Rafael Valentino
Rafael Valentino. (Photo courtesy of Rafael Valentino)

Bria Murphy, Eddie Murphy’s daughter, just made major headlines by revealing that some models eat cotton balls soaked in orange juice to remain thin.

But when contemplating the perils of the fashion industry, and the many hurdles faced by models, rarely do we think of men. Even when discussing black catwalker’s plights, our minds usually turn to scrutinize what happens to women.

But what about the men — particularly men of color?

Modeling: Rare industry in which women earn more

When it comes to less pay for equal work, women are disproportionately at a disadvantage end of the gender income gap—except when it comes to modeling. Modeling is probably the only industry where it’s an accepted fact that women will earn more than their male counterparts.

“Female models will always make more money.” Oscar Garnica, a model manager at New York Model Management explains, “the pool for [women’s] work is broader.”

Likewise, while most men are spared the sexual harassment women experience daily on the street, and sometimes at the workplace, modeling is, again, one of the only sectors where men can expect to be propositioned as much as women are by people in a position to impact their earning potential.

Add this to the fact that they’re judged on their looks for a living, and it’s safe to say that men who model have a better inkling than most dudes of what it’s like to walk a mile in a woman’s shoes. So why would any man want to subject himself to these tribulations?

Rafael Valentino: Male model on a mission

Rafael DeLeon, who goes by Rafael Valentino, only speaks for himself. But the model who recently appeared in Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign says he has his eye on a bigger prize.

Ask Valentino whose career he wants to model his own after and he answers without the slightest pause: “Mark Wahlberg, or, I guess, Ashton Kutcher.”  For Valentino, modeling is the first stop on a train that’s hopefully headed to film and television moguldom. The Temple University graduate left one of the most arguably hyper-male career paths in the world—politics—to pursue this goal.

While he was working in the Office of Boards and Commissions in D.C. government, Valentino says his mother orchestrated a photo shoot of her good-looking son. He submitted a few of the resulting snaps to some modeling agencies in New York and was soon signed. He moved to the Big Apple where he was dispatched to castings, and quickly learned it was a good idea to bring his own hair styling products to work.

Dealing delicately with race

“When I go on photo shoots, I have my Olive Oil, I have my coconut oil, I have my little products that I apply to my hair; and skincare stuff that I use just in the event that they don’t have it.” He finds that they often don’t have it. “Many stylists at the highest levels, they kind of tailor to, you know, what it is they encounter the most.”

Sounding much like a politician, Valentino is diplomatic when it comes to talking racism in the industry.

“I think what people consider racism is subjective to some degree.” He expounds, “I’ve gone to a casting and the gentleman said, ‘I’m sorry, but we aren’t seeing black or Asian guys right now.’ To which I then replied to him, ‘Yes, well the casting is asking for mixed and biracial men and although I may appear to be black to you, I am actually black, Hispanic, and you know, Middle Eastern. So, he then said, ‘Well okay, you know, sure. Go on ahead.’” Valentino didn’t get the job.