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 here but nevertheless he remains my favorite. I always saw him as a new generation Paul Newman. And I’ll never forget the day my mom enthusiastically told me there were models who moved into our building. She went out of her way to tell them (without my knowledge of course) how she thought I should also be a model (because she wouldn’t be a mom if she didn’t). Thanks mom.

Initially, I refused to go and meet our new beautiful neighbors because I didn’t want to be a nuisance to them, worse, become that annoying sad wannabe neighbor who would have to duck and hide whenever I saw them to avoid any awkwardness like, “Hey wannabe model that isn’t good enough to become one, how are you?” (This is how it would play out in my head.) Despite my insecurities, my mom forced me to… because moms aren’t people you say “no” to.

So, soon after I said “no”, I found myself reluctantly walking up the building stairs to introduce myself to the models (I took the stairs because the elevator would have been too quick). I can still recall how embarrassing I felt. I couldn’t imagine the amount of times a day these models get asked how to become one, or if they could provide a “hook-up” to a modeling agency. In my mind, I played out how these models probably laughed about it behind closed doors, getting a kick out of exchanging similar stories with all their beautiful model friends. My feelings sank further realizing how now I was going to be another one of those stories. Thanks mom.

I became more nervous with every step I took. 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 before taking a deep breath. I knocked. The door opened and 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 because of the blur of excitement of not getting immediately laughed at and rejected. I repeatedly thought to myself, “Wow, this couple didn’t close the door on my face! They’re actually talking to me!” The crazier thing? Cory decided to call his modeling agent right then and there to tell him 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 having a painful laugh because stories like this are “too good to be true.” But this never happened. “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 then modeling was going to be the beginning of a long journey. Not towards fame or riches, but towards discovering my identity and the integrity of character.

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, who’s appeared in countless high fashion editorials, participated in exciting campaigns and walked famous runway shows.

When I was 20, I was featured on as “model of the week.” After some early modeling jobs and agency shuffling, FORD models, one of the most prestigious modeling agencies in the world, acquired me under a multi-year contract. With them, I was pleased to learn I was personally requested nearly all the time by clients. 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 and regularly expressed gratitude whenever working with me. The feeling was mutual. Unfortunately, after all the time and investment I made into my modeling career, none of it really paid off. Jobs were too inconsistent, pay was often minimum (against popular assumption), and my “look” — believe it or not — remained too unpopular for most clients conditioned to only hiring the typical skinny white androgynous model the industry is strangely obsessed with (yes, I was actually told this).

I’m a 6' 3" athletic blend of Puerto Rican, Jordanian and Dominican… not exactly the caucasian, blonde hair blue eyed “type” found prominent in the modeling industry. While it’s obvious the modeling industry is notorious for its racism and prejudices, this isn’t about the industry’s superfluous tendencies. I take pride in being a New Yorker who, more often than not, find themselves ice skating uphill in life. But there’s something more to this underdog outlook.

I want to share two critical things modeling revealed to me. One was the nature of my 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 the path of personal discovery so timely. Furthermore, I’ve grown to appreciate such a journey, appreciating its worth far more than any fame, money or status I could ever attain. The discipline to consistently make all my castings and appointments on time, the commitment of staying in physical shape and eating healthy, the craft of networking and building relationships with clients and remaining professional in the face of frequent rejection all built character, strength, integrity and professionalism. I learned the trade of commerce and business as a self-employed individual. And all these elements became a fundamental foundation that would later prove to become paramount in life.

In the same fashion, Cory demonstrated how the investment and faith in someone remains invaluable. His support and encouragement, when I first began modeling, not only reflected the quality of his character but eventually became a source of inspiration for me to emanate. Because of Cory, I have had the opportunity to learn a new profession and come across the likes of Latoya Scott-Brown, iconic agent John Babin, James Loughlin and Boss Models founder, David Bosman (Rest in peace). These men, throughout my modeling career, invested in me and equipped me with tools that not only refined my approach towards the modeling industry but also for life. I‘m not sure if they realize the enormous lasting impact they’ve had, but till this day their wisdom and knowledge remains instilled in me.

I’m grateful to Cory Bond in being the catalyst for this. It’s been a privilege knowing him and seeing his continued success brings me joy. Back when we lived in the same building, I helped him in any way I could, in appreciation for his kindness (remember those apartment struggles Cory?)… hell, I’d still help him 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 to a baby daughter now. Him and his wife have wonderful modeling/acting careers. Perhaps someday when Cory’s daughter grows up I can tell her that her dad was responsible for my very first wild clubbing experience (with her mom’s permission of course).

As we journey down the path of life, embrace the structural components that refine the nature of your workflow and personal evolution.

We are constantly learning, but it’s imperative we maintain a balanced perception towards our encounters. This helps us extract the elements we can utilize to build upon progression. Yes, it would be the ultimate fantasy for Cory and I to be featured in the same modeling campaign (It’s America, I’m allowed to dream) but even if it never happens, I’ve been rewarded far more in experience and relationships.