It is a great pleasure to offer up part II of the series the silver foxes of modeling which today features Terrence Sheahan. It occurred to many of us in the fashion business that not long ago there were men who looked like men and who might actually have fit the demographic of a designer/brand. Today, some of them are still at work and still showing the world that not all male models, on the runway or in print, are seemingly genderless and prepubescent.
Unfortunately, fashion has become a business that celebrates youth way too seriously, but there is hope which is demonstrated by these amazingly handsome men who show us that good looks have nothing to do with age or the color of their hair.
So without any further narrative from me, here is Terrence Sheahan who defies the myths and popular trends of fashion and continues a career that has spanned decades. His portfolio of work includes Valentino, Giorgio Armani and Bergdorf Goodman, to name a few. Here is our conversation in his own words in response to some question that were proposed to him about his career.
Jeffrey Felner: How, when and why did you begin your career?
Terrence Sheahan: I started in the early 1980’s when a girlfriend asked me to get some pictures taken by student photographers at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. That booked me a few small jobs in the S.B. market while I was studying at UCSB. During that time I was approached by Nina Blanchard who was one of the most well-known and powerful agents at the time. I signed up with her just before the L.A. Olympics in 1984. I graduated college in 1986 and was sent to Milan in January of 1987 and by February I booked a really great commercial that was shot in Thailand and things just kept going from there on.
JF: What would you describe as the most memorable, defining or gratifying moment of your career?
TS: In 1987 I booked the Giorgio Armani Campaign shot by Aldo Fallai. This was the first time I shot with Fallai but certainly not my last. The pictures from the campaign were not even out yet and I started getting calls from all over the world for work. Ever since I have been working more or less steadily as an actor and model and have been lucky enough to work with some of the greatest names in fashion, both in front of and behind the camera (Oliviero Toscani/ Sante d’Orazio/ Horst P. Horst/ Herb Ritts/ Patrick Demarchelier/ Albert Watson/ Francesco Scavullo/ Barry McKinley/ Karl Lagerfeld/ Tom Munro/ Gilles Bensimon and so many more.
JF: Would you care to offer your opinions on the current crop of models that populate runways and magazine pages?
TS: I don’t know if I am in a position to comment on the next generation. I certainly feel like the look has changed; some of the biggest campaigns seem to go to people who are not gender-obvious. When I started it seemed like we were portraying more of a manly, almost movie star like look. Nowadays there are so many blurred lines which of course can be quite fun but also confusing. The young guys I get to work with are almost always very nice and professional and show respect to those of us who have been around the block a few times. They love to hear the stories of the good old times when we used to go on two to three week trips to exotic locations. However most of them do not know how to tie a tie…
JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner … who would they be and why?
TS: Well, really I would have to have two tables of 5 people each…! The first table would be occupied by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin and Bin Laden. After serving them all a nice strychnine cocktail I would move on to table number two. Here you will find me talking to Leonardo da Vinci who was brilliant beyond words and in my opinion a clairvoyant or had super powers. Gandhi for his perfect reasoning and peaceful demeanor, Stephen Hawking who can make a lot more sense of the universe than I can, Hunter S. Thompson who was never afraid to ask the hard questions and Jane Goodall, who is a conservationist role model and all around good person. Of course this would create a huge dilemma as my wife would want to join the table and I might have to give up my seat to her…
JF: Tell us one funny/ scary/ exciting experience you had while on assignment.
TS: After almost 30 years in this business I have many crazy stories to tell but one that from now on will always stick out just happened this year. I was booked for a great commercial/ image film for a big German car company. I worked with this team before and they booked me without ever casting the job. It was a dream assignment. One week of shooting in Melbourne (Australia), 10 days off in which I planned to go surfing and hang out with some friends, then another week shoot in New Zealand. The trip started in Miami with a plane change in Los Angeles. Midway through the flight I started to feel weird in my mid-section; When I landed in Los Angeles I met with a medic who checked me out and told me that I probably had just pulled a muscle and should take an Aleve and continue on with my travel, which I did. The Aleve started to wear off half way across the Pacific and I started experiencing major pain. A doctor was on the plane but she could not pinpoint the reason for my pain. Since we were 7 hours away from L.A. and another 7 hours away from Australia, there was not much that could be done.
Once I arrived in Melbourne I was in so much pain that I totally bent over. As my driver pulled up to the hotel I could see the excited faces of the crew in the windows. Instead of the planned fitting, they found me a doctor and within hours of landing in Australia I was on the operating table getting my appendix removed, lol. This experience certainly helped me appreciate life a bit more as we take our health for granted until it is suddenly jerked from us.
JF: If you could rewrite your own life story, what, if anything, would you change and why?
TS: I think every experience in life has its place and makes you who you are. I wouldn’t really change anything because I could not foresee how it would affect my future self. I like who I am. I love my family and I am grateful for the life and opportunities that have been afforded me. I hope to continue my journey on this planet in a manner that leaves as little environmental and emotional debris as possible behind and at the same time make a positive impression on the ones that cross my path.