L.A.-based model Arnie Watkins chats with DA MAN about his career and how he has been creating content before it was cool.
Every day is another adventure, and for Arnie Watkins, it is a way to be active and to create. It’s hard to pin down just one job description for the North Carolina-native. But before he delved into the modeling world, he was also a professional wakeboarder, filmmaker and photographer with a strong social media presence. Scroll through his Instagram feed and you’re unlikely to find even one post showing him just standing still while doing nothing. He is always out and about—hiking, on the water or even just on the streets with his board or bike. To say that he is an adventure junkie might be a bit of an understatement. He lives life to the fullest and now, he prepares to tackle major brand campaigns and conquer the modeling world.
DAMAN: Hai Arnie, awesome to have you with us. What’s keeping you busy these days?
Arnie Watkins: Thank you guys for having me. A lot of stuff keeps me busy these days between working and traveling and just planning some fun adventures.
DA: Where are you right now? Busy filming for your YouTube channel, probably?
AW: I’m currently in Los Angeles right now, but I’m always filming for my YouTube and thinking of new video ideas.
DA: You have created content before the term “content creator” became a big thing. What was your first online video and how do you see this as a profession?
AW: Well, my first content was probably about 12 years ago when my little brother and me would film funny videos on my mom’s video camera and I would edit it and upload it to YouTube. But I never thought that you could make thousands of dollars or millions of dollars off uploading YouTube videos 12 years ago. [Laughs]
DA: In most of your videos, you’re doing these adventurous and extreme sports around the globe. Have you always been this active?
AW: Yeah, I’ve always been pretty active. Even when I lived back home I would always be doing things outside, building skateboard ramps, making forts in the woods or doing something in the lake.
“I don’t like to say things before they happen, so I’d say just keep following me along this journey.”
DA: Before becoming a model, you were also a professional wakeboarder. When did that start and why wakeboarding?
AW: I got into wakeboarding when my family and I moved out to the lake house. My dad had gotten me a wakeboard for Christmas one year and I decided to try it and picked it up fairly quickly. So, I then started taking lessons and progressed really fast, learning tons of new tricks and decided to try out competing.
DA: Where is your most favorite place to wakeboard and why? Any memorable story you can share with us?
AW: My favorite place to wakeboard probably has to be my home lake because it brings me back to where it all started.
“Staying motivated is definitely hard but what keeps me motivated is constantly improving each and every day and becoming better than I was yesterday.”
DA: Speaking about modeling, what made you decide to enter the modeling industry?
AW: I decided to get into modeling because I have a ton of talent and I thought it would be cool to mix those talents with modeling to show that I can actually do a lot of stuff rather than just look pretty in front of the camera.
DA: How’s the modeling industry been treating you so far?
AW: The modeling industry has been going good so far. But when I first tried starting off it was a bit difficult because everyone told me that I was too short and wouldn’t be able to make it.
DA: Any specific photographer or brands you’d like to work with in the future?
AW: I think it would be cool to work with Gucci or some of the higher fashion brands.
DA: You’re one of the faces of the Nike Swim campaign this year. Do you go on castings or do they approach you for that?
AW: They actually reached out to me directly and at first, I thought it was fake. [Laughs]
DA: Any unforgettable moments while shooting the campaign?
AW: To me, shooting the whole campaign was an unforgettable moment because I had always dreamed to work with Nike.
DA: Any exciting modeling projects we have to keep an eye out for?
AW: I don’t like to say things before they happen so I’d say just keep following me along this journey.
DA: Moving on, you have a large following in social media. How do you feel about this and when did you realize that you have this kind of impact?
AW: I realized I had an impact when I started becoming pretty famous in the cheerleading world when I was doing all-star cheerleading a few years ago. The fans there are super loyal!
DA: You have inspired a lot of your fans/followers. What is it that inspires you?
AW: Music inspires me a lot, as well as exploring new places that I haven’t been before.
DA: How important is having an online media presence, really?
AW: I think social media plays a big role in today’s world because it’s so easy to spread information about someone or a cause that’s going on.
DA: What is your hidden talent?
AW: Cheerleading. [Laughs]
DA: Conversely, what do you see yourself doing in, say, ten years from now?
AW: In 10 years from now I’d like to see myself in movies.
DA: Do you have a favorite quote? Or perhaps a saying or catchphrase?
AW: A quote that I kind of live by is: “Do what you want but make sure you’re happy doing it”.
DA: What is your number one secret to being happy?
AW: My secret to being happy is mostly only doing things that make me happy.
DA: And what keeps you motivated?
AW: Staying motivated is definitely hard but what keeps me motivated is constantly improving each and every day and becoming better than I was yesterday.
PHOTOGRAPHY MITCHELL NGUYEN MCCORMACK & JONATHAN D’AMBROSIO
GROOMING MICHAEL JANDA FOR STARRING BY TED GIBSON
MODEL ARNIE WATKINS / L.A. Model
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