“I HAVE MY HEAD ON”

NO SINCE ELLE MACPHER­SON HEADED TO NEW YORK IN THE 'SOS HAS AN AUS­TRALIAN TEENAGER MADE SUCH AN IM­PRES­SION ON THE FASH­ION WORLD. BUT, AS MODEL JOR­DAN BAR­RETT TELLS STEL­LAR, IT TAKES MORE THATN JUST WIN­NING THE GE­NETIC LOT­TERY

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy JAMES NEL­SON Styling MA­RINA AFONINA Creative Di­rec­tion ALEK­SAN­DRA BEARE Words JOR­DAN BAKER

For­mer Gold Coast school­boy Jor­dan Bar­rett has been voted the world’s top male model. As for those un­easy about his abil­ity to han­dle fame – he tells Stel­lar he’s got it un­der con­trol.

Jor­dan Bar­rett is a hu­man doo­dle pad; his body is cov­ered with small, ran­dom tat­toos. Most were in­spired by his friends, and some he got free with tacos. There’s a car­dio­gram on his torso, plot­ting the (per­fectly healthy) heart­beat of his friend, model Tah­nee Atkin­son. “PSYCHO” is writ­ten across his left arm, a ref­er­ence to the band Psycho Gypsy. The words “Mon­ica Lewin­ski” (sic) are scrawled across Bar­rett’s pelvis, yet they have noth­ing to do with the for­mer White House in­tern and pres­i­den­tial paramour of the same name.

“‘Mon­ica Lewin­ski’ was [writ­ten] on a paint­ing I liked, a re­ally nice, weird paint­ing that my friend Jai did,” he says. One of Bar­rett’s wrists bears the phrase “0% IN­TER­EST”, which was copied from a tat­too sported by his New York agent. “She shakes peo­ple’s hands and it’s there,” he ex­plains. “Zero per cent in­ter­est – not in­ter­ested.

“Some days I wake up and I look at [the tat­toos] and think maybe I shouldn’t have them. And then…” he shows me an­other tat­too. It says “WHY NOT”.

It’s a strik­ingly ca­sual at­ti­tude to his body, one that doesn’t stop at tat­toos. He has to force him­self to go to the gym (“I hate work­ing out”), he cuts his own hair on the plane when he’s bored, and ru­mours abound about his love of par­ty­ing. It must make his agents and ac­coun­tants ner­vous, be­cause that body is worth mil­lions.

In the world of in­ter­na­tional mod­el­ling, Aus­tralian lad Jor­dan Bar­rett is an It boy. Since he ar­rived in New York in 2015, he has been shot by the world’s top pho­tog­ra­phers, walked in shows for the most sought-af­ter de­sign­ers, and last year was voted Male Model of the Year at the Mod­els.com In­dus­try Awards. His in­stant suc­cess, his jet­set­ting life­style and his bevy of celebrity girl­friends have also turned him into click­bait; Bar­rett’s pho­to­graph is just as likely to ap­pear on gos­sip web­sites as fash­ion mag­a­zines.

To­day, dur­ing a whirl­wind trip home, he’s pos­ing for Stel­lar where he proves to be a stylist’s dream – po­lite, bid­dable and with the abil­ity to turn ev­ery stitch of cloth­ing into a work of art. In shots, he lounges across pieces of fur­ni­ture, look­ing in­sou­ciantly at the cam­era; be­tween shots, he does the same thing, play­ing with his phone.

To the naked eye, Bar­rett is, of course, beau­ti­ful. He looks like a cross be­tween a young Leonardo Dicaprio and the

late River Phoenix, with strik­ing, fe­line eyes and a slen­der, ath­letic physique.

But he is not sexy. He is boy­ish, a lit­tle an­drog­y­nous. At 20, he is still in that awk­ward phase be­tween child and adult, when young guys seek out men­tors, test bound­aries, bat­tle pim­ples, feel in­vin­ci­ble and work out – through trial and er­ror – what kind of men they want to be. But in­stead of do­ing that in the Gold Coast’s Cur­rumbin, with his fel­low Elanora State High School alumni, Bar­rett is do­ing it in front of cam­eras in New York.

He has an apart­ment in Man­hat­tan’s West Vil­lage, which, thanks to a six-month-old gar­den­ing fetish, is full of plants. (“I am go­ing to have plants hang­ing from the roof,” he says. “It’s weird and it’s cool.”) Bar­rett is rarely there for long enough to un­pack his suit­case – he spends most of his time trav­el­ling, a dif­fer­ent city ev­ery few days, and snatches sleep on planes. He par­ties with Kate Moss, Paris Hil­ton, and as­sorted It girls (for this in­ter­view, his man­ager banned ques­tions about Hil­ton). He works with Tom Ford, has been shot by Mario Testino and walks at the top in­ter­na­tional fash­ion shows.

His con­ver­sa­tion is pep­pered with rev­er­ent ref­er­ences to his friends, who seem to be much older vet­er­ans of the fash­ion world. “I am al­ways the younger one,” he tells Stel­lar. “Most of my friends are 30, 40 years old – my clos­est friend is prob­a­bly 35,” he says. “My friends are all in the in­dus­try now. A lot of them are pho­tog­ra­phers. I go see my friends and we end up tak­ing pho­tos and do­ing a shoot. We go over to a friend’s house, we might watch a movie, then at mid­night end up tak­ing pho­tos in his liv­ing room, like mak­ing a lit­tle set up.”

Bar­rett in­sists his life is not un­usual: “My job is, but my life isn’t.”

But “un­usual” is rel­a­tive. He be­gins his day at an in­frared sauna, then works out at The Dog­pound, the gym of pref­er­ence for Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret an­gels. His mod­el­ling jobs of­ten in­volve sur­real pho­to­graphic pageants, such as the time he chan­nelled the late Chet Baker for Dutch Vogue Men in the Am­s­ter­dam ho­tel room where the jazz mu­si­cian spent his last mo­ments.

At 20, he’s al­ready met many of his idols. “Tom Ford is a ge­nius, a psycho ge­nius, and I have read all his in­ter­views all the time and I learnt as much as I could pos­si­bly learn about him,” Bar­rett says. “And ran­domly, by co­in­ci­dence, he was the first cam­paign I shot in Amer­ica. If you look into his life he is the most in­ter­est­ing per­son, ever.”

Bar­rett was scouted, or so the story goes, while he was steal­ing matches from a con­ve­nience store at Palm Beach on the Gold Coast. The scout, Kirk Blake, gave the 13-year-old his card, and for a mo­ment Bar­rett thought he was be­ing busted by the cops. He gave the card to his mother, who fol­lowed up on his be­half. “I was just a tall lanky kid,” he says. “I felt awk­ward, al­ways awk­ward.”

Blake vividly re­mem­bers the en­counter. “He was with a young girl, they were in the aisle, and typ­i­cal to Jor­dan, he was gig­gling and hav­ing a laugh,” he says. “He was quite tall, even back then. Tall, slen­der, but it’s the eyes. The eyes and the mouth.” He had the an­drog­y­nous look that was be­com­ing so pop­u­lar among high-end fash­ion de­sign­ers. “He has al­ways fit that met­ro­sex­ual look, he is quite fem­i­nine.”

At that point, Bar­rett was a work­ing­class kid. Ac­cord­ing to Blake, he had been teased by kids for the an­drog­yny that would later so ap­peal to the world’s top de­sign­ers. His par­ents had sep­a­rated. His dad was a tradie, and, as would later emerge, a drug boss; in 2013, Adrian Bar­rett was sen­tenced to eight and a half years (he ended up serv­ing just un­der three years) for run­ning a $9 mil­lion mar­i­juana busi­ness. (It wasn’t Bar­rett se­nior’s first of­fence; his sen­tenc­ing judge re­ferred to his “se­ri­ous crim­i­nal his­tory”, and men­tioned that he had been on pa­role for an­other of­fence while he was run­ning the car­tel.)

At the same time, Bar­rett ju­nior was build­ing his mod­el­ling ca­reer. He worked in Syd­ney, then in Tokyo, and at 18 he got his big break in New York. “[Mov­ing to New York was], like, al­most over­whelm­ing at first, it was re­ally scary,” Bar­rett says. “To sur­vive in New York is very tough, I think, [and] I was very young and I was alone. I en­joyed the strug­gle of it.” (“The chal­lenge,” cor­rects his man­ager, who sat in on our in­ter­view.)

And so he found him­self, barely out of boy­hood and with his fam­ily on the other side of the world, liv­ing in The Big Ap­ple, be­ing paid hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars a year, and work­ing with some of the world’s most fa­mous de­sign­ers, pho­tog­ra­phers and mod­els.

“I THINK I’VE PROVED TO [MY MOTHER] THAT THERE’S NOT A LOT TO BE WOR­RIED ABOUT… SHE KNOWS I HAVE MY HEAD ON”

The first time an Aus­tralian teenager made such an im­pres­sion on the fash­ion world was back in the late ’80s, when Elle Macpher­son flew to New York af­ter fin­ish­ing her HSC. Writer Antonella Gam­botto-burke went to school with Macpher­son, and watched from afar as the model grap­pled with the tra­jec­tory her beauty had set her on. “Life came at her at warp speed,” says Gam­botto-burke, a jour­nal­ist turned au­thor of Mama: Love, Moth­er­hood And

Rev­o­lu­tion. “I think she only re­ally found her emo­tional foot­ing later, when she learnt to use that ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion to her ad­van­tage.”

Much col­umn space is de­voted to wor­ry­ing about young women in mod­el­ling, but men are vul­ner­a­ble, too. “Young men’s brains aren’t fully de­vel­oped un­til their early to mid-twen­ties,” says Steve Bid­dulph, a psy­chol­o­gist and the au­thor of Rais­ing Boys. “Men­tors and role mod­els play an im­por­tant role in put­ting the brakes on and guid­ing with a sense of per­spec­tive.”

Bid­dulph says beauty can be just as danger­ous for young men as young women. “If a young per­son is par­tic­u­larly good­look­ing, it’s not a plus for their life, be­cause peo­ple be­have oddly to­wards them,” he says. “They are val­ued, but as an ob­ject, not as a per­son.

“Women have al­ways had this prob­lem, but it’s now af­fect­ing boys as well. If fame or suc­cess hap­pens be­fore we have a good sense of who we are, then other peo­ple’s views can dis­tort that. A strong fam­ily, will­ing to keep your sense of per­spec­tive, can help.”

Bar­rett doesn’t talk much about his fam­ily. He’s not will­ing to dis­cuss his two older broth­ers, be­yond say­ing they both live at home on the Gold Coast (ac­cord­ing to model scout Blake, nei­ther were blessed with Bar­rett’s good looks). His agent de­clined Stel­lar’s re­quest to speak to his mother, Julie.

There was also a pro­tracted off-there­cord con­ver­sa­tion about ex­actly what Bar­rett would say about his fa­ther, given he was will­ing to say far more than oth­ers would pre­fer. The up­shot is this: Bar­rett isn’t em­bar­rassed about his fa­ther’s crimes, nor does he think he did any­thing ter­ri­bly wrong, given that dope is sold legally across wide swathes of the US. “It’s old news,” is all Bar­rett can of­fi­cially say.

Most gos­sip sto­ries about Bar­rett have been about which model he was last seen “canoodling” with. In­creas­ingly, how­ever, they are about his life­style. Dur­ing his most re­cent trip to Aus­tralia, Bar­rett was spot­ted at Wat­sons Bay in Syd­ney amid ru­mours he was sur­fac­ing from a three-day bender. Last year, he was pho­tographed sit­ting, glassy-eyed, out­side a club in Croa­tia. One fash­ion in­sider, quoted in The Daily Tele­graph, said, “It has been noted in the in­dus­try that he is par­ty­ing a bit too hard.”

When he’s trav­el­ling, Bar­rett likes to lis­ten to an au­dio ver­sion of Last Night At The Viper Room: River Phoenix And The Hol­ly­wood He Left Be­hind, about the life and un­timely death of the ac­tor, who died from a drug over­dose on the foot­path out­side a West Hol­ly­wood night­club in 1993.

But Bar­rett in­sists he’s in con­trol of his life. He ad­mits his mother wor­ries about him, but says there’s no rea­son why she should. “I think I’ve proved to them there’s not a lot to be wor­ried about,” he says. “She knows I have my head on. She’s al­ways mak­ing sure I’m healthy and eat­ing. I ac­tu­ally feel very to­gether, in this sit­u­a­tion.”

Blake, who has lost touch with Bar­rett, ad­mits there is con­cern in the in­dus­try. But any at­tempt to con­trol him would back­fire. “Jor­dan con­trols the Jor­dan show,” Blake says. “Jor­dan is very smart, he will al­ways do what Jor­dan wants to do.”

Bar­rett, he be­lieves, is try­ing to find his feet in a bizarre world. “He lives in a world that we can’t relate to,” he says. “His in­come is into the hun­dreds and hun­dreds and hun­dreds of thou­sands a year, and he hasn’t even scraped the sur­face yet. I think he seems to be sort of in con­trol, and not in con­trol.”

Through­out the in­ter­view, Bar­rett’s de­meanour of in­sou­ciance only cracks once. He seems ir­ri­tated when I ask him whether he feels his life, with all its glam­our and money, is due to a lucky break in the ge­netic lot­tery.

“There are a lot of steps along the way where it can go wrong, so you need to be very strate­gic about what you do,” he says. “It’s not that sim­ple. You have to be smart, with the work you are do­ing. You are a brand, and you have to be very care­ful not to dam­age that.”

“IT’S NOT AS SIM­PLE [AS GOOD LOOKS]. YOU HAVE TO BE SMART WITH WORK. YOU ARE A BRAND AND YOU CAN’T DAM­AGE THAT”

JOR­DAN WEARS Bas­sike T-shirt, bas­sike. com; Gior­gio Ar­mani pants, (02) 8233 5858

HAIR Travis Bal­cke GROOM­ING Peter Beard

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