HIT THE GROUND RUNNING – Mariano Ontañon chats with DA MAN about his journey into modelling and his passion for running
How do models stay in shape? Most will, of course, have their own workout routines, mostly centered around routine visits to the gym and the latest fitness trends. For Argentinian model Mariano Ontañon, staying in shape means running. In his case, however, running means 40 miles a week on average, ultramarathons and—in the near future—a nonstop 100 mile run. Of course, Ontañon is quite at home on the runway as well, having walked for Givenchy at the start of his career, as well as for Bottega Veneta, Dolce & Gabbana, Emporio Armani, Giorgio Armani and many to more, to say nothing of his editorial features, campaign shots and other works.
DAMAN: Hi Mariano, thank you for making the time for us. How are you doing?
Mariano Ontañon: I’m doing very well, thanks.
DA: If we could start at the very beginning, what was it that first brought you to the world of professional modeling?
MO: I started back in Argentina. I was 21, discovered by a PR walking on the street. Of course I didn’t do any paid jobs during a few months, but I didn’t care that much as I was still studying nutrition and playing rugby. So, modelling for me was an extra and “maybe” a way to make some money, as I wasn’t working because of my studying and rugby.
DA: Do you still remember what it was like to be on a professional photo set for the very first time? Or walking on your first major runway show?
MO: I do remember my first fashion show, Givenchy, in Paris. They booked me but they didn’t know that I didn’t know how to walk. I’m sure they realized that afterwards. So, I had to ask this guy who was standing in front of me, Chris Moore, how to walk. He said: “Walk fast with a serious face.”
DA: How long did it take before it all became natural for you? Or was there sort of like a Eureka moment where you really felt that professional modeling was the line of work that you wanted to pursue seriously?
MO: I did my first trip to New York when I was 22, for three months, and made almost no money and only a few editorials. So, when I came back home I decided it was time to go back to college and play rugby and the modelling was just a crazy story. Right after that, I booked the Givenchy show and everything started to work out. After that show in Paris they confirmed me for their campaign and after that the next season show. After that I came back home—to Luján, Argentina—and told my parents that I wanted to move to the U.S. to work full time. Unfortunately, The U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires denied my working visa and I ended up in Milano, living there for almost two years.
DA: On a related note, what would you say was the most challenging part of growing into a professional model?
MO: For me, it was definitely staying away from my family and friends for long periods.
DA: In your opinion, what does it take for a model—especially those new to the profession—to be noticed by the industry’s real movers and shakers?
MO: I think it’s just luck. I don’t think that if Ricardo Tisci didn’t like me back then I would be here now. Although, after that luck you have to be smart about how to squeeze that something that they saw in you.
DA: You’ve walked in some of the biggest shows during the Fashion Week seasons. What is it really like to be part of fashion events of that scale?
MO: It’s exciting! There’s a lot of work done before, there’s a lot of people working so hard for those eight to ten minutes that’s it’s incredible. We should be proud of walking with those clothes made by amazing designers.
DA: Obviously, for high profile shows you’re competing with hundreds of other models. How do you stand out?
MO: Unless you are a real top model, you don’t stand out. The designers cast according to their collection and their personal tastes. You never know.
DA: Social media has become a major disruptive element in the industry, what with the popularity of “Instagram models,” influencers used in campaigns, etc. How much has social media influenced your personal career?
MO: It’s true that now the Instagram models have more power than a few years ago. Which makes sense as it’s the most effective way of publicity.
DA: Do you think that being active on social media is crucial for your career?
MO: I do think it’s important to be active but not as important as showing who you are.
DA: Looking ahead, do you have any major projects lined up for the rest of 2018?
MO: Not with modelling as you never know how it’s going to be. But with running, I’m planning to run my first 100 miles, straight, next year.
DA: Plans aside, what kind of modeling projects would you like to take on more of in the future?
MO: As I said before, running became a huge part of my life as my new passion for the last two years. I’ve been running in the Himalayas, Patagonia, the Alps in Italy, in California and so on. This year it will be my first race in the desert and for next year, 100 miles nonstop. Hopefully, it will take me around 26-28 hours. And no, we don’t sleep. Yes, we eat something. And yes, we stop for a few minutes to eat and rehydrate.
DA: Are there any particular brands or perhaps notable photographers that you would really like to collaborate with one day? Your dream project, so to speak.
MO: I would love to photograph with Mert and Marcus again as they did my first big shoot and I was very nervous at the time. Giampaolo Sgura, who took my best photos in my career and also with Mariano Vivanco.
DA: Moving on to more personal stuff, what kind of outfits do you feel most comfortable with?
MO: Very easy: Jeans, Vans and a long cut T-shirt. For home, sweatpants or running shorts and running shoes.
DA: In your opinion, what are the most important styling tips that everybody should know?
MO: Just be comfortable with yourself and don’t let anyone tell you that you should wear something else. Unless it’s your best friend or your girlfriend.
DA: What’s your number one secret to stay in shape?
MO: Even though I love to eat and I eat a lot of sweets, I run a lot. I average about 40 miles a week. But I learned that it’s not what you do but what you eat what makes the difference
DA: On the flip side, what’s your guilty pleasure?
MO: Nutella! I eat Nutella from the jar. When I open it I normally finish it. You can judge me, I don’t care.
DA: Is there anything else you’re particularly passionate about at the moment?
MO: As I mentioned before, I’m very passionate about running. Nowadays I run ultramarathons which are any distance longer than a marathon and normally in amazing places around the world. It became a challenge against myself, to see how far I can run, how far I can go. So, far it was 100 kilometers—62 miles—last April in Argentina. It was amazing. It took me 19 hours because I got lost. I almost quit when I got lost. I was in the top 15 of the race and after getting lost and climbing a whole mountain again I lost my legs and I walked for three hours dealing with the choice of abandoning the race. I ended up finishing four hours later than I expected but I made it to the finish line.
PHOTOGRAPHY Mark Veltman
STYLING Paul Frederick
STYLING ASSISTANT Alanna Deeble & Hannah Hlopak
GROOMING Yukiko Tajima at See Management using Oribe Model Mariano Ontañon/NEXT
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