Alton Mason says that the moment he finally knew that his life was going to change completely was when Karl Lagerfeld himself high-fived him and confirmed that he was going to be one of the models for the Métier d’art collection. 2018. The news was not only the catapult to stardom for this semi-unknown young man from Nebraska, with Guinean and Jamaican ancestry, but it was a historic milestone in the more than 100 years of Chanel’s life: he was going to be the first black model in parade for the house. The Kaiser would die a few months later, but his blessing to the mannequin would be extended in time. At 25 years old, Alton Mason has achieved what no other man has achieved in decades: acquiring top-model status.
Taking into account that the fashion industry is practically the only professional field in which the gender pay gap reverses the order of its factors and pays women better than their male counterparts – up to 75% more according to a published study by BBC in 2016–, the impact acquired by Mason in recent years makes him the only man with real possibilities of narrowing those differences today. With assets already estimated at around five million dollars, according to data published by the specialized media Stark Times, the young man’s price does not stop increasing and his numbers are already assimilated to those achieved a decade ago by the British David Gandy, who managed to sneak into the list of the highest paid along with Kate Moss or Cara Delevingne. Assuming that current catwalk stars like Gigi or Bella Hadid pocket around €20 million a year, the margins are still considerable, but Mason’s eagerness to make her influence transcend the catwalks and conquer other entertainment territories – such as music, film and design – could place him at the same level as global stars such as Kendall Jenner or Kaia Gerber.
Named ‘Model of the Year’ for five consecutive years by Models.com, the American is the undisputed king of the current catwalk with more than 90 starring campaigns and 150 shows on his legs. High fashion brands such as Versace, Gucci, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana and Balenciaga, ocean liners of the fast-fashion like Zara and H&M and even automotive brands like BMW; There is no commercial brand on the planet that does not aspire to have Mason’s angular face as a focus of attraction. Friend and protégé of Naomi Campbell, he was precisely the ebony goddess who served as an object of study and imitation for the young man who has accumulated a million and a half followers in instagram.
He met her on his first big opportunity as a mannequin, having just come of age, during the presentation of the Yeezy Season 3 collection promoted by the deceased Kanye West at Madison Square Garden. From that opportunity she was able to stop sneaking into the subway – “she had no money” –, quit her job at McDonald’s and avoid appearing at 20 castings a day. From there, she just looks up. “Naomi is the example for everyone to follow. Having the opportunity to have her be my mentor, and to relax, eat and travel with her, means a lot to me. “It’s almost like Michael Jordan asked my dad to play with him,” story.
The reference to the myth of the Chicago Bulls is not coincidental. His father was a willful basketball player without enough talent to make a name for himself in the NBA, so the model spent much of his childhood and adolescence following his father’s new professional career throughout Europe. Eleven countries in thirteen years, to be exact. A fan of Prince, Michael and Janet Jackson, at that time little Alton enlivened his mother’s game breaks with his choreographies. He studied dance and acting and does not hesitate to use his skills to stand out from the rest of the candidates who attend each casting. They say, for example, that he conquered Alessandro Michele, former creative director of Gucci, by imitating James Brown’s hip movements in a room without music.
When asked about the key to his meteoric success, he always emphasizes the importance of underlining the individuality and personality of each person. Before succeeding in fashion, he already worked as a dancer for artists like P. Diddy and has worked with Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. In addition to that seventies star air that he exudes, he defines his style as heterogeneous, timeless – “I can jump to any period” – and theatrical. “As I have always been surrounded by costumes, I added it to my daily life. Like, who do I want to be today?” He considers the long-awaited designer Virgil Abloh not only a reference, but also “an older brother” for the trust he placed in him when he was still just another model among the thousands that populate the sector.
Despite its privileged status in the industry, the Alton Mason project is still very far from reaching its ceiling thanks to that multidisciplinary facet that has turned it into a Rare avis. He does not hide his ambition to work as a fashion designer and creative director – “I want to be my own house,” he confessed to GQ– and is about to present its first collaboration with the BB Simon belt brand. But beyond the catwalks, the American is already working on his first album as a solo singer and this past year he debuted as an actor in a major Hollywood blockbuster.
Mason made a cameo as rock & roll pioneer Little Richard in Elvis, the film starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks that took him to the Oscars red carpet. “One of my first memories of college is watching the gala with my dorm mates in Hollywood; and now here we are, on the same street, attending the Oscars with a nominated film,” he recalled on his Instagram account. And it may not be the last time for him. Mason is pending release Dream Scenarioa film starring Nicolas Cage that has garnered enthusiastic reviews at its premiere at the Toronto festival and tells the story of a family man who suddenly sneaks into the dreams of millions of strangers.
Mason is leading the generational change that aspires to end traditional standards in fashion, making inclusion and diversity mandatory commitments and not just marketing claims with an expiration date. At 25 years old, she has already decided to lead by example and leads projects to help needy families in Nigeria. A philanthropic effort with which he hopes to take advantage of the media focus on him and redirect it to the African continent. In statements to ID, recognizes that both at school and the media “instilled fear and lies about the continent.” “I am destined to expand and create more life there, through fashion, music, film and technology,” she concludes.
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