The Nomad: Top Model Philippe LeBlond and His Life on the Road

LIFE ON THE ROAD – Meet Philippe LeBlond, a model who, when not on set, plies the roads between some of nature’s greatest wonders in his trusty van

Outfit by Tommy Hilfiger

There are usually plenty of telltale signs that you’re looking at the Instagram account of a professional model. That’s not the case, though, with Philippe LeBlond’s. No runway shots, no backstage photos or campaign images. In fact, last time we checked, we had to scroll way back to February to see a post showing LeBlond doing some actual modeling. And after that, it was back to photos of him surfing, kayaking, climbing, snowboarding, hiking, trekking and—most prominently—enjoying stunning natural vistas from the back of his van. It’s not for nothing that he identifies himself as “The Van Man.”

Outfit by Tommy Hilfiger

It wasn’t always like this, of course. As the story goes, LeBlond’s life used to look a lot more like the stereotypical professional male model, complete with a big house in Beverly Hills. All that changed one fateful day when he bought himself a van and went on a long trip, stopping by just about every national park along the way. That trip turned into an addiction and now LeBlond basically spends most of his days living in his home on wheels and living the kind of adventurous life most of us can only dream of.

Boxers by Calvin Klein

All that being said, LeBlond’s tale also highlights some of the most important lessons for any professional model looking to make it in the industry, namely the importance of having a strong agency—or rather, agencies—to represent you along with self-promotion through social media. LeBlond’s Instagram account and YouTube channel might not seem model-ish at first glance, mainly featuring his travels and passion for extreme outdoor sports. But apparently, it presents a strong narrative of his personality that has actually attracted the interest of potential clients and helped him land quite a few jobs.

Pants by A.Tiziano

So, on the one hand, what we have here definitely not your typical tale of a model’s life—not to mention one of the most unique ever presented in any issue of DAMAN Style. On the other, this is the perfect example of how some of the more mundane fundamentals of the modeling profession can—and will—pay off in the long run, even when the model in question is a Van Man.

Jacket by Mitchell Evan, sweater by A.Tiziano

DAMAN: Hi, Philippe. Awesome to have you with us! How are you?
Philippe LeBlond: Awesome. Cannot be better.

DA: So, first and foremost, to quote your Instagram profile, you’re a “CA male model living in a van.” Can you tell us a bit about the “living in a van” part?
PL: I’m French-Canadian, first of all, and I got addicted to the van life three years ago when I first started it—got addicted to the freedom of it. Hard to explain with only words and an image is worth a thousand words, so go check my YouTube channel. You’ll get a better idea.

DA: And how do you get the “living in a van” and “male model” parts to work seamlessly together?
PL: I’ve been doing modeling for 13 years, so I have the chance to be part of the best agencies who direct-book me without doing castings. So, when I book jobs I park my van at the airport.

DA: What are some of the most amazing sights you’ve seen during your journey in the van?
PL: Again, my videos on YouTube will show you.

Sweater by Guess
Shorts by Tee Ink
Jacket by Tee Ink, shirt by Mitchell Evan

DA: Speaking of your Instagram account, we think it awesomely captures your passion for nature and adventure. Which, of course, is quite different from what most models do, especially in this age of “Instagram models” and digital fashion campaigns. Do you ever worry that your not-modeling-oriented social media presence might affect your chances in landing jobs in this day and age?
PL: Actually, my Instagram was just a personal blog and I’ve been booking a couple of really good modeling jobs because of what I do on my social media.

DA: That being said, you also have an awesome track record of walking in shows for the likes of Giorgio Armani, John Galliano and so on. What would you say was the most important photo shoot or fashion show that really put you on the map?
PL: Am I on the map? [Laughs]

DA: How about the one that was the most fun?
PL: Any job that involves traveling.

DA: During your early years as a model, what did you consider the hardest parts of the job to get used to?
PL: Not making any money. [Laughs]

Tank top by H&M, shorts by A.Tiziano
Tank top by H&M, shorts by A.Tiziano
Tank top by H&M, shorts by A.Tiziano
Tank top by H&M, shorts by A.Tiziano
Tank top by H&M, shorts by A.Tiziano

DA: So far, what has been the most unexpected, crazy or otherwise awesome thing you had to do for a photo shoot?
PL: Snowboarding and climbing. Both are my passions.

DA: Models often have to do crazy things in front of the camera—sometimes risky, sometimes risqué. How far do you think are you prepared to go for a photo shoot?
PL: I am an adrenaline junky, so no limits!

DA: On a more personal note, what is your number one, non-negotiable rule for personal styling and grooming? When you’re not up in the mountains, trekking or surfing, of course…
PL: None.

Shirt by Mithcell Evan, jacket by Elly Pistol
Boxers by Calvin Klein
Shirt by Tee Ink, shorts by Argyle Grant

DA: Are there any current trends that are immensely popular that you simply don’t see what all the fuss is about?
PL: I don’t understand humans and society.

DA: Outside of work, do you have any personal milestones that you’re looking to achieve in the near future?
PL: Reaching happiness, the one from within.

DA: And our final question: If you could sum up your life today in a single phrase, motto or popular quote, what would you pick?
PL: This is just a dream.