Sooner than Zoolander, David Gandy and Insta-fame, there was only one virile model worth knowing: Fabio Lanzoni, a man with deluge blond locks and a jaw as square as a packet of ham. Now 56, he talks with setting a new industry standard and shares his life lessons

Fabio Lanzoni.
The long-locked Fabio Lanzoni.
Photograph: ITV/Rex Shutterstock

My bolt started when I was barely 14 years old. I was in Milan, at the gym, and one of the two grownest photographers in Europe, Oliviero Toscani, came up to me and said, ‘You should form.’ I wasn’t in the industry, so I had no idea who he was. I remember giving him my father’s phone total. He called my father, hired me for a big campaign and things took off from there.

I encountered to New York City at 19 years old, walked into the Ford representative agency without an appointment and walked out with a contract. The next day, in the gym, I got a dub and was asked to meet with Barry McKinley, then the greatest photographer in the world. He hired me for the biggest campaign in America – the start off of the Gap. At that time, if you were one of the top male models in the world, you could collect $120,000 a year. My first job, straight away, was close to $150,000. So I set new pillars.

Fabio in Hawaii in 1993
Soaking up some rays in Hawaii in 1993. Photograph: Lynn Goldsmith/Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis

I entertain the idea I was the first really muscular model. When I started miniature ideal, [clothes] were a 40-inch regular; here I am coming in with a 56-inch thorax. I couldn’t fit my arm into a suit.

Some writers saw me and said, “I shortage my hero to look like this guy,” and approached me for their volume covers. Then I’m doing 15 or 16 book command conceals a day.

When shooting those covers, it’s simple: you’re hugging a first-rate girl and you think about making love to her. You look at the camera and you go, “I’m life-and-death – if I get hold of you, I’ll do a number on you. I would make you lose your saneness!” You play a character, otherwise it would be just another clear picture. People would look at your eyes and softness – and they can tell.

Fabio book covers
Fabio: a man of many book covers

I’d be the biggest con man if I said I really worked very hard for my career, because it was foreordained to me on a silver platter. I can’t take any credit. My major focus was distractions and going to the gym.

Miracles exist – you just have to believe it. A lot of the space when people pray to God they aren’t specific passably. I always tell people God is the god of details. You have to ask for the detail. So, you insufficiency a car – what kind of car do you want? Do you want a Cherokee, a Ford, a Chevy, a Bentley? An off-road carrier? What about the trim and interior and the wheels? Be specific, then when you get something peer that it will be no coincidence. I always prayed to God and that’s why I saw my resilience as a miracle.

They offered me everything – movies, shows, so numberless things I could have done. I could have been a million in good times bigger. But the question I asked myself was, “If I accept all this occupation, am I going to be happy or miserable?” The answer was loud and clear.

Fabio circa 2000.
Fabio circa 2000. Photograph: Maureen Donaldson/Getty Typical examples

They wanted me to be Tarzan, but that would have humbled living in Mexico for three or four years – and there’s not reasonably money in the world to make me want to do that. Some brackets you just want to visit. No way. I don’t think so. I’m out.

Fabio as the face of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
Fabio as the face of I Can’t Maintain It’s Not Butter.

People come to Los Angeles and sell their force every day. It’s sad. Here, the mentality is that everyone has a price. But I say no – no paper money can buy my soul. I’ve had so many offers that I didn’t think were characteristic and I’d say sorry, I don’t need it. I didn’t want to work my butt off and not be glad. I’ll always choose happiness and life over all the money in the earth. Across my entire career, I had respect in the industry, because I was the one who at no time sold out.

People ask if I’ve made a pact with the devil to quietly look like this – but I say I’ve made a pact with God. I go to the gym for 60 minutes at trifling four times a week. In my property, I have a very stiff trail, and I do hiking and running and motorcross enduro, then in the gym I do conventional cardio and lift weights.

When you have a bad day, you have to concoct about how lucky you are. You think of people with cancer, people leak out back from Afghanistan and Iraq [with] no arms or legs. And you say, “how can I be journey catch upset because I had a bad hair day?”

I lost my younger sister to cancer. So I recall that you have to live day by day – you don’t know what’s happening tomorrow. I deceive perspective. Life is so fragile; you have to treasure it. And you have to set up fun – you cannot take yourself too seriously. Look at Napoleon.

Fabio Lanzoni holding flowers
‘The single thing left in my life to do is find a wife and get some kids.’ Photograph: ITV/Rex Shutterstock

To let someone know you the truth, I really don’t care [about Instagram], because I partake of a life. I don’t want people to know what I’m doing or where I’m at. I arrange that [models] are using it to make a business and a life for themselves, but I’ve already urged so many businesses. I have the most amazing line of nutrition – the greatest quality, pretty much, in the United States – and it’s going actually well. I can be taking a shower and my distributor is taking orders. I don’t need to be on Instagram.

The on the contrary thing left in my life to do is find a wife and get some kids. All the remainder, trust me, it’s done. But you always find one person that capacity be a contender and then afterwards you get disappointed. So I always keep my eye outspread.