ONE AND ONLY. No one does it like Tony Ward. The veteran model, who has been in the business since 1983, speaks up his mind and how his fourth decade of modeling unfolds, with no holds barred
Outfit by Alexander McQueen
The length of the average modeling career is five years. It seems that nobody bothered to tell that to Tony Ward, who entered the industry way back in 1983 and never left. Now, on the one hand, a lot of people might know him mostly as Madonna’s boyfriend in the early ‘90s who appeared in the rather infamous “Justify My Love” music video and in the book “Sex,” which was even more controversial (while still reigning supreme as one of the most sought-after out-of-print coffee table book in the world). On the other hand, he is one heck of a model. Ward made his debut his debut in a Calvin Klein’s underwear campaign shot by Herb Ritts, and went on to work with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Terry Richardson for Dolce & Gabbana, Diesel, Hugo Boss and many more.
If anything, his body of work has only grown over the years. Today he acts in movies and music videos; he has created his own fashion brand; and he dabbles in various forms of art. Naturally, picking the brain of this veteran artist turned out to be a remarkably enjoyable experience.
DA MAN: Hi Tony, how are you doing and how’s 2016 shaping up for you so far?
Tony Ward: I am doing just fine! Life is great and I’m now back in Los Angeles, which is home for me. And 2016 seems to be still far out.
DA MAN: Are there any big modeling, movie or art projects that you’ll be busy working on this year?
Tony Ward: I just finished shooting a short film. And then there’s my clothing line, Six In The Face, which I created eight years ago. It was sitting in my storage collecting dust, but it was picked up just before the end of 2015 by the owner of Church Boutique. What a blessing. I thought they would never see the light of day or find their way to anybody’s backside. I created one-of-a-kind destroyed punk gladiator-inspired T-shirts and hoodies. Be sure to check them out! I will also be working on new paintings this year with my friend Daniel Rivas. It’s a new gigantic series of painting collaborations—it’s going to be very exciting. And there will also be collaborations with other artists in film and art projects, and I will also finally take up guitar lessons again. Music may be another medium I’m going to begin in as well. So, 2016 is shaping up very nice.
DA MAN: It’s pretty amazing that you’ve been in the industry for more than three decades. How is modeling today compared to what it was in the ’80s and ’90s?
Tony Ward: Well, it’s very different. These days, too many people can provide input, including most, if not all, of the clients. They need to stay out and keep their opinions to themselves. In the good old days, the art and imagery were left to the artists—the photographers. Clients weren’t even allowed on set. Photographers were trusted and beloved for their talent and vision. Too many tasteless corporate types have their stinky fingers in the pie today. And that’s all I have to say about that. It’s my fourth decade and I’m still going strong.
DA MAN: Your career has long been associated with many big names and celebrities. Among all of the people you’ve worked with, who were the ones that really catapulted your career?
Tony Ward: Me, myself and I. My agents did a pretty damn good job for me as well. But I don’t think that my career has ever been “catapulted” by somebody else. I stayed on course throughout it all; I never give up on something that works for me. I’ve lived in hotels while traveling and meeting new people, but the money is not bad. I’ve done other types of work as well over the years, but modeling is a blessing and I’m fortunate that I get to do it to this day. As long as people want to work with me, I will do the work.
DA MAN: Of course, we have to ask about Madonna. How did your past relationship with her impact your modeling work? And what was it actually like back then?
Tony Ward: Honestly, I ended up losing a lot of jobs because of it. People judged her—they always have—and myself due to this relationship. Unfortunately, the fans didn’t include clients who would hire me; otherwise, I may have done a lot better, work-wise. [Laughs]
DA MAN: Is there a lot of competition among male models? If so, what’s your secret for staying on top of the game?
Tony Ward:: No, there’s no competition. There’s nobody like me—just as there is nobody like all the rest. I don’t think that way; it’s not healthy.
DA MAN: For male models, which is a more important asset: face or physique?
Tony Ward: Both.
DA MAN: Speaking of which, what’s your secret to looking young and athletic?
Tony Ward: Youth in spirit is all that is needed.
DA MAN: You’ve never been trained as a model. So, do you think of modeling as something that can be picked up through learning or do you need to have a natural knack for it? Or is it a matter of luck?
Tony Ward: No, it isn’t about luck at all. It’s just like acting: You have to be in touch with your insides and not be judgmental about yourself. You also need to have fun, study acting and dancing, and get over the idea that it’s your looks that count.
DA MAN: If an aspiring model asks you, “Is modeling an easy job?” what would you say to him?
Tony Ward: Yes, it is very easy. If you’re made for it, that is. It must be something you enjoy for yourself, or else don’t even try.
DA MAN: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to a budding model trying to make it in the biz?
Tony Ward: Like I said before, but there’s more: Read lots of books of different kinds; fill your mind with the poetry of your own humanity. Believe in your pure soul and that you are perfect just as you are. Learn to play musical instruments, build a motorcycle, travel to parts of the world you never thought you would, play with children, do yoga. Practice boxing. Help people not as fortunate as yourself—always. Meditate on a higher state of being; picture yourself striving for—but never achieving—perfection and you will be good.
DA MAN: In several interviews, you’ve mentioned that being a father has been a big change. How do you talk about your work to your children?
Tony Ward: Just say it’s a good way to make a living.
DA MAN: Do any of them want to follow in your footsteps and have plans to become models too? How would you respond if that turns out to be the case?
Tony Ward: When they are prepared for it and they choose to take that path, I can help them.
DA MAN: By the way, how many tattoos do you have now? What’s the latest one?
Tony Ward: About thirty, but the map has not been completed yet. Maybe I will have “The End” tattooed on me as I die quietly and peacefully in the finale.
DA MAN: If you had not gone into the modeling/fashion industry or showbiz, what do you think would you have done back then?
Tony Ward: I’d like to say that I would have wandered the Earth with my animal brothers; foraging, swimming in lakes, oceans and seas around the world as a sage traveler passing and attaining wisdom.
To see more pictures from this shoot, get a copy of DA MAN Style Spring/Summer 2016 here. And check out the outtakes below.
Photography Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling Alexa Rangroummith Green
Grooming Rachael Vang using Kevin.Murphy, Murad, Urban Decay
Production Branson Zimmer
Styling Assistant Courtney Leday
Model Tony Ward/LA Models