Sim, next time I was in the country, which so happened to be a few months later when I was setting up my business, Indo Custom Motorcycles. We did a full day shoot with two other models, right at the end of my second stint in Bali. Those photos did the rounds and got noticed by an international manager who contacted me with the prospect of going to Milan. I honestly wasn’t sure if it was a joke or not, but sure enough, everything came to fruition and I spent three and a half months in Milan working with brands I’d never dreamt of working with. When I returned home, I signed with an agency as soon as I got off the plane and have been pushing it ever since then.
What’s your favorite picture of yourself?
This would have to be one of my favourite images because it was from my first shoot with Wong Sim. I remember feeling so awkward about posing and wearing this incredibly small pair of underwear, but Wong really helped me feel comfortable. This shot looks so natural and nonchalant, and I’d never seen myself in front of a camera in this way before.
What was the moment you decided to get into modeling?
There was no moment I decided to get into the modeling scene. I had friends and past girlfriends tell me it was something I should look into, but I never thought it was something I could break into, in such a big way. When I got the call to go to Milan, I was in disbelief – even on the flight over, it seemed somewhat surreal, but it wasn’t until I got back to Australia that I really started looking at modeling as a serious career path and treating it like a business, and not as a momentary thrill.
Modeling is very competitive. How do you stand out?
I don’t fit the cookie cutter mold for a male model. In the past, agencies have asked me to lose size and cut my hair (which is now down to my shoulders), but I think that looking like a bit of a wild man has allowed me to stand out. I’m a bit broader and untamed, which helps define me in the modeling scene. I’ve always pushed against the grain ever since Milan, where I was told strictly to lose dimensions, but chose not to start weighing my salads, and just continued being myself. Also, working with great photographers and art directors who have taught me how to break out of commercial posing and create more artistic movement in images.
Who has had the biggest influence on your modeling career?
Probably my best friend, Thien. He’s always backed me and given me confidence to achieve my goals in the industry. He is often the boot in my backside getting me to push harder and generally the first person I go to when I get stuck. He also helped me book one of my first jobs and is the king of networking. I’m not sure I would have gotten as far without him.
What’s been the most challenging part of modeling?
Being thrown in the deep end meant there was a pretty steep learning curve. My idea of modeling before I started working in the industry was that it was a very cruisey, non-challenging job. It proved to be not for the faint-hearted. The biggest initial challenge was dealing positively with rejection. Every casting is essentially a job interview, and in my first month in Milan, I didn’t book a single job – I felt like I was in completely over my head. Learning to not take those losses personally was essential to being successful.
What is the best thing a photographer can do to bring out your personality?
As in any social interaction, if you want someone to feel comfortable and open up around you, the best thing to do is open up yourself. Most photographers are very outgoing people and they have to be in that profession. Even in very moody shoots, you have to have a bit of a fun – I’m a bit cheeky and it doesn’t take much to bring that side out of me.
What was your most memorable photoshoot?
My first and probably most memorable photo shoot in Milan involved twelve scantily-clad women for a calendar shoot. The first shot I was in, I was asked to hold one of the girls by a leash while she was bent over, wearing little more than the collar around her neck and a g-string. While the photographer was asking her to act like a lioness, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a scene straight out of Zoolander. The day unfolded from there, and needless to say, it was a great icebreaker into the modeling scene of Milan.
What do you like most about modeling?
The thrill and unpredictability of it is both addictive and maddening. But the freedom and ability to travel and meet vastly different and interesting people is what I am most attracted to. You honestly never know where you will be in a month’s time.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to being a great model?
Treat it as if it’s any other job. You have to be committed, workhard, network and stay focused if you want to achieve anything in this game.
If you could model anywhere in the world, where would you go?
LA. I plan on making the trip there next year. I’ve just heard too much about it to not go and see for myself. It just seems like a place where a lot of crazy things can happen, and isn’t that what life is all about?
What fashion trend do you wish would come back?
I wish tattoos didn’t define your look as a model and were no longer such a taboo in the industry. I’ve held off on a lot of ink to maintain a “clean” look for certain brands, but it would be great if one day that was no longer an issue.
What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?
I’ve always wanted to go off the grid for a while and surf the coastline of South and Central America. Going off the grid is generally the worst thing you can do as a model, but regardless, I plan on making the hiatus in the near future.
What is the most life-changing event that you’ve experienced?
I’ve done a lot of travels on my own, and I think those experiences have changed me forever.
For anyone that wants to get in touch with Elias, here’s some contact information:
Elias, thank you for sharing your story with us! Let’s meet up when you visit LA! 🙂
If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.