Nic Thompson’s Unusual Journey to Modeling

MARVELOUS WANDERER. The unusual journey of Nic Thompson is definitely an audacious one, taking him from construction to the captivating world of modeling and acting

Outfit by Alexander McQueen

With the most well-known agencies looking everywhere for new talent, today’s best male models can come from a surprising range of backgrounds. Case in point: American model Nic Thompson. Before his journey in the modeling world began, the father of two worked in construction and at one point was even training to become a professional MMA fighter. Today, however, he’s a successful model with quite a few notable campaigns under his belt. What’s more, he has moved from Chicago, Illinois, to sunny Los Angeles as he has also ventured into acting. Through it all, Thompson remains a passionate sportsman and a dedicated father, even as he travels to the furthest reaches of the world, including here to Indonesia for a number of photo shoots with DAMAN. Naturally, this was the perfect opportunity to delve into the life journey of this model extraordinaire.

Outfit by Gucci

DA MAN: How did you get your start in the modeling world?
Nicholas Thompson: I started four and a half years ago. I used to be a construction worker and I got picked out by my agent. Working at construction, you know, I didn’t really think I could do what he thought I can do. But I ended up becoming a model.

DA MAN: As a professional model, what would you say are your most distinguishing physical characteristics?
Nicholas Thompson: I think it would be my face, like my jaw structure and my all-American look.

DA MAN: Beyond your physique and looks, what else are the keys to your success in the modeling world?
Nicholas Thompson: I think the key to success is being who you are; just bringing the character. It’s just like acting, just bringing the character in front of the camera. I feel like if you bring out who you are, you play well.

Outfit by Prada

DA MAN: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make as you started to model professionally?
Nicholas Thompson: I weighed 235 pounds when I first started. The only way for me to sign up with my agency was to lose 25 pounds. So, yeah, that was the biggest adjustment.

DA MAN: You’re also into acting these days. Has acting helped you with your modeling work or vice versa?
Nicholas Thompson: I feel like the way it does, it’s like bringing the character to who you are. Like, when you’re wearing this Alexander McQueen piece, I feel rich. In my mind I’m portraying myself as being rich. Or for the time when I appeared in Versace’s Dylan Blue campaign. You’re a fighter; so, if you want to become a fighter then you have to be a fighter. It surely helps you to bring out the character.

DA MAN: We’ve also learned that prior to modeling, you were well on your way to becoming a pro MMA fighter. What was it that eventually convinced you to leave the ring for runways and photo sets?
Nicholas Thompson: Fighting was really fun; it just took a lot of time of my life. With two kids, it was just really hard to manage the time between fighting, my career, working and kids. So, I left that alone, gave it up and went straight to modeling.

Outfit by Moschino

DA MAN: After working in construction, training to be an MMA fighter, you somehow stumbled on modeling and acting. This is not a typical journey for a model…
Nicholas Thompson: No, it really isn’t. [Chuckles] I mean, you get your face hit a couple of times, but it’s a part of life, you know.

“For the first time ever I asked a man to kiss me and he turned me down”

DA MAN: Do you think being a fighter makes you a better model?
Nicholas Thompson: Yeah, I do. It gave me grit. And particularly for the Versace Dylan Blue campaign, where it was all MMA fighters. We had Alan Jouban, Lukasz Kowalski; they’re big people. It really helped out.

Outfit by Versace

DA MAN: What would you say do most people get wrong about working on the set of a professional photo shoot?
Nicholas Thompson: That it’s just an easy, cake-walk job. Because it really isn’t. If it was an easy job, I mean, everybody would be skinny and in shape too, right? You have to bring character; you can’t just sit down in the front of camera, smile, look pretty and think that’s going to be a great picture.

DA MAN: What was the most challenging shoot you’ve ever participated in?
Nicholas Thompson: Yeah, so, it was my first job ever for Moncler. I’ve never worked with Bruce Weber and on that level. I’m not making this up. It was one big shoot. There were cowboys and Indians, there were legit aliens, rodeos and all over the road there were wild animals. It was really hot outside and I didn’t know what to do and where to go. But yeah, what an experience.

Outfit by Burberry

DA MAN: How about the most satisfying photo shoot you’ve ever done? As in, the one you’re most proud of.
Nicholas Thompson: My proudest one would be the Versace Dylan Blue campaign. Not only because it was of a higher caliber, but also because it was something that I liked. It was fighting, a bunch of guys hanging out. I also kissed a guy for the first time ever, which is a little different. But it was everything that I wanted to do as a model.

DA MAN: What was it like kissing a guy for the first time?
Nicholas Thompson: It definitely wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I was asked by Bruce Weber to kiss a guy. He asked me to do it, he told me to kiss this guy and ask this guy if he wants to kiss me for the shoot. Then I went up to him: “Hey, man, Bruce wants you and I to kiss” and he freaked out and made a huge deal out of it. And I’m thinking to myself that for the first time ever I asked a man to kiss me and he turned me down. Finally, I ended up kissing my sparring partner that I used to fight with in Chicago. It wasn’t that bad except when I told him that we had to kiss, I didn’t really understand that we have to do it for 15 takes, because it wasn’t just photo, it’s also a video. So, yeah, we kissed like 15 or 20 times.

“You can’t just sit down in the front of a camera, smile, look pretty and think that’s going to be a great picture”

Outfit by Moschino

DA MAN: What would be your dream photo shoot if you could do it anywhere and collaborate with anyone?
Nicholas Thompson: Anywhere in the world? I’ve already done it! I shot with [DAMAN editor-in-chief] Ron for the magazine in Bali. I mean, I never even knew where Bali was until a couple of days ago and it was the greatest thing in the world. I’d also love to get a fragrance campaign or a nice big fashion campaign and travel all over.

DA MAN: So, tell us a bit about your visit to Indonesia. What was it like?
Nicholas Thompson: The best way to describe it? Everything that everyone told me about this place was wrong. Everyone told me you have to be careful and that it’s dangerous there. But once I got here, it’s nothing like that. The people are great, the food is great, the culture is great and everything is amazing. Jakarta is awesome, and then you go to Bali and it’s like you can’t even describe the feeling you get until you’re there.

Outfit by Versace

DA MAN: What were the main highlights from your journey to Indonesia?
Nicholas Thompson: There are a lot of highlights. I like the Monkey Forest. I learned a lot about the temples in Bali. And in Jakarta I went to a fun party and met great people. It was an amazing experience, one that I will never forget.

DA MAN: Going through your Instagram account, it seems that you’re still quite passionate about hardcore exercise—from semi pro football to training in the ring. Nowadays, what’s your go-to sport?
Nicholas Thompson: My go-to sport is basketball.

DA MAN: Speaking of which, can you give us some tips on how to stay in shape?
Nicholas Thompson: If you want to stay in shape, there are three ways you could do it. You can do High Interval Training (HIT), treadmill, or if you don’t like it and get bored, you can always do jump roping, which I found in fight training. So, you jump rope for a minute, then do push-ups, sit-ups—a full body workout. And something else I do: I love rock climbing, it’s fun whether it’s indoor or outdoor.

Outfit by Lanvin

DA MAN: In terms of dieting, in your opinion, what’s the most important thing?
Nicholas Thompson: You definitely have to stay away from carbs. You can’t eat carbs all day long. There are certain times you can eat everything, but it’s not good if at 10 o’clock at night you eat a full basket of fries.

DA MAN: Are there any particular fashion styles or trends that you really enjoy following?
Nicholas Thompson: To be honest with you, I don’t have a particular style. I’m just a guy who wears jeans and a rock ‘n’ roll shirt. I’m a very simple guy. You might see me in a photo shoot and think that I’m very high fashion, which is great to try out, but I’m just very casual and easy-going.

Outfit and beret by Louis Vuitton

DA MAN: On the flip side, are there any popular trends that you don’t see the appeal of ?
Nicholas Thompson: I don’t want to see overalls. I just don’t understand why are they coming back.

DA MAN: Outside of modeling, what do you consider your greatest achievement?
Nicholas Thompson: Having kids was the biggest achievement of my life. I like being a father and a successful one too.

DA MAN: What’s your motto in life? Or perhaps a saying or a famous quote that you feel perfectly describes your life?
Nicholas Thompson: Life is movement. As long as you’re moving and pushing yourself, you will never stop and you can’t stop. I got that from a movie, “World War Z,” and ever since I’ve seen it, it stuck with me forever.

Out Takes:

Outfit by Alexander McQueen

DA: If you could meet yourself from, say, 10 years ago, what would you tell him?
Nicholas Thompson: To travel and see the world.

DA: Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
Nicholas Thompson: In 10 years, I want to see myself being a very successful actor, traveling abroad and just seeing the world. Because so far, traveling has shown me what an amazing world we have and I want to see what more the world has to offer.

DA: Last but not least, you’ve gone a long way from working in construction and training to become an MMA fighter to the glamorous world of modeling. What do you take from all that?
Nicholas Thompson: I feel accomplished. I feel like I’ve done something out of the box, with a lot of what ifs and scary moments of not knowing if I’m going to make it or if I’m going to do it, whether it’s the right move. And yeah, this is an accomplishment after what I’ve been through and what’s going on in the future. One thing for sure, hard work pays off.

Outfit by Gucci

Outfit by Gucci

Outfit by Prada

Outfit by Prada

Outfit by Moschino

Outfit by Versace

Outfit by Versace

Outfit by Versace

Outfit by Burberry

Outfit by Burberry

Outfit by Moschino

Outfit by Moschino

Outfit by Versace

Outfit by Versace

Outfit by Lanvin

Outfit and beret by Louis Vuitton

Photography & interview Ronald Liem
Styling Peter Zewet
Model Nic Thompson / The Dragonfly Agency (Los Angeles, Dallas)
Grooming & hair Atika Sakura
Styling assistant Primawan Hakim & Koko Namara