Things Not Said

a heartfelt collection of insights.

My Name is Bond. Cory Bond.

Photographed by Michelle Wilson

Photographed by Michelle Wilson

I’d argue the best male model in the world is Cory Bond. True, my bias is involved, nevertheless he remains my favorite. I always saw him as the new generation Paul Newman. I’ll never forget the day my mom enthusiastically told me there were models who moved into our building. Apparently, without my knowledge, she told them I should be a model, because what mom wouldn’t? Thanks mom.

Initially, I refused to meet our new beautiful neighbors. I didn’t want to be a nuisance, worse, become that annoying wannabe neighbor who’d have to hide whenever I saw them to avoid the unspoken awkwardness of, “Hey wannabe model that isn’t good enough, how are you?” At least this is how it would play out in my head. Despite my reluctance and insecurities, my mom still forced me to introduce myself. Because moms aren’t people you say no to.

So, I found my reluctant self walking up the stairs to the model’s apartment. I took the stairs because the elevator would have been too quick. I can still recall how embarrassing I felt. I wondered about the amount of times these models get asked how to become one, or, if they could provide a “hook-up” to a modeling agency. I played out in mind how these models probably laughed about it behind closed doors. How they got a kick out of exchanging similar stories with all their beautiful model friends. My feelings sank further realizing that now I was going to be another one of those stories. Thanks mom.

Every step I took increased nervousness. Being rejected isn’t on anyone’s to-do list and at the ripe old age of 19, this was going to be my first memorable one (high-school crushes don’t count). I eventually made it to their front door and stood silently for a moment. I took a deep breath and knocked. As the door opened, I was already apologizing for what I referred to as a “misunderstanding” but somehow the male model who greeted me, brushed it off with his magic model “coolness” and introduced himself and his girlfriend. This model was none other than Cory Bond. And he just invited me into his apartment.

I don’t recall much from that first conversation due to my blur of excitement. I wasn’t immediately laughed at or rejected. I repeatedly thought, “Wow, this couple didn’t slam the door on my face! They’re actually talking to me!” The crazier thing? Cory decided to call his modeling agent right then and suggested that I should be seen. At that point, I was wholly anticipating Cory hanging up his orange Nokia cellphone (remember those?), and jokingly saying, “Just kidding dude” before laughing at my expense because happenings like this are “too good to be true.” But no. “Too good to be true” turned out to be the reality for me that day. I found myself asking, “When did I have such luck?” Thanks, mom. Before I knew it, I was taking the train downtown to DNA modeling agency to meet the very colorful Earnest Williams.

Little did I know modeling was going to be the beginning of a long journey. Not towards fame or riches, but towards discovering my identity and integrity.

It’s been over a decade since the day I first set foot inside DNA modeling agency. Cory Bond has flourished into an iconic model who has graced the covers of major magazines, appeared in countless high fashion editorials, exciting campaigns and famous runway shows. When I was 20, I was featured on as “model of the week.” and eventually became signed by FORD models, one of the most prestigious modeling agencies in the world. Collectively, my resume included work in magazines like GQ, Maxim, Cosmopolitan and DNR. I did high fashion runway shows for Coogi, Lafayette 148 and Sean John, showroom for clients like United Colors of Benetton and Joseph Abboud, and catalog jobs for the Macys, Kmart and Major League Baseball. In addition, I did commercial work for Tommy Hilfiger, Target and Heineken, among others.

I enjoyed working to a level where clients knew me by name. They expressed gratitude whenever I worked, as I did with them. Unfortunately, all the time and investment I made into my modeling career never really paid off. At least financially. Between the cost of living in New York City, the inconsistency of jobs and their usual low pay (against popular assumption), in addition to my uncommon “look” (clients mostly hired the “skinny white androgynous looking model”) there wasn’t much to build on. I’m a 6' 3" athletic blend of Puerto Rican and Dominican, not exactly the prominent type found throughout the modeling industry. It’s true the modeling industry has always been notorious for its racism and prejudices, but things appear to be changing as of late. This isn’t about the industry’s superfluous tendencies or financial exploitation. It’s about the integral development modeling has granted me.

I want to share two critical things modeling revealed to me. One, was the integrity of character. The second, was the invaluable worth of someone believing in you.

If it weren’t for my mom pushing me to meet Cory, I probably would have never journeyed down a path of personal discovery so timely. A journey I grew to appreciate more than any recognition or financial status. The discipline I developed to consistently make all my castings and appointments on time, the on-going commitment of staying in physical shape and eating healthy, the skills of networking and building relationships with both clients and colleagues, the maturity of remaining professional in the face of rejection, it all built character, strength, integrity and professionalism. I learned the nuances of commerce and business. I learned how to perform as a self-employed individual. All these elements formed a foundation that later proved to become monumental for productivity and success.

In the same fashion as my mom, Cory demonstrated how invaluable the investment and belief in someone remains. His support and encouragement, when I first began modeling, not only reflected the quality of his character but eventually became a source of inspiration to emanate. Because of Cory, I had the opportunity to learn a new profession. I had the honor of working with the likes of Latoya Scott-Brown, Moani Lee, Tyron Barrington, legendary agent John Babin, James Loughlin and Boss Models founder, David Bosman (Rest in peace). These individuals, throughout my modeling career, invested in me and equipped me with tools that not only refined my approach towards the business of modeling but also for life. I‘m not sure they realize the enormous lasting impact they’ve had on me. But till this day, I hold fast to their wisdom and knowledge.

I’m grateful to Cory Bond for being catalyst in this. It’s been a privilege knowing him. His continued success brings me joy. Back when we lived in the same building years ago, I helped him in any way I couldin appreciation for his kindness (remember those apartment struggles Cory?) I’d still help him today if I could, but he’s far from needing any help from me, and that’s a better scenario. Cory is happily married and a father. He and his wife have wonderful modeling/acting careers. Perhaps someday when Cory’s kid grows up I can share how their dad changed my life (and maybe how’s he also responsible for my very first clubbing experience).

As you journey down the path of life, embrace its challenges by adapting habits that will refine your character towards evolution.

We must always remain willing to learn. But it’s imperative to also maintain a balanced perception towards our encounters. Extract the elements you can utilize to build progress. Likewise, dismiss what doesn’t aid in your endeavors. You’ll discover life is more about efficiency and refinement than anything else. Goals and aspirations are accomplished by everyday habits, small steps. Take care of the little things, they’ll take care of the big things.

In conclusion, I’d like to share a long-time fantasy of mine, for Cory and I to be featured in the same modeling campaign (It’s America, I’m allowed to dream). Whether or not this will ever become a reality, I’ve already been rewarded far more in experience, relationships and growth.