Supermodel Stephen James talks for our #01 edition of D’SCENE Magazine to Jainnie Cho – Stephen James Hendry’ eyes spark up as he talks about artist Salvador Dali’s American TV appearance years ago. “I remember watching one of his interviews in America and they asked him whether he was a sportsman. He said yes but they were like, you can’t say that – you are not a sportsman,” explains the 23- year-old ex-footballer. “He replied, ‘But I play tennis on Saturdays.’ He was making fun of American culture and how serious they were.”
Hendry, fresh off a CK fragrance campaign and now one of the most sought-after male models in fashion, is a fan of the legendary surrealist painter, with larger- than-life tattoos of him as evidence. The intricate tattoos covering his body have little to do with fashion or sports but bring to life the model’s appetite for arts and culture, including illustrations of Frida Kahlo, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Oscar Wilde and Nelson Mandela among others. “I was really interested in art and music and the only way for me to express that was through tattoos,” he says.
The rather audacious scale of his body art lies in contrast to Hendry’s self-effacing, shy demeanour. Today’s all-black ensemble, complete with a baseball cap that hides his head tattoos, reveal little about the rich drama within. Hendry was set for a promising football career, including a stint in the Scottish national football team at U-18 level. A hernia-induced injury two years ago however, stopped his football career, prompting him to take up a modelling offer. “The first show I did was in Milan, for designer Philipp Plein. By the end, I ended up flying to New York to shoot with Steven Klein [photographer],” he says.
As a relative novice in the modelling world, Hendry accepts that he is often confused by what the fashion industry asks of him. “The thing about fashion is if someone doesn’t like you, you don’t do the show. Whereas in football, if that happens, you have to sort it out between the two of you,” he reveals. “In football, you earn more respect for your performance where as in fashion, it’s really confusing sometimes.”
No matter the confusion though. Hendry’s decade-long training as a professional sportsman has planted a diligent, disciplined work ethic in him. “If I’m doing something, I do it 100 per cent. [Modelling] is my job so I make the effort to stay at the top of my game,” he says. As Hendry gears up for a promising future in fashion, Design Scene talks to him about Morrissey, football and the fickleness of the fashion industry.
Q: Do you ever regret getting your tattoos?
A: A lot of people ask me that. All my friends were telling me I would regret it. But I’ve come too far now to regret it. However, I will say that tattoos have become so commercial now. People tattooing themselves to become tattooed models, I think, is ridiculous. For me, I got tattoos because I was really interested in art and music.
Q; What was your family’s reaction when you told them you were pursuing modelling for a career?
A; I remember calling my mom from Boston, saying I got signed to Elite Model Management and the question she asked me was – have you finished football training today? It was something completely irrelevant. She completely ignored what I said to her [laughs].
Q: How did you get into modelling?
A: When I was playing football, I got approached a lot by modelling agencies. That was since I was like 15 years old. But when you are 15 and someone gives you a card, you just don’t know what that’s about. If they told me that Arsenal wants to sign me, I understand it. But I had nothing to do with fashion. I wasn’t really into it.
Q: Is modelling your long-term goal?
A: No. Modelling isn’t my long-term goal. You could be the hottest thing going on and the next day, you are boring. I know this lifestyle isn’t going to continue forever.
Q: What was the first, memorable tattoo you got?
A; My first tattooed portrait was of Morrissey. I started listened to him because someone shouted across the road and told me I looked like Morrissey. I asked my sister who he was and that’s how it started. I fell in love with his music.
Q: You’ve travelled a lot with your football and now, your modelling career. What is your favourite city?
A: Barcelona is my favourite city. I love the architecture – all of the Gaudi stuff. As for work, I like working in Milan. Unlike other “fashion” cities, with many anorexic models, in Milan, they just choose good, solid-looking models so if I don’t get chosen, I can own up to that. I’m coming from the real world, not this bubble.
Q: What is your ultimate goal/dream?
A: My dream was to be a professional football player. Right now though, I don’t really know. I’m just going day by day, trying to excite myself and get motivation. That’s the hardest thing – finding everyday motivation to make it all worth while.
Stephen is represented by I LOVE Models in Milano, Storm Models in London, and Elite Models in Barcelona, Paris, and Copenhagen. For D’SCENE Magazine Stephen was photographed in Milano by photographer Igor Cvoro with styling from Emily Lee at Freelancer Artist Agency. Hair styling by Mimmo Di Maggio at Freelancer Artist Agency, grooming Luca Simone. Stylist assistants Cristina Rossi & Ji Park. Stephen on the cover wears the coveted blanket from MISSONI Autumn Winter 2014 collection, while the eye-catching Marilyn Monroe t-shirt comes from Les Benjamins collection. Retouching Luka Ukropina.