After the jump is our exclusive interview with upcoming DNA Covermodel Calisto. After pitching the idea while on a gig at New York Pride last year, Calisto heard that they liked the idea (and the photo spread shot by Chris Hager) and that he landed the cover!
We initially heard about Calisto after one of our readers, Walter, talked to him at a meet-and-greet at a local bar. Walter was so impressed with how sweet and friendly Calisto was he sent us a note suggesting a feature... and who were we to argue?
After the jump we chat about making it into DNA, the five photographers we should be paying more attention to, and how growing up as a nerdy kid in North Carolina helped him realize he wanted to help troubled teens.
Hunk du Jour: What are some of your past projects that you're most proud of?
Calisto: Honestly, I have to say I am very proud of every modeling/acting job I do. Whether it be a small event Tradeshow or a HUGE Print Ad. Being from a small town in the South, it still amazes me that I am able to make a living modeling. I really feel blessed because I get to travel the world and meet very interesting and fun people. If I had to pin point one project I was most proud of, I would have to say being sent to model in Asia. I met many amazing people, got to experience the Asian Culture, and my agents there were fundamental in developing my Modeling Career.
HDJ: You'll be appearing on the cover of DNA Magazine-- how do you find your jobs?
Calisto: Yes, and I am SO excited about it. I love the Editor and the Magazine itself. I am very grateful for this opportunity and know it will give great exposure to a broad audience. I find all my jobs through Modeling Agencies. I am with Modeling Agencies all over the world, so they keep me pretty busy because there is always something going on in one market or another.
HDJ: What's the process like getting onto the cover of DNA?
Calisto: Like pulling teeth....HAHA Just Kidding. With me landing the DNA cover....I DID A LOT OF NETWORKING. I was DNA Magazine's Spokesmodel at Washington DC Pride and New York City Pride in 2007. The Editor and Assistant Editor of DNA were at NYC's Pride. There, I pitched the idea of me being a DNA Covermodel like a "Used Car Salesman." I threw the idea at them about maybe trying something different for the magazine. DNA mostly uses very built guys for their cover unlike guys with a swimmers built like myself. I told them about a Fashion Story that my good friend, Chris Hager who is an amazing photographer was going to shoot. The shoot was going to be very natural, not a of make-up, crazy hair styles, photoshopping, etc. Just me on a horse farm. So I asked how could I submit the story to the magazine, he gave me his card and said to e-mail him the pictures when we were done....shortly I heard back the magazine picked up the story and one photo even got the cover. I was SOOO excited to hear the news.
HDJ: Who have been the best photographers or companies to work for? What were those experiences like?
Calisto: I have been VERY fortunate to work with many amazing companies and photographers. If I had to pin point my favorite photographers I would have to say Chris Hager and Tim Coburn. Chris Hager is my good friend, who is based out of Miami. He shot me for DNA Magazine. He is always very easy to work with, and relaxed making for a very comfortable shoot, always resulting in GREAT photos. Tim Coburn is based out of Washington, DC. He shot me for an editorial in Washington Life Magazine. He is an AMAZING photographer and was a real pleasure to work with. As for my favorite companies to work for I would have to say Muleh and MAC Cosmetics. I had the Campaign for Muleh, which is in Washington, DC. The entire shoot and everyone associated with the job were GREAT. That was the first job I booked in the DC market, and it echoed a lot more work in that market. MAC Cosmetics is another GREAT client. I have been their Showroom Model many times in many different states, and they ALWAYS treat me great and put an amazing event on. Plus, they are a repeat client which is OBVIOUSLY always a great thing.
HDJ: Models are getting a lot of direction and instruction from the various photographers they work with -- what would be some advice for photographers that you might be able to offer? Have you been on photo shoots that you think could be learning experiences for photographers?
Calisto: I am sure photographers don't like to take advice from models, but I will offer mine anyway HAHA. I would tell photographers to be original, creative, and have your own style. Make someone be able to know it was your work just by looking at your photos. All the great photographers are like this, i.e. David Lachapelle, Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts, Steven Meisel, Helmut Newton, etc. Absolutely, I have been on photoshoots that were a learning experience for the photographer. On a shoot in San Diego, the photographer wanted to do some shots at night outside. So she had to play around with the lighting a lot to get it right, finally the shot came out AMAZINGLY. On an Underwear Shoot in Asia, the photographer wanted to get a shot of me walking out of the wilderness through vines. Little did I nor the photographer know I was walking right through ant infested grass. Before I knew it, ants had covered my legs and even got in my underwear......OUCH, IT WAS SOOO PAINFUL. I had to run and jump in a nearby pond to get them off of me. Needless to say, we had to do that shoot at a different location.
HDJ: Who are the five photographers you think the world (and Hunk du Jour!) should be paying more attention to? Why?
Calisto: The five photographers I think the world and Hunk du Jour should be paying more attention to are Chris Hager, Tim Coburn, Jin Wang, Jeff Marano, and Carolyn Strover. Chris Hager is a VERY talented photographer who shot me for DNA. He shoots very natural, rugged, yet the photo still come out very sexy and edgy. Tim Coburn shoots classically beautiful photography that commands attention. He shot me for a Washington Life Editorial. Jin Wang and Jeff Marano both were the first two photographers to shoot me when I moved to NYC at the age of 17. Their shots got me booked on many assignments. Both of their work is SUPER sexy, yet very different. Jin's photos are more colorful, where Jeff's are more classic and in black and white. Carolyn Strover is an accredited photographer out of Singapore. From the first time we met, we "hit it off." At that time my book wasn't "strong" and she did many photoshoots with me to build my portfolio. I owe her a lot for developing my book so well, thus causing me to book a lot more modeling jobs.
HDJ: One thing that you are interested in is becoming a motivational speaker at some point in the future -- what sort of life experience do you bring to that?
Calisto: The honest answer is I was once a Troubled Teen myself. Growing up in a small town in the South was very difficult for me. I didn't play any sports, and was quite nerdy. My Male Peers religiously made fun of me, calling me ever gay related name you could ever possibly think of. I didn't have hardly any friends back then except for my mother and my horses. I had no self confidence and hated going to school with a passion. After such a long period being constantly put down by my peers, I was very hurt and bitter inside. It wasn't until I moved at 17 years old to NYC to pursue modeling that I started to build self-confidence. However, I was still very hurt and angry inside. That is when I met a VERY wise woman who told me something that changed my life. She said "You are so beautiful on the outside, but I wish when you opened your mouth you would become even more gorgeous....If you really want to have peace with your hardships you need to help teens that you were once like."
Calisto: That is when I had an awakening, when I make a name for myself I want to go into schools and community centers and be a speaker to Troubled Teens. I know I really needed someone when I was younger and in school to give me a "real" talk, not one of those "these are best years" talks. It is amazing how just giving teens a non-judgmental speak and listen session can benefit them. Doing this is VERY important to me, and if I can help at least one teen then I know I did right in life.
HDJ: What would your "Elevator Speech" be to a troubled youth? (An "Elevator Speech" is essentially a precise message that can be conveyed in the time it takes to ride an elevator.)
Calisto: I would leave the teen with my own personal quote, "Walk with your eyes facing the world, showing your strength, determination, and will to make your dreams turn to your reality, never letting anyone or anything deter or stop you from obtaining your goals, and the end results will be BREATH TAKING."
Calisto: When speaking to Teens, especially Troubled Teens you have to remember they are all different and have different issues to address. I want to be completely unbiased and "real" with them, making them completely comfortable to tell me anything, hopefully walking the teen through the issue or conflict they are facing in their life thus enriching their life.
HDJ: How does your hometown of Burlington, North Carolina affect your career? Does it give you an edge, or influence your decisions in the industry?
Calisto: I am from a small town in North Carolina, named Burlington. Growing up, I always wanted to move to a big city and did when I graduated High School. However, now that I have traveled in excess, it makes me appreciate my hometown, and I love to go there when I just need a break from the hustle and bustle of big cities. I love to see my family, especially my mother Tina who is my best friend and "the wind beneath my winds."As for how it influences my career, I feel it keeps me grounded and doesn't let the vanity of the industry go to my head. I never want to forget where I came from, because that is what helped mold the person I am today.
HDJ: ...and what's this about showing Quarter Horses?!? How long did you do that? Would you ever go back into it?
Calisto: Yes, I use to show Quarter Horses. I showed in the Western Pleasure and Hunter Under Saddle Disciplines, and I even lead the State of North Carolina in the Novice Youth Western Pleasure Division one year. I have been riding horses my entire life and been showing them since the age of 10. Before modeling I use to want to go to Finlay University in Finlay, Ohio and major in Equine Business. MY OH MY, DID MY LIFE GO ASTRAY FROM THAT OR WHAT HAHA. Everyone needs a hobby, and horseback riding and showing is definitely mine. I haven't rode horses in awhile because my schedule has been so busy, but one day when everything slows down I hope to buy a horse farm in North Carolina and start showing horses again.
HDJ: So we've already heard from a reader who met you at an event that you're a fantastic and friendly person. We have some of the best readers out there -- do you have a message for that reader, Walter?
Calisto: When I received the e-mail from Hunk Du Jour about being featured on the site, I was completely trilled. Then, in the body of the e-mail I read a letter written to the Editor of the site from a man I met while doing an event in Washington, DC giving me many compliments. The letter touched me so deeply, even making me tear up. Also, making me realize how strong first impressions are and you never know who you are going to meet. As for Walter, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing such kind things about me. You seem like such a wonderful person and I enjoyed speaking with you very much. Its incredibly nice sometimes to get a "pat on the back" after working hard. Best of luck to you and may 2008 be a wonderful and successful year for you. Thanks again from the bottom of my heart, you will never know how grateful I am for your gesture. MUCH LOVE!!!
HDJ: You've done big things -- so what's next for Calisto? What's your next move?
Calisto: I am a VERY goal oriented person. In life you have to be. I set my goals and then I try to keep my eyes on them and work extremely hard until they are obtained. I have many big dreams. My career goals are to be a successful Male Model, hopefully one day booking my dream gig of having the Calvin Klein Campaign. Later, moving to Hollywood and acting on the "Big Screen" while starting my own Non-profit Organization for Troubled Teens and going to schools and Community Centers and being a speaker to Troubled Teens. WOW, just thinking about it makes me exhausted HAHA. I definitely want to travel abroad sometime soon, especially to Greece being that is my heritage. Currently, I am modeling and acting all over the East Coast. Also, I will be appearing as a Model Farm Hand on one episode of WifeSwap on ABC, so look out for me. I know I have big dreams, and only time will tell what will become of my career, but I am working tremendously hard to make my dreams come true, and who knows maybe I will be the "Next Big Thing." "I may be a million miles from where I am going but I am a billion miles from where I came from."