Shortly after appearing on the Bravo TV show, Manhunt: The Search For America’s Most Gorgeous Male Model, John C. Stallings chatted with QSaltLake about the show and his career aspirations. Well, with nearly a decade since Q‘s last interview, we checked in with Stallings to hear about his experience on The Janice Dickison Modeling Agency and what he’s up to now. With a recently launched line of accessories, KOKO LIAR, Stallings has been traveling the world strutting his stuff and showing off the best Utah has to offer. The Sandy, Utah native may travel the world, but he hasn’t forgotten his Utah roots.
How was your experience on The Janice Dickison Modeling Agency?
The experience itself was a “trip,” literally all around Los Angeles, New York and then I received the contract to Tokyo, Japan.
I believe I got a lot of recognition from the show. I have come to understand you are a fan of mine too, Seth! Thank you! The one thing that a lot of people don’t understand when they watched this particular documentary-style reality show is that we were not paid for our time to be available for filming. We received lunches and dinners, and of course if we booked a job through the “agency” we received payment from that. It was hard and frustrating all the same.
After Manhunt :The Search for America’s Most Gorgeous Male Model, I came to find out how reality-show programming works and I was prepared for the next round with Janice Dickinson and her new agency. I gained more experience in acting, having cameras in your face all around you capturing anything and everything they could for perfect editing direction and more lasting friendships from creative individuals. That’s what life is about anyway – staying connected with people and the relationships that can evolve.
I could call Janice today and we could gab about our careers together and carry-on just like we were back on the show.
How did it help you as a model?
The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency only helped my career in this industry by helping me become a stronger individual, more comfortable in expressing myself in front of people and knowing that “reality” is not reality. I’ve been traveling as a professional male model for more than eight years now to so many countries that what you see on a television program is hardly the real truth of what actually happens. It is still fun to be a part of and I never regret participating, but you can’t just participate in life, you live it!
What projects are you working on now?
Currently you are interviewing me while I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Istanbul, Turkey. I made it out here the first of January; actually rung in the New Year on an airplane to Germany and the flight attendant didn’t even give me a free glass of champagne.
I’m about finished with this modeling contract and going to Dubai next week for a large fashion show event called Splash, then back to Los Angeles to await where I fly off next. I really wanted to keep this year completely open for traveling again as I was in Los Angeles all last year and I really missed the traveling aspect of this industry.
I think I heard that Asia may be on the horizon again – so we’ll see what happens.
As an openly gay model, what are some of the reactions you’ve received? Is it as gay-friendly as one might expect?
When I first started modeling in New York, while attending college, I was openly gay then, but it was suggested not to let anyone know much about that side of me. Even though we all know that a lot of the creative individuals in the modeling industry: ad execs, photographers, hair/make-up artists, agents, bookers, etc. are, in-fact, gay, but since the model is the “product,” you must cater to everyone, no matter what sexuality you are born with.
As the years have flown by though, it seems a lot less strict and less important to keep secrets like that. I’m more apt to meet another openly gay model with my agency now, then when I first started traveling.
Depending on where you travel to around the world, it will still take more time for the progression of acceptance in relation to cultural diversity and religious background, but at the end of the day it should never matter what your sexuality is; it’s about your experience, hard work and thick skin that can keep you in this industry for a while. I’m still a sensitive guy and will always be, but I’ve learned over the years when and where to put my foot down and fight for what I deserve.
What can you tell us about your KOKO LIAR Collection?
Well “KOKO LIAR” came about after my granddaddy passed away and I wanted to keep a part of him with me at all times. When he wrote me letters the salutation would read, “Keep on keeping on, John Boy John.”
Even though ‘keep on keeping on’ is a common phrase to use, it was still special to me and I made it into “KOKO” then added another acronym, “LIAR” to complete my motto “Life Is A Runway!”
The collection consists of hand-knit, long scarves and also hand-knit, cowl neck-line scarves which I started just last year. I would love to branch out and start a large collection of other items. I have always had a goal to have my own fragrance one day, that is something that would be a dream come true!
I started to learn how to knit from a previous model in Las Vegas when we were booked for a fashion show that lasted all day. There is a lot of downtime in modeling and I asked her to teach me and the rest is downhill from there.
I’m not sure how far “KOKO LIAR” will go, but I would love to see it turn into something bigger than accessories. I have ideas for graphic T-shirts related to modeling and the industry that could be fun – but for now I’m enjoying having the time to still hand-knit things for my fans and supporters.
From modeling to acting, you’ve experienced different aspects of the entertainment industry, what do you expect to do in the future? What are your career goals?
I expect to stay grounded and ambitious. I expect to showcase my talent in any way that I can.
I’ve always been an entertainer throughout my life. I was a dancer from age 4 to 18, mixed in some piano lessons and took clarinet in middle school and high school, took a theater class and then was scouted by a modeling agency at 18.
Modeling opened my eyes to many new opportunities, especially when I can incorporate my other talents into it. I acted in my first movie, Eating Out: All You Can Eat, which was such a blast and I still love it all.
My future is wide open as is everyone’s! You have to stay true to what your heart says and where it pulls you. My future consists of more movies, more runways, more editorials, more commercials, more exposure and my goal is to “Live Life, Live!”
I just started saying this here in Istanbul because you never know what kind of news you’re going to get each day of your life. It may be amazing, it may break your heart, but to stay in the moment and “Live Life, Live” also corresponds to my personal motto. You have to “Keep On Keeping On – Life is A Runway!” Pick your personal walk, listen to your favorite music, dress in a style that reflects your personality and always be ready for someone to take your photo.
Do you visit Utah often?
Are you saying you’re going to take me out for a drink, Seth? Of course, I’ll enjoy a glass of champagne with you – my favorite is Veuve Clicquot.
I rarely get to visit Utah – I miss family more and more as I get older, but we are all spread around the continent, so it’s now turning into an annual trip to the beach in North Carolina where I was born. My two best friends and parents are still in Utah, but I try to get them to visit me wherever I am. I think Utah is such a beautiful state, but honestly, it’s just not metropolitan enough for me.
Do you have any advice for aspiring, young gay models in Utah?
Guys and gals – do not pay for modeling classes and be pressured into thinking that you have to pay a photographer $500 for three looks to start off your modeling portfolio. The best agencies will take digital snapshots of you and tell if you will succeed in this industry. They will then help start things by sending you off to a test shoot, which is a free photo shoot that benefits you as the model and also the photographer that needs more subjects for their own portfolio. Photographers need to make a living too, don’t get me wrong, but as a new model, shoot with new photographers first, that way everyone wins and gains more experience and comfort in their own craft.
There is no one look you have to possess as a model – a model is beautiful, but in their own way – a uniqueness they have about themselves that photographers and hair/makeup artists love to use to create something from a blank canvas.
I want to stress the word unique. A model is not pageant, perfect teeth nor perfect proportions. You may have a “flaw” to you that makes you insecure, but when you own that “flaw,” your confidence radiates and truer beauty is revealed. You may be lanky, tall and awkward, have gaps in your teeth, a large mole, high forehead– these are the unique qualities that go into this industry each and every day.
But please understand that there are requirements to have in order to achieve high levels in the modeling world. A male fashion model should be no shorter than 5’11” and work out a bit too – take health seriously and own your body. Guys have it easier than gals do – fashion female models are under more strict requirements, but you never have to do anything you don’t want to do.
Be honest to yourself if you are pursuing this industry. If things don’t work out, stay open to knowing when to get out and go after something else. The reason you really enjoy modeling may mean that you are more cut out to be a booker, an agent or scout. What about a photographer, a hair/makeup artist or even working in an advertising agency that gets to think about what is going to be the new look for a product and gets to hire models for a commercial, catalog, etc.
Keep an open mind throughout your life – stay limitless and “Keep On Keeping On – Life is A Runway!”