Lucky Blue Smith had only possessed a passport for a year when he found himself having to apply for additional pages, a wild succession of entry and exit stamps from London, Paris, Milan and Stockholm rapidly filling that crisp first book.
Such is the life, after all, of an itinerant young male model – especially one who happens to be the face du jour and was anointed “Model of the Moment” for 2015 by Teen Vogue.
Smith – and yes, his real name is Lucky Blue (“it’s on my birth certificate”, he says) is 17, stands tall at 6 foot 3, and has more than 2 million Instagram followers. In the past year, he’s walked the catwalks of Tom Ford, Fendi and Moschino and appeared in print campaigns for Gap, Moncler and CK One, shots by the likes of Mario Sorrenti and Annie Leibovitz.
Still, Smith’s trajectory would be somewhat akin to those of his fellow male models were it not for his intriguing back story. The blue-eyed Mormon teen with the striking features and shock of blonde hair clearly had the It factor when he was a prepubescent; he was 10, and hanging out with one of his sisters in their small hometown of Spanish Fork in Utah (population under 40,000) when he was spotted by a talent agent, who said he wanted to see him in a couple of years. “Two years later, my whole family took a road trip to Los Angeles; we saw the agency again and they signed me,” he recalls.
There were a few little gigs for the young boy, but nothing that put him on the map. Nothing, at least, until last year; he turned 16, got that passport, started doing the international runway shows, and captured the attention of fashion’s biggest heavy hitters – as well as teenage girls everywhere. He and his family – he has three elder sisters – have since moved to Los Angeles to focus on the Smith kids’ flourishing artistic endeavours.
On a rainy Los Angeles afternoon, in a photographic studio in the bowels of the San Fernando Valley, Smith – who arrives dressed all in black in jeans, turtleneck and leather jacket – talked about how he got here, and where he wants to go next.
Even though you were signed at 12, things only started happening for you more recently.
I think just doing the whole show season was the biggest part of it. I was introduced to all those bigger clients, and that’s what helped get me to where I am. It helps to be in Los Angeles, because I’m interested in music, acting and of course modelling. I love it here – it’s really awesome and relaxing to come back to. It’s such an easy-going place.
You probably weren’t exposed much to the world of high fashion as a young kid in Utah. Was there an element of culture shock?
It does feel like it’s a whole different world. I’m still getting exposed to a bunch of new things I’ve never seen before, which is really cool. I was never interested in fashion before. I was into sports – football, baseball, basketball. I liked skateboarding. I ran track. I used to mess around and get into trouble with my friends, getting kicked out of water parks, all that fun stuff.
What’s a typical week for you these days?
If I’m in LA, I’ll go take some digitals for my agency, which will send them off to someone. I might go to New York for a shoot for a day or two, maybe Paris after that, then come back to LA for a couple of days for music. I’ll be in the studio, writing music, maybe go to New York again. I’m always travelling. More so when it’s show season, when there are just tons and tons of shows a day. I usually have my agent, one of my parents or sisters, or maybe a parent’s friend come with me – whoever can.
It sounds like you don’t have a lot of downtime. So when you do, what do you like doing?
When I have a day off, which is rare, I’m usually with my friends, just relaxing. A lot of them are in the same field as I am, so it’s interesting. But it also means that if I have a day off, they might not. I had tickets to the Star Wars premiere, but didn’t go because everyone I called to go with me was out of town. So probably somebody snuck in there and got my seats!
You’re at an age now when, ordinarily, you’d be looking at colleges. Where are you in terms of having a conventional education?
I do really like learning. But I’m riding this wave for a while and seeing where it takes me. If I’m able to find time in my schedule to further my education, then I want to, 100 percent. But right now, I’m kind of going with the flow. I really like English; I’m not a good writer, but I like listening to books on audio, and learning about the characters, even though I wouldn’t say that I like sitting down and reading a book. I’ve been home-schooled for the past few years, so I try and manage that. I take my books with me wherever I go, and do as much school as I can, on a plane or in a hotel room or sometimes at shoots. It’s tricky to manage, but it’s worth it.
What has surprised you the most about being in the throes of this industry?
People only see the red-carpet events, and the really cool photos that come from the photo shoots. But they don’t see what it takes to get to those shoots, to get things done. I’ve been in Paris at the airport about to go to Stockholm for a day for a shoot, in the middle of show season. I missed my flight, and the next one wasn’t until seven the next morning, which was when I had to be at the shoot by. So I was stuck there, trying to figure out if there was a train I could take, or to drive to another airport.
I don’t think people see all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes to get to a shoot and do all this, the grind until you have some success. There are some days I have to be at 12 castings, every day for a month, waking up at 7am, doing fittings from 11pm to 4am, having to be at a show the next day for a 6am call time.
I’ve never gotten stressed about it, but it’s not that glamorous running around in soaking-wet clothes trying to get to another fitting, and you have an hour to get there and then it’s too late and you’ve missed it. It’s worth it though. It’s so much fun and I love it.
Because you travel so much for work, are you done with travelling in your downtime?
I always find time to see places when I’m somewhere for a shoot – places I’d never have seen otherwise. I think when I’m done with this, I’ll just want to stay somewhere, travel only if I have to for work, and not for pleasure.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve worn for a shoot?
I’ve worn some crazy stuff. Once my hair had to be rolled up in tubes and tied up. I looked like George Washington.
How do you handle the adulation from your young fans? Has anything uncomfortable or awkward ever happened?
It’s always fun, and I love it. People just want photos or autographs. I talk to them for a bit, hug them. I’ve never had a crazy request or anything.
You have quite the social-media following. Are you on it a lot? And have you now perfected the art of the great selfie?
I check my social media frequently throughout the day – looking at messages from people, reading my friends’ posts. As for the best selfie – you need really good lighting. Once you have that, you have to figure out the best angle for the phone, and that’s different for everyone.
Many models have segued into acting. Is that what you’re planning to do as well?
I don’t want to model my whole life. What I want to do is act. Whenever I’m in LA, I focus on acting and music. I just filmed my first feature film and I was the lead; it was filmed over six weeks last August. It meant I had to miss out on some of the shows. But acting is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. This one is a really cool love story about inner beauty, about a kid who falls in love with this girl for who she is. It’s an indie film that will be going to some of the festivals, and will be out this summer.
And you’re a musician as well.
I play drums in a band that I formed with my sisters. It’s called The Atomics. We’re working on an album. I would describe the sound of The Atomics as sort of like The Black Keys with surf-inspired guitar riffs, groovy bass, drum grooves and spooky Amy Winehouse-type vocals.
Who do you listen to?
I like old-school hip-hop, Tupac, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Biggie Smalls, the Kings of Leon, Led Zeppelin and The Black Keys.
If you could remake a movie and act in it, what would it be?
Something like The Breakfast Club. And I’d love to be in a trilogy like The Hunger Games, or something very cool like Mission Impossible. I’ve been taking acting classes. I don’t think acting is hard, but you do have to get to where you need to go. So if you have to show anger, you need to be angry.
And for other young people who are seeking fame – what would you say to them?
Be yourself, be confident. Don’t care what people think of you. Follow your gut. And stay golden.
To see a behind-the-scenes video of our photo shoot with Lucky Blue Smith, click here.
PHOTOGRAPHY MIKE RUIZ
STYLING CANNON AT JUDY CASEY
HAIR AND GROOMING MIRA CHAI HYDE AT THE WALL GROUP USING DIOR HOMME AND ORIBE
STYLING ASSISTANT PRISCILLA MARTINEZ