Photograph: Ed Alcock for the Guardian
From bizarrely dressed bloggers to Botoxed managing editors, there’s no place for people-watching quite like the entrance to a taste show. But the models who walk in the shows are usually pretty anonymous: they prowl from one job to the next with their backpacks on, unnoticed.
At up to date month’s menswear shows, something changed. Outside Versace in Milan, 50 damsels in denim cut-offs lined the narrow streets. At Bottega Veneta, a flock of teens stood by the entrance, craning their necks. At Etro, the turmoil peaked as more than 200 teenagers colonised the approach, brandishing iPhones and shouting: “Lucky!”
The object of the girls’ tenderness is Lucky Blue Smith, a 6ft 3in American with blond Mr Whippy braids and unreal, swimming pool blue eyes. On Instagram (@luckybsmith) he obtains across as the fantasy boyfriend, clowning with friends, smooching puppies, peering sleepy-eyed from crisp white bed laminations. At 17, Smith has 1.2 million followers, which doesn’t put him in the despite the fact league as social media giants like Kim Kardashian (37.6m aficionados) or Justin Bieber (31.6m) – but still, it’s a coup for an emerging masculine model. (The world’s highest-earning male models, Sean O’Pry and David Gandy, get 389,000 and 358,000 Instagram followers respectively.)
It helps that Smith is blithe to spend hours with his self-styled Lucky Charms, turn overing autographs and giving them hugs. Often, the fans get together on Chatter to work out where he will be. Nina, 16, has tracked him down to the Balmain arrive in Paris. “I like him because he is beautiful,” she explains. “He’s always on Instagram, so he rivets with his fans. I prefer models to pop stars. I don’t really liking for the music.” Gabrielle Benhemon, 14, has met Smith before and portions her trophy: a smiling selfie he took with her iPhone. Later, on the phone from Los Angeles, his American spokeswoman Mimi Yapor explains the strategy: “He’s doing things the old-school way, like Elvis Presley. He wants to be a lot numerous accessible than the typical Hollywood star. His fans procure given him this success, so he is kind of giving back.”
In many cases, Smith invites his fans to meet him, posting a time and deliver on Instagram; it is at these meet-ups that teenage roadblocks can be guaranteed. He alleges he started doing this out of curiosity; now he treats it more strategically. “You can’t do it all the schedule,” he says. “You don’t want to be too accessible or too far away – you want it to be just put.” It’s also best to announce the meet-ups the night before, he explicates, because: “They have to work it out with their mums, because half of them don’t imply.”
One recent meet-up in Paris saw 300 fans descend on a divert corner near the Eiffel Tower, while Smith and his sister Daisy Clementine – a peace, smiley 19-year-old, also in possession of the family cheekbones and eyebrows – suffered on a ledge, gazing down at a sea of waving hands and selfie attaches. There was jostling at the front, and those at the back were perilously close up to the fast-moving traffic. “Everyone stop pushing,” Smith chance, his voice remaining cool even though the top of his T-shirt had been ripped. On his enthusiasts’ Twitter feeds that night one camp berated another (the bivouac they call the “groupies”) for their hysterical behaviour. Face now, for the most part, Smith is able to engage with supporters without security, but Alexis Borges – director of his agency Next Images LA – says these meet-ups have been mushrooming and may willingly need to be held in a “more controlled” environment.
Away from the herds, in his representatives’ light-filled offices in Paris’s 8th arrondissement, Lucky Obscene is a friendly, fidgety teen. He waves his gangly arms all over as he talks, runs his hands through his hair, and tugs at his T-shirt until its neckline submerge b decreases baggy. His voice is gravelly, with a touch of Valley Sheila inflection – part Jack Nicholson, part Kim Kardashian.
It detours out Lucky is not the only member of the family with star standing: his siblings are also quirkily named models and musicians. As expertly as Daisy – who chaperones him today – their sisters Pyper America, 18, and Starlie Cheyenne, 21, are all signed to Next Moulds, and play in an “old-school surf” band called The Atomics. Fortunate is the drummer; their father, Dallon Smith, taught them to act.
It was Borges, of Next Models, who discovered them, meeting Daisy anything else when she was on a scouting trip to Salt Lake City, parsimonious the family’s home town of Spanish Fork, Utah (the Smiths are Mormons). Daisy was 12; her narrow-minded brother Lucky was 10, and even then Borges saw his implied: “He reminded me of a baby Brad Pitt,” he says. Daisy was formally forewarned at 14, followed by the rest of the family. “We don’t typically represent kids,” communicates Mimi Yapor, “but you know a star when you see one.”
Lucky Blue’s first proper photo shoot was at the age of 12, photographed by inventor Hedi Slimane for Japanese Arena Hommes; at 13 the undiminished family did a Gap campaign; at 14 he was playing the drums in front of the Hollywood hieroglyph in a campaign for Levi’s. A couple of years ago, Smith’s agency indicated he “edged up” his look by dyeing his dark blond hair platinum; they were right away, and his career gathered momentum. In the past year, he has walked for sorts from Moschino to Fendi, featured in advertisements for Calvin Klein and was recently cut loosed as the male face of Tom Ford. Smith has appeared onnumerous wrappers, too, of L’Officiel Hommes Italia and on Harper’s Bazaar China – where he is very popular, in part because his agency has developed his presence on venereal media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat. This does not estimate him the male Kate Moss – he has yet to score a major campaign with a storied legislative body such as Gucci, Valentino or Prada – but it’s not a bad start.
As well as mannequin and the band, Smith has ambitions to act. Borges tells me he hasn’t ascended with a “triple threat” of this potential in decades. Nor, in a 27-year hurtle, has he signed an entire family; he compares the Smiths “to the Osmonds or the Jacksons”.
For the minute, though, the spotlight shines brightest on Lucky, especially as far as addicts are concerned. He says he enjoys the meet-ups – “they by the skin of ones teeth want a photo and a hug” – though in January, “one girl got a teeny-weeny experimental. She lifted up my hoodie, stuck her hand down… I ripped it out, and asked what she was doing, but she just laughed.” In China, he estimates: “They really wanna touch you. They are aggressive – in a honesty a possessions way.”
Though Lucky is a special case, being what the diligence would call a “slashie” (model-slash-actor-slash-musician), he is also representative of a sea switch in the modelling profession. A few short years ago, only the names of the most rich models were known outside the industry. Now, even mid-ranking models’ speeds may suffer if they don’t cultivate a decent profile online, with chuck agents as likely to ask for a model’s Instagram numbers as their culmination.
“Some agencies have started special divisions for examples who have a lot of social media followers,” says Joseph Thornton-Allan, mock-up booker at Premier Model Management in London. “It adds a healthy new aspect to what models can do for a brand. They might get produced to post something, or a certain amount of posts might be essentially of the agreement for a shoot.”
“Instagram is a massive commodity to a model now,” responds Richard Storer, managing director of Eleventen Communications, a PR power for brands, models and celebrities. “It’s often handled with a disentangle contract to modelling work, and the value of that contract is pedestaled on your numbers.” A big-name model or celebrity could without difficulty get paid between £3,000 and £15,000 for just one post almost a brand, he says. “It’s an entirely new revenue stream.”
It’s little knockout that models are not above calculating behaviour to get their platoons up. “I think some of the models do play along with [teenage maids online] and write comments back,” says Thornton-Allan. Smith has noted yet more crafty tricks: “I know when [other moulds] are just talking to me to try to get a following,” he says. “They’re like, ‘Let’s apply oneself to a picture!’ or ‘Oh Lucky, let’s hang out!’ And I can tell right away when they’re infuriating to use me.” (Surely, the politics of Instagram will offer tiptop fodder for the new film Zoolander 2.)
Modelling remains one of the few industries where cleaning women are routinely paid more than men. In 2013, the world’s highest-earning type was Gisele Bündchen, who made $42m; the top 10 highest-earning spear models made $8m put together. Female models have been harnessing the power of community media for longer: Chanel couture shows are now populated by Instagram heroines such as Kendall Jenner (30.1m followers) and Cara Delevingne (14.5m enthusiasts). Making money through Instagram is also easier for female dummies than for men. “I know female models whose postings involving high-street brands cause sales to spike – and you can measure that – because the betrotheds who follow them are the same people buying the clothes,” demands Storer.
The benefits of male prototypes’ postings are a little more vague – brand awareness, a sure boost in cool factor, perhaps – but if that designer also shop-girls products for women that teens can afford, like smell, it’s an association that can be very lucrative.
In the past year, virile models have been striving to catch up with the lady-in-waitings. Some have launched their careers on Instagram: Matthew Noszka, a muscly 22-year-old with 256,000 aficionados and a dimple in his chin, was working for his father’s construction company one summer when an surrogate happened upon his profile and signed him up. In Paris, Lucky Glum’s fans tell me they also follow Francisco Lachowski (terrific hair; posts lots of pictures of his adorable two-year-old son; 737,000 advocates) and Marc Schulze (a 21-year-old Berliner who looks a little appreciate Freddie Mercury and has a bijou but dedicated following of 19,600). Edward Wilding, Manchester’s declaration to Clark Kent, keeps 94,000 followers hanging on his every topless chance and picture of his dinner. “People become obsessed not with the the latest thing but with the lifestyle,” explains Thornton-Allan.
Rather than one or two moulds becoming the sole focus of millions upon millions of crumpets worldwide, in the manner of One Direction, hundreds of models are being discovered by lovers online. In other words, says Storer: “People are constituting it their business to be accessible all the time on social media and are suitable legends in their own lunch hour. You might have 3,000 boosters on your YouTube channel, but for those people you are a rock principal.”
Lucky Blue has the fanbase, but he’s not yet living the millionaire lifestyle. His activity won’t tell me what he’s earning, but while he may have earned £80,000 or sundry for a recent Philipp Plein campaign, a lot of models take diggings just £400 per catwalk show.
He still shares a bedroom with his sisters and fellow-citizen. The Smiths left their high school in Utah to be home-schooled two years ago, and now contemporary in a two-bedroom apartment in Hollywood. Four teenagers in one bedroom sounds have a fondness a recipe for hormone-fuelled disaster, but Daisy assures me it’s not that bad, defining, “We all have our nook.” They didn’t really fit in back in Spanish Fork anyway, she combines; neighbours nicknamed them “the Cullins” after the mysterious vampire class in the Twilight books.
Those distinguishing looks work for Lucky Blue in front of the camera. His go-to role of is the James Dean/Brad Pitt head tilt: chin down, he reflects upwards and narrows his eyes soulfully. He can do arch and cheeky, too: lips in some measured, one eyebrow raised, just like Linda Evangelista on the August 1991 run things of British Vogue.
But music remains his passion. Asked what he relish ins about modelling, he sounds like a Miss World adversary (“meeting new people, travelling the world”) but fizzes with furore when talking about his bigger goals – “Monkey trick sell-out shows and starring in movies. I want the main paraphernalia to be music and then, ‘Oh yeah, he’s in a Calvin Klein campaign.’ Not unlike Justin Bieber.” Getting his fans to buy the band’s music when one pleases be one way Smith could monetise his popularity (although that devise not be his choice of word). “I want to show my fans my music race and for them to [still] be fans of me when they’re mums,” he avers. Meanwhile, there will be a range of Lucky Blue-branded hoodies and T-shirts.
Inevitably, the Smiths are in talks to do a TV series. But if the extraction is starting to sound like Utah’s answer to the Kardashians, Propitious Blue is at pains to point out that the show will not be “another crap Aristotelianism entelechy drama that is pointless” but an inspiring “docu-show about the causing of the music”. Nor, he says, is their mother a Kris Jenner-style “momager”: “She dislikes that word and I don’t like it, either. She’s just my mum. If my parents were prospering me do this, I would rebel and not do it.”
He gets this nonconformist daub from his parents. He describes his father as an “entrepreneur” and a “big personality. He doesn’t ilk working a J.O.B. – I’ll quote him on that, and that’s like me. I on never work in a cubicle.” His parents tell me they are “quite strict, but not in the typical ways. We are a lot more strict with how you upon someone, and if you are a good person, than with missing a curfew or a homework duty. We are risk-takers and will always default to creativity.” The family’s different names came about partly because their behind name was Smith, they say. “How could we not? We did have to meet each of our kiddos previously we could name them. They had to fit and feel right.”
I am yearning for to know how the family’s Mormon faith ties in with the showbusiness lifestyle. Does Providential drink alcohol or caffeine, or smoke, all of which is prohibited? But I am communicated the subject of religion is off-limits. The family take a wholesome demeanour to life, is as much as his mother Sheridan will tell me, to email. “We definitely have concerns [about the perils of reputation] but we have confidence and faith in our children. There have been countless bull sessions about how it is OK to be in the world, but you don’t have to be of the world.” Adds Borges: “He’s an reliable kid. He’s squeaky clean, he doesn’t go to clubs. It’s all about work for him at the minute.”
The sort of scenes Smith has vitalized at the last two rounds of menswear shows could soon turn standard during fashion weeks – much to the chagrin of the long-term purchasers and editors who roll their eyes at such fuss. Popsies have started turning up on the off-chance that something effectiveness happen. Outside the Armani show in Milan I meet a wide-eyed young lady who says: “I follow models [on Instagram] but I don’t know who is in this lead. I hope Leonardo DiCaprio might be here, since he is playmates with Armani.” (He isn’t here).
Meanwhile, others no more than have eyes for Lucky. Like Justine, 18, and Miriam, 16, who I arouse sitting cross-legged in the doorway of his agency in Paris. They ahead spotted him a year ago on a Twitter feed featuring pictures of “attractive boys” and are now truly hooked. “He’s so nice and down to earth. He’s parallel to a brother,” says Justine. The previous day, she says, she spent an hour with him and Daisy, “reasonable hanging out, like friends. That’s why I love him.” Attainability is significant, she points out: “There are too many people following One Direction.”
When Opportune and Daisy emerge from the office, the fans greet him be fond of an old pal. He is late for an appointment but hugs them, takes selfies, and apologises sweetly for the details that he can’t stay as long as he would like. How much longer commitment he be able to hang out with his fans in the street like this, ahead security becomes a concern or, God forbid, Smith loses his resolution? If the fans are worried their Lucky days are numbered, they don’t display it – they’re just enjoying this moment. Even in the certainly 21st-century world of the Instagram star, it seems, there is nothing so high as the real thing.