FLYING HIGH. The unordinary life of Dan Murphy is definitely an enviable one. From growing up in Asia to flying airplanes, this model-cum-pilot shares it all with Chris Andre
The phrase “never judge a book by its cover” can sound outdated these days what with the ubiquitousness of tell-all Instagram accounts. As you browse through Dan Murphy’s (@danmurphymodel), however briefly, you’ll definitely get an inkling of what an extraordinary life he’s led—and one that’s often spent with a champagne bottle on hand.
But up close and personal, this 30-year-old turns out to be the real deal. Despite his physical perfection, Murphy never seems to boast about all the achievements he has under the belt. His decade-long of modeling career is marked with great moments, from shooting with Bruce Weber and posing alongside Kate Moss to working with major fashion houses—Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, Massimo Dutti and Barbour to name some. Off-camera, he is a certified pilot who can fly you on private planes—and he’ll soon be certified to teach you how it’s done.
His strong determination to make progress, as exhibited through well-curated quotes posted on his Instagram account, is part of what makes him captain of his own life. And from this particular shoot in Bali, this captain obviously knows how to fly high with or without a uniform. In fact, he appears to blend in just fine in the Island of the Gods clad in the fine sartorial creations from some of the most celebrated labels and fashion designers from Indonesia.
Chris Andre: Hi Dan, how is it going?
Dan Murphy: It’s been a really nice experience so far. It’s actually my first time visiting Indonesia.
CA: But you grew up in Asia, right?
DM: I did. My family was a group of expats, so my dad worked in Hong Kong and we just traveled with him. I lived in Hong Kong for six years—my family ended up staying there for probably 15 years—and eventually I went off to a boarding school in the U.S. That’s the only reason I left; I loved it here. I’ve seen some parts of Southeast Asia as well. Last year I spent two months in Singapore. I’ve also spent time for work in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Osaka on separate occasions.
CA: How often do you travel for work?
DM: Every other week I’m on an airplane.
CA: Where is your secret hideaway then?
DM: Home. [Laughs] You know, that’s the funny thing. A lot of people want to travel, but when you travel that much, sometimes it’s nice to be at home, spend time with friends and catch up with the family. Ironic. But if it wasn’t home … My family has a house in Florida, they’re retired there. It’s a very quiet small town but close to the beach, so that’s always a nice little escape.
CA: Do you surf?
DM: My roommate in college surfed, and I thought it was the coolest thing. He was so kind to take me out, and I bought a surfboard and went out few times. But, it was so hard that I wasn’t able to continue. It’s just a little too challenging, although it looks wonderful. I always admire people who can do it.
CA: Yet you were an ice hockey player. That also required a lot of balancing.
DM: That’s what I went to boarding school for. I pursued ice hockey for years and I ended up playing at a pretty good level, and, yeah, it takes some balancing. Ultimately what happened was an injury, which put me out of playing for a while. Afterwards, it was too difficult for me to come back. I love sports, and I think there’ll be some way that I’ll go back into sports: coaching or charity work or something else down the line.
Necklace by John Hardy, shorts by Teamm8
CA: How did you start your modeling career?
DM: I had a bunch of friends that were modeling. We were together one day, and their agent came by, and they just introduced me. When I was in college, I went to school in Palm Beach, which is very close to Miami. It was easy for me to kind of slip into the Miami market and connect with an agency there.
CA: Did you take that job seriously right from the very beginning?
DM: It was definitely a “let me give it a shot and let’s see” kind of a thing … It was naïve for me to think that modeling was going to be much easier than it was. That’s a big misconception. The career in general is much more challenging. The challenges are different than an office job, but there are still a lot of challenges. Traveling is one of them. When you go on a contract for two months, you would have to move there and, essentially, live in limbo. Losing contact with friends at home, finding a new gym, a grocery store, learning how the public transportation works—when you are in a different city every other month, trying to figure it out could be really taxing.
CA: What was your first fashion campaign?
DM: Abercrombie & Fitch. This was way back in the day, and what a cool experience it was. They flew in a ton of guys and girls, and we sort of ran around the beach, hanging out, and Bruce Weber was just taking pictures. His dogs were running around somewhere. It’s really an interesting early experience into the business. After that, I worked with Bruce a few more times, shot for W Magazine with Kate Moss as well.
CA: What went through you mind at that time?
DM: This was almost 10 years ago. When you’re still that new, you don’t know any different. It’s kind of normal because you don’t have anything to compare to. But later on, you’d realize that you were working with a legendary photographer.
CA: Some people are born to be models, while some train to be one. What does it take in your opinion?
DM: I think, in general, to have any type of success as a model, it’s genetics. That is what you’re selling as a product. I’ve watched a lot of guys and girls come and go, and a lot of it comes down to priorities and how serious they take their job. In the end, what’s interesting is to see the people who treat modeling as a business and understand that your body is the product, and you have to manage the relationships with the clients and agencies. And just like any business nowadays, social media has become such a key component in running a successful business, too.
CA: Aside from modeling, you’re also a pilot. Where did that passion come from?
DM: I think a big part of it was growing up in Hong Kong. I spent so much time on an airplane, flying back and forth, from the States to Hong Kong. I was always fascinated by how this gigantic Boeing 747 got off the ground with five hundred people in it. It’s not natural. [Laughs] And back then they’d bring kids to the cockpit; I was always fascinated by that.
CA: Which airplane do you normally fly?
DM: A lot of the training is done in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, but I also fly the Cirrus SR20 or 22. So, those are the two that I’ve been trained on. I have my private license, but I’m working on advancing to the next level, to fly bigger and faster planes. I’m working on becoming a flight instructor, so that I can teach as well.
CA: If you could turn back the time and talk to your old self 10 years ago, what would you say?
DM: Just like on Instagram, the messages that I put out there are always about setting goals, fighting through adversity, because sometimes you don’t feel like doing it, but you have to. Some other pieces of advice would be to make sure that you treat this or whatever you do as a business. It’s important to take it seriously. No different than an athlete, really, if you want to get better, you got to take the job seriously. If you want to get to the next level, you got to practice more than the next guy and figure out a way to excel.
This article first appeared in DA MAN Style Fall/Winter 2016. Check out these outtakes below:
Outfit by Populo Batik
Outfit by Ikat Indonesia
Photography Ronald Liem
Styling Edwin Habibun
Model Dan Murphy/Wilhemina International
Location Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay (Jimbaran Bay, Jimbaran, Kuta, Bali; +62 361 701010; fourseasons.com/jimbaranbay)