Photo by Melodie Jeng
There's nothing about talking to the fashion industry's most in-demand male models about which we can complain. In the case of John Hein, that conversation is so much more than just looking at a pretty face. Hein's prosperous modeling career, which started in 2011, is still blossoming, but chances are you recognize that face — and those cheekbones. Not to mention, he proved himself to be a rad conversationalist, having received a science degree from one of the nation's best universities. Our Fashion Features Editor, Jessica Minkoff, sat down with the 24-year-old "it" model, chatting about his college band, his eating habits, and what it's like to break into the modeling industry.
MC: Where are you from?
JH: Michigan, near Lansing. I went to school in Ann Arbor.
MC: Does your family still live in Michigan?
JH: Yes, my family is still in Michigan. I am actually going home this month because my friend is getting married and I booked a show in Michigan.
MC: What kind of show?
JH: I used to be in punk bands and stuff. I booked a show at a venue in Ann Arbor.
MC: Oh, so you are a musician?
JH: Let's just say I used to yell into a microphone.
MC: What does your family think about you being a model?
JH: They are stoked. They think its the coolest thing. I have a pretty big family — two brothers, two sisters, a cat, and a dog, and my parents are still together. I wasn't well off as a kid, so I didn't get to travel a lot. My family is excited and super supportive of me.
MC: I assume that you childhood dream wasn't to be a model, so how were you discovered?
JH: I went to college at the University of Michigan. I graduated with a degree in Environmental Science and Sustainable Foods. I took class with hippies in Patagonia jackets. I finished in 2011 and moved to LA right after. On my third day in L.A. I was at the Pasadena Rose Bowl flea market buying a vintage shirt or something like that, and this guy who ended up being a designer approached me and said that a model had dropped out of a shoot last minute and asked if I wanted to do it. I did the job and the photographer sent me to a bunch of agencies in LA and I was signed to Ford in LA. Then, I came to New York for Fashion Week in 2012 and Ford NY told me to move here. Three weeks later I came.
MC: What was your first modeling job?
JH: I did an Interview Magazine shoot with Craig McDean and Karl Templer. It was a menswear story called "Double Vision." It was rad. Right after, I went to Milan and did all of Karl's shows — Valentino, Belstaff, and Bottega.
MC: Was it difficult to support yourself in NYC when you were just starting out?
JH: When I moved to L.A., I had no money and then I came here with no money, so I started working catering jobs, which was absolutely terrible — except for the free liquor. I had been watching Party Down at the time and it was almost exactly like what I was doing, which was fun. Then I started working as a hotel host, and I quit when I found out that I was going to Japan.
MC: What was your first runway experience?
JH: I did my first runway show in June 2012. Then I did New York Fashion Week in September. I walked in Tommy Hilfiger, Custo Barcelona, Robert Geller, and Siki Im. I skipped January because I was in Japan working on a bunch of random things. I was there for three months and I signed with Bon Image.
MC: What was it like living in Japan?
JH: I lived alone in a Japanese studio that was the size of the bathrooms here in New York.
MC: Do you have any favorite designers?
JH: I like Robert Geller, Jil Sander, and Raf Simons. Common Projects are my favorite shoes. I am really into thrift shopping. It is one of my biggest hobbies. I always look for old vintage pieces.
MC: What are the pros of being a model?
JH: The pros are that I get to travel a lot. I just went to Japan and Milan last year and L.A. not so long ago. Next month I am going to Paris, London, and Milan for the menswear shows. It will be my first complete season. Other pros are having a lot of free time to do whatever I like. It also stays interesting because you are working with different crews all of the time, and you get to work with really great people. I just walked in the Versus Versace show so I got to work with JW Anderson's team all week and they are really cool people.
MC: And the cons?
JH: I don't like to tell a lot of people that I am a model because they automatically assume that I am an idiot. There is a lot of judgement and people tend to think that you are stupid or shallow. Also, there is a lot of waiting. You have to wait around and than rush to do something when you are told. And when you first start out you have to work for free a lot, which can be weird.
MC: What do you do to stay in shape?
JH: I am naturally skinny — all the boys in my family are. I am also a vegan so maybe that helps — I mean, that is how I stay healthy. I have been a vegetarian for eight years. I started that because of animal rights, but in college I stepped it up and became a vegan for political reasons and health reasons. I feel better eating this way. I do say that I am domestically vegan because I ate fish in Japan but I wont eat it here.
MC: What are some of your favorite foods?
JH: Peanut butter and saroja hot sauce. I make an insane Thai peanut sauce and I put it on everything. I also like curry. I am very into cooking. I like all cuisines, really, except for American food. Indian is great. And I probably eat falafel everyday.
MC: What do you like to do when you have time off?
JH: I like to hang in the park a lot. In the summer I like to play beach volleyball. I grew up in the punk community so I go to a lot of concerts. I also like stand up comedy shows. I go to Hannibal Buress' show at the Knitting Factory on Sundays. I think it's the perfect art form.
MC: If you weren't a model, what would you like to be doing?
JH: I would probably be doing something with my degree. Sustainable food is still a passion of mine so maybe I would work for a non-profit to try and change America's view on what we put into our bodies.
MC: If you could travel anywhere right now, where would you want to go?
JH: The future.
MC: Is there something that people may not know about you that you can share with Marie Claire?
JH: Most people reading this probably don't know anything about me (laughs). I am pretty shameless, so I don't keep secrets. But I may be the world's biggest Seinfeld fan. That show was like my third parent.