WINNING FORMULA. Former rugby league star Nick Youngquest has successfully crossed over from sport to modeling. Ronald Liem talks to the face of Paco Rabanne’s invictus fragrance on brand campaigns, equality and keeping good physique
Outfit by Lagerfeld
Happy and laid-back like the true blue Aussie he is, Nick Youngquest’s more relaxed approach to life appears to be serving him well. leaving the professional sports of rugby league at the end of 2012, success has followed success since he began exploring alternative career paths. Currently based in New York, the 30-year-old has been concentrating his energy learning a new profession: modeling. Now the face of world-famous campaigns such as Paco Rabanne’s invictus fragrance, he comes across as a man who is enjoying every step of his current journey.
Ronald Liem: Nick, how are things? You’ve successfully made the transition from a professional athlete to a world-famous model. What was the reason you did so?
Nick Youngquest: Hey! Good, thanks. Well, I’d actually done a bit of modeling during my sporting career, such as calendar shoots to raise money for charity. Though it was definitely something I was interested in, I never thought it would turn into something I did professionally. However, I’m always out to experience new things and, as an athlete, you’re so totally focused on one thing that you forget that there’s a big, wide world out there. So when modeling became a serious possibility, I decided to make the move to New York to make a go of it.
Outfit by Lagerfeld
RL: So, do you see modeling as a long-term pursuit of yours?
NY: As I mentioned, it was never something I thought I’d do full time and now I am, I feel very privileged. Even though I’m 30 years old, I’m still learning something new on every shoot—probably because I came into it quite late. I’m also learning from the best because I’ve been lucky enough to work with some very famous photographers and directors. Basically, I’m happy to enjoy the ride right now!
RL: A few of your shoots have been geared towards the LGBT community where you’ve subsequently gained a lot of support. How do you feel about that?
NY: Yeah, this just kind of happened and it’s been very rewarding as I’ve always tried to be an activist for equality. I also happened to be on the same team with one of the first openly gay rugby players, Gareth Thomas, around the same time that my modeling was taking off. While a lot of progress has been made, we still have a long way to go and sport is a great platform for improving LGBT awareness.I don’t see myself as a “gay icon,” but it’s certainly a humbling thing to hear about.
“I’m always out to experIence new things and, as an athlete, you’re so totally focused on one thing that you forget that there’s a big, wide world out there”
RL: Rugby is conventionally a very macho sport with a corresponding environment but has set the trend in raising awareness in this area. Why has this happened?
NY: Yes, it’s definitely been an interesting progression to observe and to see other sports follow. I’ll never forget something which my team mate Gareth said to me soon after he’d come out publically and that was that the place where he felt safest was the changing room among his mates. Hopefully this will be the case for all sportsmen and women in the future.
RL: Off the field, let’s talk about your Paco Rabanne campaign for the invictus fragrance that is absolutely everywhere. Can you tell how this role came about?
NY: I think Paco Rabanne were looking for someone to embody the feeling of victory or that of a champion. Being a sportsman, it was perhaps easier for me to do this by drawing on my experience. I was lucky enough to be chosen and get to work with some excellent people at the brand. I also get to travel a lot now. So far, so good!
Printed shirt by Eton
RL: What is the invictus awards program that you’ve been promoting alongside the fragrance?
NY: This program targets seven athletes from seven different countries across seven different sports that compete against each other in a series of challenges. During season one, which proved very successful, I acted as a mentor to the competitors. We’ve now just shot season two which will air toward the end of the year. The winner is voted online by the viewers, with the victor receiving €50,000 for a sports program of their choice.
RL: There are more and more sportsmen these days that are increasingly being associated with brand campaigns. Why?
NY: Well, I think there’s certainly something unique about the combination. this is perhaps because people can easily relate to sportsmen as they see them week in, week out on the field. For brand campaigns that need their ambassadors to embody qualities such as perseverance or dedication, sportsmen are likely more suitable than someone whom the audience isn’t as connected with. I suppose it’s the same with actors which you see doing similar things, familiarity is important. Hopefully, I’ve come out of my sport at the right time and can be taken seriously as both a sportsman and a model. Whatever happens, I hope it can inspire people in some way because, to me, that’s what sport is.
Outfit by Lagerfeld
“Whatever happens, I hope it can inspire people in some way because, to me, that’s what sport is”
RL: Are you happy with the direction of your career in modeling thus far?
NY: Yes, I’m very pleased with how it’s been going. However, I am keen on doing different things in order to showcase my versatility. Basically, I don’t just want to be known as the guy who takes his clothes off, and I’d also like to do more campaigns with Australian brands because that is a big part of my identity. However, now I’m living in New York that could be a bit more difficult!
One new campaign I am involved in, though, is Upside, which is a yoga and athletic fashion brand. the designer Jodie Mears was actually the owner of Tiger Lilly, which was a huge swimwear brand about a decade ago. Upside is her vision to create fashionable clothing that you could go to your yoga or gym class in and then wear out afterwards to lunch. The face of the women’s side is Victoria’s Secret model Candice Swanepoel, who is amazing. Doing a shoot with her was initially pretty daunting, and I’m still not sure what’s more nerve-wracking, doing that or running onto a pitch in front of thousands of fans!
RL: Any aspirations outside of modeling?
NY: Honestly, I’m pretty fresh out of sport and want to focus on one thing at a time. While of course I’m interested in trying acting at some point, I’m not in a rush as I’m really enjoying working in the modeling industry at present. Otherwise, I have a real passion for business and I’m currently doing an online business degree. Like many young people, I’m still trying to exactly discover where I fit into professional life.
Outfit by Lagerfeld
RL: What about your tattoos? Do they hint at a more rebellious side to your personality?
NY: [Laughs] Possibly … though when I was younger, I was never really a fan. However, whenI got into my final year of high school, a close of friend passed away from cancer and it was something that really affected me. His mother found his school diary that had a drawing of a tattoo he had been planning to get. During his treatment he never could and so eventually his brother and I got the tattoo done as a tribute to him. that was the first one and after that it’s been a never-ending story really! All of them have meaning and are tributes to my family—apart from the mermaid on my forearm, that’s just one I really wanted!
RL: Any advice for those thinking of getting tattoos?
NY: Well, just remember that tattoos are forever. Though you can get them removed, I’ve heard this isn’t a pleasant process at all. Think about it and make sure it’s meaningful, something you can happily carry with you for the rest of your life.
“I’ve always tried to be an activist for equality. I don’t see myself as a ‘gay icon,’ but it’s certainly a humbling thing to hear about”
RL: Speaking of big decisions, you got married two years ago in Mexico. How is married life?
NY: Being married is great. My wife is American, so we get to spend a lot of time in the states near to her family which has been a fantastic experience. For me though, being married didn’t change my relationship with my wife, so things have just carried on like they always have.
RL: You seem to be in top physical condition despite no longer being a full-time athlete. How much of it is good genes and how much is down to hard work in the gym?
NY: A bit of both. I was involved in sport from a young age, and my father was also a pretty fit guy in his prime. While I was always pretty muscular, I did gymnastics four nights a week between the age of six and twelve, which definitely helped. I do all sorts of sports though, such as surfing, running and yoga; so it’s always been a part of me while playing professionally got me into good eating habits.I’m a lot smaller and leaner now than when I was playing, but it’s essential for the modeling I’m doing. No surfing in New York, but I go whenever I’m in Bali or Australia.
Swim briefs by Teamm8
RL: How would you describe your current state of mind?
NY: Currently, I’m relaxed and generally stress free. Something I’ve learned through yoga is to control your breathing to help stay calm. I’m enjoying the freedom after stepping away from sport and generally being more of a free spirit. When you do something that is so high intensity for so many years, there is always stress involved and it never really stops. Now I get to focus on my more spiritual side that helps me relax.
RL: What do you need to be completely content?
NY: Friends, family and a beach. That’s all I need! Oh, and maybe a beer also …
RL: What’s your favorite motto?
NY: Carpe Diem, which simply means “seize the day.” I actually have this as one o my tattoos. I think I drifted away from this with sport because you’re always thinking about the future. Now I focus on making the most of each day. For example, I surfed this morning before coming into town for meetings, and after I’m finished I’ll be surfing again until dinnertime. It’s all about getting out there and experiencing life.
RL: Australians always come across as happy, friendly people wherever you meet them in the world. Is it part of your DNA?
NY: I think the defining characteristic of an Australian is someone who’s easy going, someone who isn’t overly fazed by things. While that’s getting increasingly difficult in this developing and fast-paced world, I think it’s a very sustainable and positive mindset for life. Mostly though, it’s about doing things which make you happy.
Photography James Demitri
Text Ronald Liem
Model Nick Youngquest/DT Models (New York) and Chadwick Models (Sydney)
Grooming Fred Lemarche
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