He’s the world’s top male supermodel – from that advert – and is lusted after by women such as Demi Moore and Megan Fox. But there’s more to Essex boy David Gandy than just a pretty face.
Photographer: Ian Derry
It is, perhaps, not surprising that David Gandy, universally considered to be the best-looking man on the planet and the world’s only male supermodel, knows exactly how to make an entrance.
Speeding through the private airfield at Biggin Hill in his navy Jaguar XJS, Dolce & Gabbana shades covering his eyes, he swerves neatly into a parking space (he’s been trained as a racing driver by Mazda and Jaguar) and steps out like a throwback to those Eighties Levi’s models, all rippling muscle, dark hair and double denim.
‘I ski like a madman and drive like I’ve just stolen a car,’ he says, ramping up testosterone levels to dizzying heights.
‘I like speed, I like the challenge.’
This could be a bit of a Zoolander moment – the Ben Stiller comedy that so perfectly skewered the inanity of the modelling profession – but the world’s most successful male supermodel is clearly conscious that having a perfect body, towering height (6ft 3in), Caribbean sea-blue eyes and cheekbones that rival the angles of the Shard, isn’t actually the way to win friends.
One of Live’s assistants is waiting at a bus stop half a mile down the road. Gandy immediately offers to pick him up and a couple of hours into shooting, several minions have been given the keys to mess around in his cars (he’s arranged for a Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster to turn up for a test drive).
He is one of the only people who can work the hi-tech drinks machine on site, so he is required to make coffee after coffee. Gandy’s approach is more Uncle James Bond (in the style of the original, more ironic Sean Connery).
Later he says: ‘I have a fortunate placing of bones and muscles that enables me to do what I do. It’s the reason I work; it’s not a reason I’m better than anyone else.
'To be honest, I don’t think I’m that great looking. I’ve grown into my looks but at school I wasn’t the guy who got the girls or who was thought to be hot.
'I didn’t have a girlfriend till I was 21, which is pretty late. I was a loner.
‘All I saw in the mirror was a big nose and a slightly chubby body. I was ridiculously shy around girls.
'I remember being in awe of this guy at university who could just talk to anyone. I still think if a guy wants girls, it’s more about the gift of the gab than the way you look.
'In my head I still think of myself as I was at 15 or 16.
'The outward perception changes but the inward never really does.’
For the record he still doesn’t do gratuitous sex with gorgeous girls.
‘I’ve only had three serious relationships,’ he says.
Surely it is impossible not to get sucked into that supermodel vacuum of narcissism, arrogance, mobile phone throwing and absolute superiority over the rest of the less attractive human race? He raises an eyebrow.
‘You see it. I don’t get on with Gisele. We don’t see eye to eye, we argue and we don’t enjoy working with each other (they have shot three campaigns together). Like I say, we are very privileged but what we do isn’t saving lives, it isn’t brain surgery.
'And I’m not going to get on with anyone who takes it for granted or thinks they’re someone special. My advice to any young model is very simple. Just don’t believe your own hype.’
Like Gisele, Gandy’s looks and body have brought him wealth. In a woman’s world, he’s fought hard to carve a brand.
‘I didn’t start off as David Gandy,’ he laughs.
‘After the first D&G Light Blue commercial I was just known as the White Pants Guy.’
The ad, featuring sun, sea and lots of semi-naked body shots, turned him into a worldwide phenomenon with 11 million internet hits within day one of its launch.
‘My agency would have calls to get “the White Pants Guy”. It took a bit of time before people started putting a name to the pants.’ He laughs.
David Beckham was among those who were clearly impressed (his white pants-clad Armani commercials owed more than a nod to Gandy’s underwear drawer).
‘I wish him, Jude Law and Brad Pitt would stick to the day jobs,’ says Gandy. ‘It’s hard enough for male models as it is, so give us a chance, boys. Butt out.’
He grins. ‘I have to admit, though, Beckham is good. I’m a fan of Brand Beckham. He’s done incredibly well.’
As a fellow Essex boy, Gandy is also doing well.
At 32, he earns around £500,000 a year. Not bad for a model, but in comparison Gisele earned £15 million in 2011.
‘A part of me does think, “Why is this? What can I do about it? Why is it that the female models get paid four times as much as a male model for a campaign – a campaign they are both in.”
‘I absolutely respect the way the girls view themselves. They turn up with their financial guys, their managers, their agents; they’ll work seriously hard at keeping themselves in top shape and at being a brand.
'It’s always been a female industry and a lot of the male models have tended to treat the whole thing as a bit of a joke, not taking it seriously, not thinking of it as a business. I was never going to do that.
‘But it’s just a fact in this industry that the women earn more than the men. While the top female models fly first class or business class, the guys fly economy.
'I can’t tell you the amount of long flights I’ve done with absolutely no sleep at all and then had to walk off a plane on to a shoot. It’s only in the last year or so I’ve been put up front on a plane.’
These days, however, Gandy has celebrity status, beautiful girls (he dated Mollie King of the Saturdays, and is currently seeing model Sarah Ann Macklin), a jet-set lifestyle and business interests that run to a production company and investments in films such as The Numbers Station starring John Cusack, which will be released next year.
‘It’s a British film. I’m very much into supporting quality British products. We should be proud of what we produce and make the most of what we have got.’
He could be talking about himself. As a model, Gandy has achieved the unachievable on two fronts.
First, he has made himself an international name with jelly- legged admirers ranging from Demi Moore to Megan Fox.
Second, he has changed the face of male modelling by reintroducing the classic combination of ‘sex ’n’ pecs’ back into a world that had become filled with super-skinny androgynous teens, whose skill was to be able to slink into a pair of 26-inch Dior trousers.
‘I spent years basically just working as a catalogue model because I was too big for most clothes. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’d hear that awful rip as I pulled on a pair of trousers or a jacket.
'It wasn’t a question of being able to slim down because there was no way my basic body shape would fit into those incredibly tiny clothes. But that was the look: super-skinny rock star. There was no way I could ever fit into Dior trousers.
‘I made good money as a catalogue model. I had a nice life and a long career ahead of me. But I wasn’t happy. You have to have some creative satisfaction and I felt I wasn’t going as far as I could.
'People would look at me and say, “You’re too good-looking for a model.” It was all a bit strange.
‘You have a choice in life. You try to fit in and follow the crowd or you do your own thing and do it the best you can. I decided I was just going to go out on a limb. I went into my model agency and told them to drop all my clients. No more catalogues, no more commercial work, I wanted to do serious campaigns.’
What was the reaction? He laughs.
‘No more money and one hell of a blazing row. I had a stand-up fight with my agent but she ended up saying she’d totally support me. In a lot of ways it seemed mad. I had a nice flat, a nice car, a nice career, but it just wasn’t what I knew it could be or should be.'
Born in Billericay, Essex, Gandy is decidedly proud of his working-class roots. His father, Chris, left school at 14 and alongside his mother, Brenda, built up a successful freight and property company. His grandfather, James, worked for Mrs Thatcher at Number 10.
‘He was just one of her staff but she was very fond of him. She used to drive him mad because she’d always call him Jimmy not James. Ronald Reagan used to call him Jimmy, too.
'My sister and I had our photo taken outside Number 10. I was wearing these hand-me-down tracksuit bottoms. It was all my parents could afford at the time because they were building up their business.’
He says he got his work ethic from his father: ‘Work hard, make it your best.’
As a teenager Gandy did work experience for Auto Express magazine and was asked to stay on picking up and dropping off cars. He now writes a car column for GQ.
He has studied photography and during the shoot it becomes apparent that he completely understands the relationship between light, lens and posture.
‘It’s my business,’ he says. ‘If you don’t learn about what you do how are you going to try to be the best?’
Still, by 2005 he was just a bolshy male model with no jobs coming in after ditching his bread-and-butter catalogue work.
Told by many to lose weight, he went to the gym, exercised and got bigger and bigger, honing a look based on the classic icons he looked up to, from Steve McQueen to Paul Newman.
The same year his agent heard of a meeting between a photographer friend and the fashion giants Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who were looking to cast someone for their new men’s fragrance.
Although he’d had a run-in with them years previously (‘I went for a casting and they said I had to cut my hair their way. I wouldn’t and walked out’), he knew it was his chance to let them see a completely different kind of male model.
‘I’m more a believer in making your own luck than just luck,’ he says.
Gandy turned up at the restaurant to say ‘hello’ and the Italian designers instantly realised that the tanned, honed, 100 per cent macho Gandy would make a massive splash.
‘I was on a plane, jumping in the water, making that commercial within a matter of days. That was the beginning. I went from being the big guy you couldn’t book to the White Pants Guy.’
Now he is the undisputed world number one male model with a long career in front of him.
‘The downside is girls earn more, the upside is guys work longer.’
He says he is not vain, just businesslike. He spends 45 minutes a day training, eats anything but saturated fats and white processed food and – being known for being macho – doesn’t have to worry too much about messing up his face.
He got a scar by his right eye after a drunken night in New York where an equally drunk friend accidentally slammed his face in a car door.
His hobbies are all a bit James Bond: cars, watches (he has an old Omega and a TAG Monaco as worn by Steve McQueen and a Seventies Breitling) and antique furniture, which he turns into modern pieces.
‘I collect huge French clocks and old carpenters’ consoles which I turn into tables.’
He has interior-designed several properties.
In the modelling world, his friends include Yasmin Le Bon and Helena Christensen. He also appeared in an Absolutely Fabulous Sports Relief special with Stella McCartney and Kate Moss.
‘Stella stood out for me as someone I really admire. She works hard, she’s down to earth and doesn’t take herself seriously.
'And Kate was great. She’s funny and she’s one hell of a model.’
His idea of a holiday is not a Caribbean beach but trekking with gorillas in Rwanda.
‘I’m probably not what most people think but then again, I hope that’s a good thing.’
But right now he is focused solely on work. His nine-month relationship with King ended because they rarely saw each other.
‘I was really sad about it. She’s a great girl, incredibly talented but you do have to focus on work.
'As I see it I have to spend these years building a business for my future. And then I can relax.'
Source: Dailymail.co.uk , @ianderry
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