Talking with BRADLEY Soileau IN PARIS
J’adore Bradley Soileau
Photos + Story / Stacy Jean
New Orleans skateboard punk turned East Village nightlife DJ. A Recently signed model to New York Red Models Management, and the flame to Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die” video. Bradley Soileau is more than just meets the eye. I was briefly introduced to Bradley backstage at the Boris Bidjan Saberi show during Men’s Fashion Week in Paris. We quickly bonded over tattoos, skateboarding, and the love of punk rock music. At the time I had no idea there was so much buzz surrounding him or that he was the infamous beau to Lana Del Rey in her “Born to Die” video. To me he was just a sweet kid with an interesting story and an amazing look.
Working all the show’s you meet tons of models and only a handful truly stand out whether it be their style, their face, or a “je ne sais quoi.” He has all of it and then some. I quickly understood why Lana Del Rey handpicked his photo from a stack of unknown beauties. He’s not just another pretty face; he defies the pretty boy model convention and he’s not afraid to let you know.
We caught up again a few days later at a little Parisian café just down the street from Palais de Tokyo. We talked fashion week frustrations, being booked; then not booked. Living dead broke style, crashing on Parisian floors, and waiting to hear if he would be walking in the John Paul Gaultier show.
The fashion industry is fickle and just because your making waves in one industry, doesn’t always immediately translate to another. It’s all about timing and paying some hardcore dues. Luckily for Bradley hardcore is in his blood and having a pretty face is just a side note to his story.
Let’s talk a little briefly about your background before modeling came along. You have some crazy ass tattoos, so you’ve obviously had some sort of rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle before all this came about? I’ve been living in New York for three years, and modeling for about eight months. Before modeling I actually was a drug dealer; I sold a lot of weed. I deejayed, I had friends in New York that were producers and stuff so I was living the party life.
Everything turned for me when I was robbed at gunpoint. I was in the process of quitting the whole dealing thing, because I thought to myself ‘I’m not trying to die here.’ I fell into it. I had never smoked weed, didn’t even know what a gram was when I moved to NY. At the time I needed a job and the money sounded good, so I did that pretty much up until eight months ago, until the moment I got robbed. It was a really sketched out situation, my friend got shot in the robbing and after that I was like ‘Yo I’m out, I’m done with this.’
That sounds crazy, so modeling in some sort of way was your way out. How did you get discovered? I got discovered when I was walking on 1st Avenue and 7th Street in the East Village of New York. I was on my way to Kim’s Video to sell a mass amount of DVDs I had because I was done. I had no income and didn’t even realize how hard it was going to be for me to get a job. I was at the end of the money that I had saved. My agent, Dave Fothergill, saw me on the street from the back and stopped me, asked me if I was interested in doing any modeling.
I didn’t think much of it because I had been approached before. I did a campaign for Silver Star Casting just getting scouted off the street. So in some sort of way I knew I was going to be involved a little bit with the industry but wasn’t expecting much. Three days later he hit me up to go to some castings, come in and sign my paper work, and that’s basically how it all started for me.
What’s been the biggest highlight since you started your new modeling career in terms of people you’ve met or places you’ve been able to travel to? I worked with a designer called Siki Im. It was one of the first jobs I booked. I shot his look book for spring/summer and he’s just a really cool guy who grew up on all the same hip hop and hardcore stuff that I grew up on. I always like to work with him when I can.
Besides the modeling gigs, do you have any other hobbies or passions your interested in? I didn’t really know much about fashion nor really cared but I like clothes. Getting into fashion now, being a model, meeting designers, and learning about brands that I’ve never heard of, I would eventually like to start my own line. My friend has a t-shirt line called King NYC. It’s a small line right now, and he’s just getting off his feet. We’ve talked about collaborating, and he’s interested in backing me.
So you are interested in designing? I could care less about being a model. There’s not much longevity in it, nor much money, unless you just happened to land one of those white elephant 100,000-dollar campaigns.
I’m interested in designing and creating. It’s not really even about money. It’s just having my own thing and something that I designed, that I own, that I can say I did.
I feel like a lot of people’s fashion is whack. You’ve got these huge names that make these terrible clothes. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to be blacklisted from the fashion industry, but you come across big stylists that don’t even have good style. They have no style, and you think ‘How are you this big stylist? You look like an asshole!’ I don’t necessarily understand it all or the complexities but some of it is terrible. I’ve looked at photo shoots I’ve done in magazines and think, ‘Ugh…why did I sign up for this? Why did they pick that image when they have a million other better images to choose from?’
I think the general public isn’t really conscious about the hard part of being in front of the camera. You’re putting yourself out there taking a risk, trusting that the people you are working with are talented and know what they are doing, but sometimes it can backfire. It’s not always done in the most creative or tasteful way that you thought it would be. I’m sure that can be frustrating? Yes, that’s why I want to do my own line. I can have control of it, I can be the stylist, be the creative director, pick the models I want to use. I see all these models that aren’t getting work but they’re gorgeous. Maybe not necessarily gorgeous, but they are their own person and because of that they don’t get a lot of work, like me. I don’t get as much work as the kid that looks like 20 other kids. There are these really eccentric weird kids out there who are so much more interesting. That’s why I’d like to have my own brand, to put models like that on the map. I feel like these kids are more special than these Dior walking dudes that look like everyone else. So I’m interested in making that possible for sure.
You are interested in a music career as well? Yeah, I’ve been getting into producing. I’ve been making a little bit of money now so I’m going to start taking some classes on production just to be more technically trained. I’ve been teaching myself a lot on my own, but sometimes it gets overwhelming when I don’t know how to achieve it technically. I can’t make it happen unless knowing the computer well or a program well so I’m taking lessons on that.
The Lana Del Rey video was obviously a big break for you into the music world, how does it feel to be recognized? Is it what you thought it would be? It’s been a crazy experience, really weird, and I like my privacy. I know I’m not really in the industry to like my privacy, but you know models don’t really become famous unless they are some big time super model. Models have a bit of recognition but they still have privacy. With this, this is the pop world; this isn’t some obscure fashion magazine. This is something that millions of people have seen and millions of people know about.
Her album is dropping this month, but if you buy the single online, it’s me holding her as the icon so that shit is crazy. A million people with their iPod’s and there’s a picture of me holding her. She even says, ‘Eight months ago no one even knew who I was.’ Now she’s been performing on SNL, Ellen, and David Letterman. With her blowing up and me being in the video; now I’m blowing up so it’s crazy. We both came from unknown origins and backgrounds, and now it’s become something so much bigger than we expected.
Are you big on social networking? Do you prefer Facebook or Twitter? I love Twitter! I hate Facebook, it’s like the relationship police. You know everything that everyone is doing, and I don’t really want to know. I don’t need my little bar updating me on every one’s behavior.
I think the majority of people feel that way. In some sort of way it became our global address book with way more details than we ever wanted to know. It is good for that. I have friends now in Paris, in Milan, and all over so it’s easy to get in touch with them, but at the same time it’s a total privacy invasion. ‘Do not cheat on anyone because we’re going to tell on you!’ I’m not even down with that because I’ve been single for so long, but it’s creepy. I don’t want to know what my best friend is saying to this girl. Twitter is amazing.
Do you Tumblr or Instagram? I like Instagram. Tumblr is cool. I just post pictures of weed and boobs…it’s whatever. I get messages from people who think because I was in a video or that I’m a model I should be a little bit deeper with my postings.
It’s kind of refreshing that you’re not trying to be so polished and perfect with your persona. Yeah, that’s what I hear. I like what I like, and then I get all these angry messages from these wannabe artsy types telling me ‘I’m just prolonging the stupid American boy stereotype.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah well, I am the stupid American boy stereotype! Leave me alone and let me be me!’ I don’t tell you you’re stupid because you’re posting pictures of transparent upside down crosses with babies in front of it. Laughs. You don’t even know what that means; you’re just trying to be cool but no one calls you out on it.
Twitter is my thing. I can go on Twitter and rant in 140 characters and people retweet it being all in a tizzy that I said this or said that…. But it’s just stupid shit that doesn’t matter so it’s entertaining to see people get all worked up about it.
I’m a big Misfits fan, and you have a Misfits tattoo, which is originally how we met—the love for The Misfits. What was the meaning behind it? I got it almost four years ago. I did a little time behind bars, and I pretty much did this entire sleeve during that period of time. When I got out I had blank spots missing. When I went back to Louisiana, my friend was apprenticing to be a tattoo artist and he wanted to tattoo me. I told him I wanted a Misfits skull because I grew up on hardcore, and I’ve been playing guitar since I was eight. I’ve been listening to punk and hardcore forever, Misfits, Black Flag, Fugazi, Minor Threat. I have a Misfits tattoo, a Black Flag tattoo, and a couple Suicidal Tendencies tattoo.
The one on your head is a Suicidal Tendencies tattoo? Yeah it says ‘war inside my head,’ a Suicidal Tendencies song. It’s fitting because who doesn’t have war inside their head? Every one has one. Maybe it’s a little crazy, but you got the same thing going on in your head that I have, and if you don’t then you’re not a real human being.
I have a constant battle of good and evil. Should I do this or shouldn’t I? Especially now because the spotlight’s on me and there’s a certain expectation of what I should and shouldn’t do. Models are more or less supposed to be cool dudes, chill, a little prestigious. I see this from some, and I’m like, ‘No! Just because you put 10,000 dollar clothes on me does not mean that I’m going to go back home and sit in my castle.’ I’m a regular person that likes to get drunk and ride on my skateboard and cuss people out. I’m always in this constant battle of should I stand on this table in this club and kick over their bottle or should I just sit down and be quiet?
How long have you been skating for? I’m not good anymore but I used to be amateur when I was younger. I started skating around eight. I picked up a guitar and skateboard and I became a freak. Especially coming from down South, it’s very conservative. I was born in Baton Rouge and raised in New Orleans. It’s the capital of Louisiana so it’s very conservative. You go to LSU; if you don’t go to LSU then they’re like fuck you. It’s behind the times. It’s slow; it’s just the South. To them I’m just a psycho who got his face tattooed.
Since it is fashion week and we are in Paris, have you been getting used to all the French kisses (meaning the French greetings)?
Oh yeah, in Milan too! It caught me off guard when I got a kiss on both cheeks from some scruffy bearded guy. Everything in Europe is more about feeling and touching. Now it’s cool and I’m getting used to it.
Have you discovered any cool spots while you’ve been in Paris? I went to Le Tape Bar. It’s a little hole in the wall bar. It’s pretty cool, they play grim and hip hop with graffiti everywhere. They have mad cassette tape paintings all over the wall in different colors. It’s pretty cool.
I like Bastille a lot. They have frozen Coca Cola there. Laughs. I can’t find it anywhere here so I’ve gone back there a few times just for that.
I’ve been to that beautiful white Ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde. I went there at night, and the Ferris wheel is completely white, not like ours in the states with all that multi-colored bullshit. It’s just gorgeous behind the black midnight sky.
I also checked out club L’Arc one night; it’s by the Arc de Triomphe. It’s very bourgeois. Not really a place I would normally go to, but the place is pretty cool. New Yorkers always want to be in Paris, and Parisians always want to be in New York. Being from somewhere else, people here like you because of that, but if I was in New York at the same sort of bougie club I’m sure it wouldn’t be the same scenario at all. Laughs.
All right Bradley, it’s been real cool but we must pound our beers to make it to the next show. En route mon ami!
Read more ++see more of Bradley in our #5 Issue.