Bedtime Stories with Jon Kortajarena

Bedtime Stories with Jon Kortajarena

Bedtime Stories with Jon Kortajarena

Get your first look at VMAN 36, coming September 7

Get your first look at VMAN 36, coming September 7

Photography: Sebastian Faena

Text: Joshua Lyon

Thanks to Snapchat and Instagram, pretty much any dude with a chiseled face and swoon-worthy abs can become a male model. However, it takes way more than that to reach the heights of fame that Jon Kortajarena has attained. Some might say his success lies in his lush-as-cattails eyebrows or the devil-may-care pompadour he sports. James Dean comparisons are inevitable, but oddly misplaced. Kortajarena’s persona is more boyish: he’s less moody, more mischievous, and he acts like he’s in on the absurd joke of winning the genetic lottery. Perhaps therein lies his secret: he isn’t a dick about the fact that he’s hot.

The 32-year-old Spaniard got his modeling start 12 years ago in 2004 on the runways of Emporio Armani and John Galliano. “I remember I was very lost,” he says about his first encounters with backstage mania. “I could only see all these people running around and shouting nonstop.” Despite his babe-in-the-headlights first-time nerves, he strutted like a pro on the catwalk. Designers and photographers promptly took notice. It wasn’t long before he found himself staring at his own face plastered on a Versace billboard in Times Square. “I had to walk back home with a group of models to my shared apartment,” he recalls. “I didn’t have enough money to take a taxi, but I was excited.”

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With that grounded viewpoint, it’s not surprising that one of his favorite books is Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, which deals with the search for enlightenment. “The funny thing is that I’ve read it several times and each time my interpretation is different and deeper than the last,” he says. “It talks about life, human behavior, and love.” And while he’s been busy plumbing the depths of literature, he’s also been racking up gigs with Tom Ford, Jean Paul Gaultier, Guess, Trussardi, Diesel, and Balmain. He also hit Forbes’s top 10 list of most successful male models, appeared in two Madonna videos, and was even named the face of Al Gore’s The Climate Project in Latin America and Spain—a genius move if the subliminal message was, “Who wouldn’t want to save Mother Earth when she can birth a face like this?”

People who don’t follow the professional world of handsome guys got their first good look at Kortajarena when he fulfilled his boyhood dream of becoming an actor in Tom Ford’s 2009 directorial debut, A Single Man. In it, he plays a hustler named Carlos who attempts to pick up Colin Firth’s character, George, on the day of his intended suicide. While the scene is little more than a cameo—barely five minutes long—it’s poignant. “You have an incredible face,” George tells Carlos as they part. “Enjoy that. It’s a great gift.” By all accounts, Kortajarena has more than heeded the advice.

“It was a magnificent experience,” he says. “Even though A Single Man was Tom’s debut as a director, his vision was so clear.” Personal connection proves to be the continued compass that guides Kortajarena in his choices as an actor. “I’ve learned to be more selective of the projects I get involved in,” he says. “Every time I play someone, I discover there is a part of me in the character. When it comes to art, your heart is the only guide.”

Over the summer, such intuition led him to a Steven Klein-directed Balmain campaign, which serves, too, as a music video for Kanye West’s “Wolves.” Needless to say, the spot went viral. Kortajarena also landed the lead role in the Spanish television series La Verdad, a thriller in which he plays a cop investigating a young woman who mysteriously returns home after disappearing 18 years earlier. It’s the type of part he’s always wanted. “After 10 months of working 15 hours a day, I’m exhausted,” he admits, “but I’ve accomplished a dream.”

JEANS LEVI'S
Credits:

Grooming Davide Calcinai  Model Jon Kortajarena (IMG)  Production Helena martel Seward for red hook labs  Digital technician Carlos Rojas  Photo assistant Luis Valverde  Equipment Splashlight

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