Remember last week when we found the photos of the mysterious plus size male model on the Target website? The model in question reached out and introduced himself. Meet Zach Miko – an actor, model, and all-around great guy. We discussed getting a job as a plus size male model, where to shop when nothing fits, and when he thinks the industry will come around to featuring more big men in fashion.
How did you become a model?
Complete and random happenstance. Believe it or not, my manager, Sana, saw a post from a friend on Facebook who works as a hair and make-up artist for a studio in TriBeCa. It seemed that Target was looking for a Big and Tall Model, and they were having a hard time finding someone they liked, so my manager emailed her friend saying, “I have a guy who is both of those.” I was on set the next day to do a test shoot, then to my surprise, they asked me to come in and shoot the next week. After that they asked me back 6 more times.
How did the job with Mossimo/Target come about?
[It was] just the luck of the draw, and lucky that Target/Mossimo was happy to use an actual big and tall guy to promote big and tall.
Do you do work for other brands right now?
Not as of yet but I would certainly love to if any of you beautiful brands want me.
What are these kind of photo shoots like? Do they just bring you to a location with a ton of clothes, have you put it on, then photograph you in it?
They’re very surreal. Basically, the answer is yes. It’s usually a studio in TriBeCa or SoHo, or some other abbreviated New York Neighborhood. I walk in, and the first thing I’m told is that breakfast is ready. I help myself to a buffet of yogurt, egg whites, fruit, turkey bacon, and whatever else the “real” models are allowed to have. Then after having a free espresso that would cost me $6 out on the street, I’m sent to hair and make-up, where you sit in front of the most stylish and cool person you have ever seen.
I sit still and chat for a half an hour while the uber cool hair/makeup artist makes me look like I wasn’t out at the bar only 6 hours earlier, and makes my hair do things I’ve only ever seen in romantic comedies. Then, I’m sent to my stylist, who is the new coolest person you’ve ever met. This person shows you the rack of clothes we will be shooting, whether it be shirts, pants or denim, they all look way better than what you are currently wearing. Between every outfit and every shot, it is the stylist and her assistants job to make sure the clothes look perfect. Every movement you make requires an adjustment to the clothes with clips and pins and tugs in just the right places.
There’s usually some sort of house music (I personally do not enjoy at all) blasting to get you in the mood. They ask if you wanna change it to anything you really like, and you say “no this is great” because asking them to play Iron Maiden would ruin the super trendy idea they have of you. Meanwhile the photographer, usually Australian for some reason, (with the exception of my main man Dan), and the Art Director tell you how to move your body and your hands all while throwing compliments at you.
The whole thing lasts anywhere between 6-9 hours, all while you look out floor to ceiling windows with an amazing view of the NYC skyline. Every single time I do it, I can’t believe I’m being paid for it. Then, when you’re done, everyone in the room claps for you.
Do you ever have a hard time finding clothes that fit?
Every single time I ever look for anything to wear. I’m sure as all your readers know, it’s usually a frustrating and often depressing experience to go to normal stores and try to find clothes that fit you.
The first modeling gig I ever had for Target, the wrong clothes arrived. The shirts that were supposed to be XLT and XXLT, were regular mediums. If you’ve ever tried to cram a ham into a dress sock before, it was a very similar look. Every single shirt I wore that day had to be “stretched” by having both the stylist and her assistant literally hang from me. Finally, each shirt had to be cut open up the back like a hospital gown, with the new flaps pinned and clipped into place. I was mortified and believed my new modeling career over before it had even started. Luckily they called me in again, and I was provided with the proper sizes for all future shoots.
I’ve always felt discouraged when it comes to shopping, wearing the same outfits for 5-10 years at a time, knowing they fit and saving me the embarrassment of pants shopping in public. However, I can honestly say that Target and Mossimo have shown me that it is possible to look good and feel sexy in new clothes, a feeling I thought I had to live without. I’m really excited to continue my journey into style, self-worth, self-validation, and self-confidence.
It seems like a lot of companies are hesitant to feature models of different body types, even companies that offer big and tall clothing to an extent. Why do you think that is?
The sad fact is a lot of these companies believe that the average consumer finds big people unattractive. Therefore they believe that people will see their clothes as unattractive and unpurchaseable if displayed on a large person. It’s a perpetuation of the myth of beauty in our country. We live in a country where supposedly 60% of our country is considered overweight, yet the only images of beauty we were given for years are size 0 women and men with less than 2% body fat.
We live in a society where the word “fat” is used as an insult and the word “skinny” is used as a high compliment. The words “fit” and “healthy” are only used to describe the thin and chiseled, while I know 330lb NFL offensive linemen who can out lift, out run, and out jump any of their smaller counterparts. The problem is that we as consumers allow these lies to be told to us, and we perpetuate the myth that skinny is perfect, beautiful, and desirable. We need to speak up. I was so touched when I saw the first Chubstr article, and how excited everyone was that Target snuck in a big model among all of the typical models with washboard stomachs. I was so excited to see these breathtaking women size 12-16 actually walking the runways during NY fashion week. The public outcry has been “YES. THIS IS WHAT WE WANT! This is what we see as BEAUTIFUL!” I can only hope that other companies will take the lead of companies like Target and finally show real people, with real bodies, looking as beautiful as they are, in clothes that look great on them. And consumers will love it.
We’re starting to see more women’s brands featuring plus size models in advertising and on their websites- do you think we’ll ever see mens brands follow suit?
I think we will. It remains an issue of what is considered masculine, and sexy. I love Hugh Jackman, I think he is incredible. And I think when most men think of masculine, Wolverine might be the very first image that pops into their head. That’s great, but I think it can be damaging to your idea of what handsome is.
For a very long time I would refuse to shop for clothes. I didn’t think I deserved to get new clothes, because I couldn’t find any in my size. I used to tell myself I couldn’t get new pants until I lost enough weight to fit into [a specific] size, that I couldn’t buy a new shirt until I was small enough to fit into something off the rack. Men, like women, always aspire to look better and be better looking. A lot of amazing women’s clothing lines have finally adopted the idea of accepting your body, and feeling good about who you are, not what you aspire to be.
Most men still want to be Hugh Jackman. I want to be John Goodman. A man who is strong, confident, funny, handsome and any and all fans of Rosanne will know, downright sexy. Men have to love who they are. I think accepting and loving your shape and size is something that men’s lines would love to give us, as soon as we, their customers ask for it.
You live in NYC right? Where do you like to shop for clothes?
TARGET. It’s hard to find big and tall clothing that makes you feel good, and I’ve never felt better about how I look then how I felt when modeling for Target and Mossimo. Other than that, I honestly don’t shop in NYC too often. Sadly, there aren’t many stores that cater to big and tall guys. If you want a suit, Men’s Wearhouse usually has a wide selection for big guys, but other than that I mainly have to order online from places like Target, LL Bean, or Duluth.
I see that you’re also an actor. Is that your real passion?
It is. I moved to NYC from my hometown of Stratford, CT to pursue my acting career, after graduating from The American Academy of Dramatic Art. I do Film and TV mostly but love and miss the theater. I used to be a musical theater actor, but after moving to New York and going to a few open calls, I realized I was hopelessly outclassed.
I did a few children’s theater tours, and a few years ago decided to pursue my real dream of film and TV. You can see me this fall on the Pilot episode of Limitless on CBS, and in a later episode of Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta’s new crime drama Shades of Blue on NBC. My wonderful manager Sana Hanible with Steinberg Talent Management has been incredible, I owe so much of my recent success to her.
I also am in a musical comedy duo called “The Dreamstalks” we are children’s educator type musicians for adults. Basically, [we’re] kids singers who sing jaded adult lessons that we wish we had been told as children. If you want to see some of our music videos and learn about upcoming shows (we have one on October 13th at The Unicorn in NYC during the CMJ music fest), please visit our website at www.thedreamstalks.com. Also if you want to check out some of my acting work check out my IMDB page at www.imdb.me/zachmiko.
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