Making it in New York City is difficult, even when you’re willing to sell your body. I spent my summer vacation as the Shirtless Dude in front of the new Hollister Epic store in Soho and it was far from the easy day job that the Abercrombie/Hollister Corporation’s recruiters -- similar to the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz -- made it out to be.
My mother didn’t want me to leave the safety of Florida to try my hand at modeling. “The people out there are predators,” she said as I took my bags from the car at the airport, “Please just promise me you’ll keep your pants on?”
My new agents at Q Models told me that I got to the city just in time for “Back to School Season” and immediately had me on multiple castings and go-sees. As the summer progressed the castings become more sporadic, I began searching for a lucrative day job that would aid in my mission to save money for next semester. That’s when the recruiters found me and swooped me into the Corporate Office. Adrian my recruiter told me that working at Hollister would be nothing like the Abercrombie model-jail where every model’s left shoe is permanently glued to a well-lit spot on the floor. They promised that the job would be more laid back with less perfume and an extra hundred bucks per shift. Sold.
I went to the “Shirtless Dude Casting” and met with Jen the training manager. If the recruiters are the Flying Monkeys of the Corporation, Jen is the Wicked Witch of the West… After my initial interview, Jen took me aside and simply said, “Look Max, we really like your look and your energy. You’re going to make it to call-backs where you’ll be meeting Mike Jefferies and the other heads of the Corporation. I want to give you some advice: if you act gay at all, you’re not going to get the position. You’re the only gay Shirtless Dude candidate and I don’t want that to be the reason you don’t get it.” Do I really act that gay? I was always thought that I didn’t have any of the usual gay mannerisms -- other than some style. I was slightly offended and I didn’t know why.
I managed to put my fairy wings back in the closet and was offered the job. On the opening day of the new Hollister Epic Store they gave all of their teenage employees unlimited energy drinks. It was hard to keep everyone in his or her well-lit positions for the first hour of the “soft-opening”. Jen ran past my post -- probably to get some more model-glue -- and snapped at the vibrating seventeen year old next to me, “Grace, calm down. You’re going to scare the customers!” Grace jumped up and down, nodding. “Never mind. Why don’t you get changed for the fragrance room? I think I need Max to break one of the Lifeguards out front.” She smacked me on the ass on her way into the staff-area.
Excited to get out of the Epic Dungeon, I threw on the Lifeguard uniform; a pair of Risky Business style sunglasses, white zinc (for the nose) and some red Lifeguard swim-trunks that were two inches too wide in the waist. I went to the front of the store to find my co-Lifeguard rocking the same infamous Hollister ‘Top-Dick’ look. When I congratulated my co-worker on his “Most excellent TopDick,” he looked away awkwardly and pulled up his trunks.
It wasn’t until I started posing for cheesy tourist pictures outside that I finally realized: my company is the guy-version of Hooters! Instead of boobs and junk food, Hollister offers Top-Dick and preppy clothes. My co-Lifeguard didn’t seem to be having a good time -- apparently straight guys aren’t allowed to smile in cheesy tourist photos. Is smiling too gay? I tried to cheer the straight, struggling model up with “Hey man, this job ain’t so bad. At least we’re going to be Facebook celebrities!” He cracked a smile as we posed for a picture with a giggling little Asian girl. I liked being their fantasy boyfriend. Does that make me a closeted lifeguard?
The sun was setting when everything went to hell. Some guy with an obnoxious Brooklyn accent asked me to take a picture with his blushing, prepubescent daughter. After the flash, her skinny toe-headed brother was pushed forward. The little guy whipped off his shirt and struck a muscle-pose in front of me. I mimicked the pose, but as soon as my arms were in the air the Brooklyn father yelled, “Now!” The little blond brat pulled my sagging baggies down to the ground. Before I even realized that I was flashing all of Broadway, the kid instantly resumed his muscle-pose and smiled as his father’s camera flashed again. The family ran away as the laughing crowd pulled out their camera-phones and took as many pictures as they could before I pulled up my pants. I prayed that my mom would never get on Facebook.
Jen swooped out of the store on her broomstick. She’d watched the whole thing on her crystal ball inside. She was laughing. When she asked me if I was okay, she actually seemed to care for a split second. “You’re doing a great job out here, Max. I’m glad you are on the team.”
My first summer in New York and to survive I was closeted, humiliated, and welcomed to the team of flying monkeys. Just when I was ready to give up I got a call from my agent: I booked the new Hollister campaign photo-shoot! I’ll be shooting with Bruce Webber on a beach somewhere in Australia for almost a week! I asked my agent if they said anything about me being too gay. She paused and I braced myself for it. “Max, there are plenty of handsome guys. They picked you because you are who you are. Just relax and get ready for a week in Oz!”