He hits the big 4-0 in August but there's something undeniably boyish about Swedish male supermodel Marcus Schenkenberg. He has a laid-back, casual air that is probably left over from his roller-skating, beach-bum days in California in the late 1980s before he was discovered for a modelling career.
On his first trip to Singapore last week, his attire of choice was a combo of fitted tee, combat pants, cap and flip-flops.
|Urban shares some of the funnier encounters from our day with male underwear model Marcus Schenkenberg
Clean make-up brushes and sponges, please
No, it's not that Schenkenberg's a diva. Upfront, his representative agency in Singapore, had insisted on such hygiene measures so as to reduce risk of him having a breakout from using communal brushes.
Hold that hand
Schenkenberg asked make-up artist Larry Yeo about all the make-up products that were to be put on his face.
'I get warm very easily and an extra layer on my skin might make me perspire and cause my make-up to run,' he said.
Spoken like a true professional.
Keep him cool
Schenkenberg doesn't take to warm, humid weather very well so Tan requested that the make-up team keep him fanned whenever they could.
Not that there was any cause for supermodel hissy fits - he kept his cool throughout the two-hour shoot, even when he was made to don a trench coat and a leather biker jacket.
Spell it out
Schenkenberg is quite the curious cat. When the name of a drug that treats diarrhoea was brought up casually in between interviews, he asked for a pen to scribble it down.
'This will come in useful in future, I'm sure,' he said.
He was here to model for Sex-Y In The City, the first men's underwear show held as part of the Singapore Fashion Festival and sponsored by local men's underwear distributor Vizon.
He also has that anything-goes attitude one would normally associate with a teen.
He mutters 'Yeah, okay. Cool' in a sing-song manner whenever Watson Tan, managing director of local modelling agency Upfront, which represents him here, gives him instructions.
And he stretches, leans back in his chair and puts his hands behind his head when you talk to him.
You would expect a man touted to be the world's first male supermodel and who has worked with iconic photographers like Richard Avedon and Bruce Webber to be more of a diva.
Schenkenberg, however, is more cool-cat than glamourpuss. Almost two decades in the industry and he has seen and done all.
Born in Stockholm, the bachelor had moved from his hometown to sunny California in the 1980s to feed his wanderlust.
While roller-skating on Venice Beach in 1989, he was approached by photographer Barry King to join the modelling industry. The 1.93m-tall brunette, who is known for his brooding good looks and washboard abs, went on to become the face of Versace and Calvin Klein in the early 1990s.
The formula to supermodel success, he says, is simply to 'be professional, be on time, be nice to everyone'.
'That way, people will book you,' he says matter-of-factly.
It is advice aspiring male models should take note of. After all, New York-based Schenkenberg is still considered the highest-paid-per-year male model around, commanding somewhere in the region of US$1 million (S$1.38 million) annually.
'I've seen many people around me change completely with just a little bit of success. They stop treating others nicely and everything goes after a while,' he says.
And Schenkenberg is more than nice.
Mention Zoolander, the 2001 spoof of the male modelling industry, and he sucks in his cheeks and pulls the Blue Steel look popularised by the hit movie.
'Oh, by the way, I think I can safely say most male models can turn right and turn left,' he quips, referring to the film's lead male model character who is unable to turn to his left.
He is cordial when asked about a recent incident when a local journalist suggested that he's over-the-hill: 'I try to be nice to such people but I wouldn't do an interview with them. They're just rude.'
'I don't think I'm too old,' he adds. 'Hey, I still get great jobs around the world that pay great'.
And there's no denying that Schenkenberg still has star power.
At Sex-Y In The City last Friday, applause and wolf whistles filled the Tent@Orchard in Ngee Ann City when he first emerged on the catwalk.
'I have to admit it feels good,' he says of the fame.
But he doesn't let the fame go to his head - or his body.
In an age where skinny is in, he continues to beef himself up with cardiovascular training three times a week, increasing it to up to thrice daily whenever a photo shoot or show draws near.
'About 10 years ago, the male models were more muscular and more of a classic beauty,' he says.
'Today, you can look a little strange and it works'.
Pose the million-dollar question about how he then maintains his popularity and he gazes ahead with a knowing smile on his face.
'Well, what comes around goes around. I'll work hard as long as people want me.'
This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times on Apr 10, 2008.