The life of the world's highest-earning model

Model citizen: Sean O’Pry, tells EDGAR about life at the top of his profession.

Robert Chilton December 12, 2016

“I have the perfect amount of fame, no one knows my name,” says Sean O’Pry. Given he has been named by a variety of authoritative sources (Vogue, Forbes and as the world’s most successful male model (David Gandy is number two), that’s either a humble brag or part of his Irish charm.

The clue is in the name. He’s of Irish, Scottish and Swiss German parentage, which may account for the combination of pale skin, blue eyes and dark hair. When I mention his many changes in hairstyle O’Pry chuckles and says he “wants to shave it off.”

EDGAR met the model at the Park Hyatt Place Vendome Paris – a long way from his home town of Kenneshaw in Georgia, US. O’Pry, 27, seems both bemused by interest in his success as well as utterly down to earth. “I feel blessed – it’s a good problem to have.” 

For the female population he is known as the guy who played Taylor Swift’s love interest in her Blank Space video, which has racked up more than one billion views on YouTube. He was also part of Madonna’s male entourage in Girl’s Gone Wild. Men will recognise him from fragrance advertisements – he’s currently the face of Paco Rabanne’s iconic 1 Million and its new follow-up 1 Million Privé. He’s also featured in a slew of ad campaigns and on catwalks for Salvatore Ferragamo, Armani, Marc Jacobs, Zegna and Versace. 

O’Pry was discovered randomly on MySpace where he had posted his prom photo. He had no aspirations to be a model though his Saturday job as an assistant in his local Abercrombie & Fitch was prescient. He admits, “If anything my brother just told me to put on some muscle, and my football coach said I was so skinny I had to run around in the shower to get wet.”

Plucked from obscurity at the tender age of 17, he’s now considered a veteran on the model scene. There’s something of the James Dean about him; and in shoots he has often channelled 1950s icons such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. Today he’s wearing jeans, a t-shirt and Paco Rabanne black leather jacket. His style staples are “a good watch, a good belt and good shoes” though he admits a love of sweatpants when he’s off duty.

His Instagram account (currently 571K followers) reveals he does indeed love hanging out in sweats and baseball caps at home with friends in New York, when he’s not travelling to exotic locations. Antarctica, Madagascar and Galápagos Islands are on his bucket list. 

You’d think that as a guy constantly on the photo shoot merry-go-round, meeting fellow models, photographers and creative types, Sean O’Pry would be a dinner party pro. But apparently not so: “I don’t walk the talk, I’m useless at schmoozing.”

He’s also scared of heights – something of a drawback given the Paco Rabanne commercials which see him cast as a burglar, breaking into a bank vault, and fleeing with on screen partner-in-crime, Czech model, Hana Jirickova. Their easy chemistry is not forced and watching them interact over dinner at Hotel Costes, O’Pry is personable and playful. There’s no whiff of an ego, more a desire to be professional – he credits his ‘momager’ Lana Winters Tomczak for keeping him in check and his family as role models.

His advice for young models is applicable to all, “Have fun. You get paid to travel and experience life. Listen to what people say and respect your fellow co-workers. Be open to change and learning new things. Leave the hotel room and get lost where ever you are.”

EDGAR met O’Pry in Paris as he launched Paco Rabanne’s new fragrance 1 Million Privé.