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September 27th, 2006 Byron Beck | Queer Window
 

Beyond Zoolander

Local good guy makes it big as America's next top model.

     
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Chad White wants to be a baseball player. Or a fireman. But those dreams have to wait. At the ripe age of 22, this Wilson High School grad—class of '02—has another career path to follow: modeling. That's right. White is the high fashion world's "model of the moment."

And as for moments, White just had a big one when he walked the wild and wacky Heatherette runway with Paris Hilton; one of the most talked-about moments during all of New York's recent Fashion Week. Another moment occurred when Steven Klein devoted 45 pages of editorial to him for the Italian magazine L'Uomo Vogue (the last time they did that was for Brad Pitt). And, when I talked to him from the beaches of Malibu last week, he was just a few moments into doing the next big Diesel campaign.

It's a far cry from three years ago, when this good-enough-to-go-pro ball player walked into an open casting at Mode Models, a local modeling agency. He was there to support his then-girlfriend, never expecting he'd become America's next top male model. For a couple of years, posing in other people's clothes was a hobby, something he did between baseball practice and school for the likes of Fred Meyer, Macy's and Nike. Then he was injured. A torn elbow was the result of not warming up his pitcher's arm before throwing a curve ball. Realizing his dreams for the majors might have dried up, he decided to join the Navy. Not only would they pay for the surgery to repair his arm, he could also play for their baseball team. Then, a day before he was to sign his military papers, his agents talked him into going to New York.

NYC was a big change for this Southwest Portland kid. "It was nothing I expected. But I had to try it," said White. "I worked my butt off. I was in the gym all the time, and (because of ball training) I didn't have any of the vices—like partying. I was in New York for one reason: to try to make something of myself."

Not only was it a change in locale, but also in lifestyle. "With baseball, it's up to me," said White. "But with modeling you're only as good as what they think. If they don't like you, they don't like you. It's not in my hands, which I hate."

After all this attention, the 6-foot-2-inch White (who does 300 sit-ups a day) is less interested in becoming an actor, and still would like to be a ball player or fireman. But until then he wants to make the best of his "moment." And he doesn't mind getting naked once in a while to do it. "I'm so comfortable with my body and sexuality. I don't get shy, embarrassed or anything like that."

"Even when it's plastered all over the Internet?" I asked him.

"Really? I wish I had a computer," said White. "My agent would kill me if he caught me Googling myself. He really would." Now, as Paris says, that's hot.

 
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