John Rawlinson (Models 1 Men) epitomises the term Male Supermodel. Launching his career in the late 80s with regular campaigns for Ralph Lauren, he has worked with the industries top photographers, magazines and designers, and still continues to bring his British charm to the likes of the Prada, recently walking for their Spring Summer 2013 show, alongside an elite selection of Hollywood A-listers. Branching out into the world of Spiritual healing, he then trained and worked as part of Donna Karan's foundation, Urban Zen. It's safe to say John's life has been full of experiences most of us could never dream of, and now back on British soil, he chats to Models 1. We're sure this is only the tip of the iceberg...

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How long have you been modelling for?

Since about 1986, so 26 years now.

How did you get into modelling?

I was working as a barman and a girlfriend of mine, who was putting on a charity show for the Prince of Wales Trust put me forward and I thought it might be fun. What I hadn’t bet on was that they would ask us to walk out on stage with just our underwear on, pushing motorbikes. I ended up overcoming my shyness with plenty of alcohol, we all did. One of the models dropped their bike. After the show someone came up and suggested I see the agencies, and I never looked back.

What was a career defining moment for you?

Probably the shows during Fashion Week. It was like a frat house, just weeks of no sleep. We would party until 3’ O Clock in the morning, and then have a fitting at 9am.

Then in 1988 I got a direct booking for Ralph Lauren. I hadn’t really heard of them, they weren’t as reputable as they are today. I just remember arriving at the airport in San Francisco for a three day booking, and there were fifty production crew members, agency members and Ralf Lauren’s team ready to meet me. I just have an image of me walking over with my hand luggage, with fifty people looking me up and down. It was a huge shoot. We drove out to these sets that they had built out in California. They would cook us breakfast in the middle of a field! It was a few years before he had created this idea of the all-American family. It was Bruce Webber shooting really lavish projects around a lavish lifestyle. They kept me on for another five days, and once it had hit that I’d done Ralph Lauren, I didn’t go home for five months. It was like I was a ping pong ball going from Milan, Paris, New York and London. It was wonderful and carried on like that for about seven years. That time for me was really my career defining moment.

If you hadn’t fallen into modelling, what do you think you would have done?

When I was 22 I was a singer in a group, we were called the New English, and did about four or five gigs. But then modelling came along and I thought, well this is a good day job. It was supposed to be a summer job, but here I am 26 years later.

What’s been your favourite shoot destination?

I really liked Norway, the Arctic Circle where the sun would go round in the sky and wouldn’t go down. That was amazing. Iceland was also beautiful. Early on in my career I did a shoot in Taiwan which was probably the most surreal experience of my life. We spent four hours cleaning a beach to make sure there was enough clean space to get the shot.

One of the things I really loved was feeling comfortable in major cities, I got to know Los Angeles, Miami, New York, London, Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Hamburg. It was just that sense of feeling at ease.

You’ve been living and working in Los Angeles for a while now. What have you been doing over there?

I’ve been practicing yoga for the past 13 years, and in 2009 Donna Karan launched the Well-being branch of her foundation, Urban Zen. About a hundred of us were trained over the course of a year using a combination of yoga, postures and breathing practices, ultimately to care for people going through severe suffering or trauma. Her husband passed away from lung cancer and that’s why she started it, she felt the disease had been treated but not the person. The idea was to bring in compassionate care, and deal with pain management and some of the side effects of some of the medications. One of the things we discovered was the staff loved learning the techniques too, and we ended up training them too. It was a wonderful opportunity, I spent a year and a half there. The western medical industry is the first to extract the spiritual idea of out healing, so in a way we were bringing it back.

What form of meditation did you use?

We would teach them to become aware of their bodies, how they use their hands and feet. Body scans are another way of bringing them into a physical presence of themselves. When they are fully conscious of their bodies, it makes it difficult to get them through the anxiety of if what will happen in the future.

How did you get into yoga?

Originally I did it for the most superficial reasons- I wanted a body like Sting! Then I went further into it and discovered the joy. There is no doubt that if someone were to do it as purely a physical practice, taking away the spiritual aspect, it has its positives. It’s a great way to explore different parts of the body. When I was doing the Urban Zen training, my yoga matt was on the floor and I would wake up to practice at 5 in the morning.

What do you do in your free time?

Funnily enough, I used to read huge amounts. When I was younger, it was a distraction for me trying to find out my perception of life through reading someone else’s. Then I took up yoga, which was great. Music is also back in my life, I’ve gone back to playing guitar, and I’m actually teaching my son at the moment.

Are you still modelling?

Whilst I was working at the hospital, I was on the books with L.A models but wasn’t doing so much. I recently did the Prada show which was great fun, and was what inspired me to come back and play around with modelling again.

Now your back in England, what have you got lined up?

I’ll mainly be based in Brighton, because that’s where my children live. I have my apartment sorted now and I’ll still have a place in LA. There was a bit of acting in New York but I don’t know if I will go back into that here, I do enjoy it very much.

Do you think fashion has had an impact on your style?

In a subliminal way, yes. When I was younger I used to walk around in tight leopard print trousers with Dr. Martens boots and an Afghan coat, with scarves hanging all over me and a one-sided Mohawk. And then when I was modelling I went very conservative, t-shirt and leather jacket uniform. It was for packing reasons mainly. I have become more aware over time of the style out there.

Contact mark@models1.co.uk

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