When modelling stopped ‘ruining my childhood’

Image copyright Channel 4 Image caption Zach Strawbridge’s modelling career could have been better, he says Zach Strawbridge was celebrated in the 1990s as one of Britain’s most promising models, winning the cover of…

When modelling stopped 'ruining my childhood'

Image copyright Channel 4 Image caption Zach Strawbridge’s modelling career could have been better, he says

Zach Strawbridge was celebrated in the 1990s as one of Britain’s most promising models, winning the cover of fashion magazine GQ on his debut, aged 16.

In the early 2000s, as the trend for smaller bodies and less recognition of disabilities picked up pace, Zach was regularly working as a professional model.

But things went downhill.

By the age of 21, he was homeless, and his father, who ran a dance school, suffered an attack.

This made it even harder to return to modelling – and Zach says that, despite his best efforts, his career would have been different if he had had help to match his growing talent.

On a recent Sunday evening in a pub near Stirling in Scotland, Zach is sitting in the front seat of a car, which has stopped at a roundabout with the wing mirror down.

The window has been smashed and beer bottles are strewn across the seat. Zach’s smiling and it seems like only an accident.

Image copyright Channel 4 Image caption Zach Strawbridge is originally from the north of England, but his mother is from Stirling and he now lives in the region

He is in Stirling for his final interview before taking part in the TV show Someone Made An Idiot. He says he now tries to steer clear of London when he is modelling, to prevent him from being recognised.

By contrast, he had fewer issues in the Scottish capital when he was modelling, where people tended to recognise him and offer support.

“People here are nicer, and a bit nicer to you,” he says.

Though he has moved to London in his modelling days, he has mostly spent most of his time in Scotland since. His mum was born in Stirling and he now lives in the area.

Zach, who prefers to be called Zach, came to Scotland from north east England when he was just three.

He describes the first half of his childhood here as “geeky” and “kind of miserable”.

“I grew up on a potato farm in fields that were literally acres of nothing,” he recalls.

“I’m really happy now. [But] when I was young it was like the worst place I’ve ever lived in my life.”

Like his older brother, Adam, Zach wanted to be a footballer – a sport in which he has enjoyed success. When his career faltered, he turned to modelling to make some money.

“It was a dream. When I was young, I had dreamed of being a footballer for 20 years and, sometimes, I wished I’d been given my voice and I’d been able to use it to maybe express how I felt.”

Image copyright Adam Strawbridge Image caption Adam Strawbridge – Zach’s older brother – was well-known for starring on Ninja Warrior

Some of those dreams were shared by Adam, who was also a model. In 2010, Adam won a place in a gruelling BBC reality show – Ninja Warrior.

It was then Zach was interested in making a career of his own – but this idea almost did not happen.

After entering a modelling competition in 2002, he was told to take his photo off the website.

“I found it really upsetting at first,” he says. “I thought, ‘What’s happened here?’. It was one of those things that stopped me being inspired to pursue a career in modelling.”

Instead, he took a job in the town centre selling greetings cards and greeting cards for Asda and staff were surprised to see him regularly coming into work as a model.

A few years later, Zach got his big break, and has since been part of ad campaigns for David Beckham and John Lewis.

Image copyright Adam Strawbridge Image caption Zach admits his childhood was “geeky”

As a teen, Zach dreamed of going to university but has since decided against going.

He is pragmatic about the limits of his talent, saying “I wouldn’t know how to do anything, if I wanted to do anything”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, he is slightly bitter about the way things turned out.

“When I was young, I’d gone into modelling just thinking I’d do anything to do with it.

“But when I was in my early 20s, it wasn’t quite the place for me.”

Now, on the back of an extremely successful career in modelling, Zach feels he has been lucky to make a career out of what he loved to do.

He agrees, though, that it could have been a lot better for him.

“Having an editor sitting down and working with you and organising your image can make all the difference. Not just what you get in front of the camera, but also what you get behind the camera,” he says.

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