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Body in motion

Ex-Trojan has found stardom on the runway
by: ©2008 ARNALDO ANAYA LUCCA, Since signing with a big New York modeling agency in 2006, former all-PIL pitcher Chad White from Wilson High has been around the world, doing shoots with big fashion names like Dolce & Gabbana, Nautica and Abercrombie & Fitch.

His whirlwind life in the fashion lane all started with a snap in his right elbow. After graduating from Wilson High in 2002, Chad White kept his baseball career alive by pitching for various summer teams. One day, with a pro scout in the stands, he threw a pitch and, ‘Wow, I was throwing gas. It felt great. … Then I threw a curveball, and I heard ‘snap’ in my elbow and my arm went dead. I tried to throw another one, and it hurt so bad, it felt like Jell-O. I was in tears. It was my dream.” White already had done some local modeling, but his big break in the business came one day before he was to enter the Navy in early 2006. That day, he got a call from his Portland modeling agent. He was told that a major agency in New York City wanted to sign him. The company promised stardom, but all White could think about was his hurting elbow and dream of pitching in the major leagues. “I came (to New York) to make $10,000 for the Tommy John (elbow ligament) surgery,” White says, “and I made the money, but I was in way too deep to stop.” If you Google White on the Internet, you’ll see why many in the modeling business cannot take their eyes off the 23-year-old Southwest Portland native, who now lives in a Manhattan apartment. At the top of the Google search are three photos of him in bikini underwear, as he displays his lean and sculpted 6-2 athletic frame and winning smile. One of his Major Model Management agents calls him “clearly, unquestionably, one of the top male models working in the world today” because of his appeal, charm, affability with photographers and willingness to work hard on his body and craft. White has met Michael Jackson (“I’m crossing my fingers to meet him again,” he says), partied with Diddy, befriended Prince Azim of Brunei and carried Paris Hilton in his arms on the fashion runway. But he yearns for an Oregon home life in his future, and to be a firefighter. Modeling is a fickle business, and White realizes it. Hot, hot, hot one day, so yesterday the next. For now, though, White is living the life. He recently left for Europe and two months of work in London, Paris, Milan and Germany. There will be a lot of meetings and castings with designers, who may or may not like his look in their clothes. Chances are he’ll get work, and he already has some runway shows booked, but he never knows. White visited family and friends for about 36 hours in the Portland area before heading overseas. The morning after he arrived in town, he jumped on his Suzuki GSXR “crotch rocket” and reached 60 mph in about five seconds — in his pajamas. “Should have poured water over the top of me, right?” he joked, thinking hot photo shoot. As he sat and told his rags-to-riches story, a fluffy dog jumped into his lap. It’s a Shih Tzu named Bam Bam, 13 weeks old. White brought him out to stay with family in Tigard while he works in Europe. Bam Bam flew with his owner in a camouflage bag with little breathing holes. How stereotypical, huh, model and a yipping dog? “Everyone says it’s a girl dog — either girls or gay guys have the dog,” he says. “Whatever. I like the dog.” White already has taught him how to sit, speak, give “five,” and roll over. Someday, he’ll teach him the “pow —you’re dead” move. White scratches his own whiskered head over his good fortune. He did work for Nike Inc., Fred Meyer and Macy’s in Portland, and shortly after arriving in New York he got to know Steven Klein, one of the world’s top fashion photographers. Supposedly with Brad Pitt unavailable, Klein and the editors of L’Uomo Vogue magazine — Italian Vogue — chose White to be their man for the swimmer-themed photo spread of June 2006. After five 20-hour days, it turned out to consume 45 pages and vaulted White to the top of the industry. “And I got next to nothing for it,” he says. “But people approach me and say it’s the most amazing thing they’ve ever seen.” One shot has White laying “dead” next to Marilyn Manson — mad rocker kills the pretty boy. Living the big-city life In modeling, editorial pictorials serve as résumés, and scores of photo shoots followed for White. They help create image and demand, and, thus, his day rate goes up. It’s largely a taboo subject, but White says he started at about $1,000 per day in New York, and suggests that his rate “quadrupled” and kept rising. It’s still nowhere near what women make in modeling — up to $40,000 per day — or what photographers earn. But it’s good money, and it feeds White’s lifestyle in New York City. “I’ve got to start investing better,” says White, who also owns an Audi TT sports car and once owned a home on Long Island before it burned down. “My dream is to make enough money to take care of my family, and then settle down with a wife and kids. “I’m here to make it. I’m trying to stay away from partying.” When he got to New York, White partied hard —three or four days a week, till the sun came up. But he learned quickly that the nightlife conflicted with his need to stay in shape — which, as his photos attest, he does quite well. With a hangover, he would want to eat. Now he works out — running, boxing, weights, basketball, core exercises and simply walking places in the Big Apple. He does strategic partying, and, yes, he unabashedly says nightclubs let him in ahead of 300 other people standing in line. White runs with the pretty people and the in crowd, but he remains Oregon personable. “He’s the same guy. Modeling and all that hasn’t changed him — except his style and the way he dresses,” says Graham Doyle, with whom White lived in high school. Last summer, White returned to visit friends in Portland, and about 12 of them had photos of him screened on T-shirts — one of White and Michael Jackson, one of White and Paris Hilton, etc. (Hilton jumped into his arms and threw a bouquet, and White breathes a sigh of relief that he didn’t drop her.) White laughed at the T-shirts, as they expected, since he once was Wilson High’s class clown and voted life of the party — everybody wanted to be his friend and the girls adored him, Doyle says. “He’s still the same way,” says Kyle Fairfax, his friend and former Wilson classmate. Fairfax adds that while White seems aloof and goofy, it’s part of the act. “He’s really smart,” Fairfax says Teenage years were tough White’s buddies tease him about all of the garish outfits, the bikini underwear and the glitzy lifestyle. It’s a far cry from playing sports and living in Southwest Portland, although White began modeling in his teenage years, appearing in print ads and modeling brand clothing for Nike for clients such as Michael Jordan and LeBron James. White’s upbringing wasn’t the smoothest, and he credits many people for helping him stay focused — Wilson baseball coach Mike Clopton, assistant coach Wayne Twitchell, Athletic Director Fred Freimark, teachers such as the late Linda Graves, Doyle and his family, and grandparents Buzz and Carol White. White pitched for the Trojans in 2001 and 2002, his junior and senior seasons. He earned all-PIL honors in 2002, and then Clopton hooked him up with the College of the Desert baseball team in Palm Desert, Calif. College didn’t work out for White, since he partied too much. He returned home to work, ponder his future and pitch on summer teams. Clopton remembers White as having a good fastball, work ethic and personality. “The bottom line is things are going great for him,” Clopton says. “He survived (the home life, teenage years), and hopefully some of the stuff we did helped him. Baseball kept him in school and helped him focus with discipline and organization.” White lived with the Doyle family for about three years and with his grandparents for one year during high school, while his parents dealt with various issues that took them out of his life. “It’s a tight family, but they had a couple years of rough roads. They’ve picked themselves back up,” Fairfax says. “If I wouldn’t have had sports, I would have gone downhill, for sure,” White says. “Everyone else has a sad story at one time of their life. It was hard in high school, but my childhood was amazing.” White loves his parents, Gary and Jessica, who live with his grandparents in Tigard. He rides motorcycles with his father, and he took his mother with him to Brunei last year to meet Prince Azim, son of one of the world’s richest people. White has an older brother, Adam. His mother says her co-workers at Costco compliment her on her kids. “You sure make beautiful children,” they say. “It’s so cool how fast he got up there in modeling,” Jessica White says. “I’m glad we get to be a part of it.” White says he feels the pressure of the business. And while he’s attractive and single, he has found out that modeling can be lonely work. He tells of past trips to Europe where his agents basically gave him a map and a list of contacts that might give him work. He’ll drink wine in Paris — all alone — and “I don’t care if it’s romantic.” White gives much credit to Jason Kanner, his primary Major Model agent, for support and guidance. Since the L’Uomo Vogue spread, White has worked for Dolce and Gabbana, Nautica, American Eagle and Abercrombie and Fitch and has done many magazine pictorials. “I just got a big freakin’ job,” he says, of a magazine photo shoot in Miami two weeks ago. “But you can also go a month without working. “If it was great every day, then it’d be cake, then I’d love it.” Looks matter, but not totally White’s personality helps in the often pretentious modeling industry. It’s about more than just possessing a striking body and smile. “It’s a good ticket, but I wouldn’t say the ticket,” he says of his looks. “People have to like you. I could be the most cut person and be a jerk, and they’d say, ‘I’m not going to work with you.’ You be real with these people, build friendships and relationships. That’s how you constantly work.” “In this business, you can be modest. But you have to be able to take good pictures; some of the most beautiful people in the world can’t take a picture, because they’re not comfortable.” The underwear shots are his calling card. “OK,” he says, laughing at the topic. “I wasn’t really comfortable at first, but you can’t care what people think. Everybody has flaws; I’d go out there and, ‘OK, I have my flaws, and I’m in the best shape I could be in. Let’s cross our fingers and hope they do like it.’ I’m so competitive, I’d run eight miles, then eat perfectly, then go back to the gym, all so I’d be ready for those situations.” He can be self-conscious. He remembers doing an underwear shoot in Africa, and he couldn’t understand the language, only the smiles and laughs. White says he got used to being nearly naked in front of people, because his father used to walk around the house in the buff or sit in the backyard in his Speedo. Like father, like son — “Dad said I never liked to have my clothes on,” he says. White does like the clothes he gets to wear. He’s most comfortable in typical Oregon attire —blue jeans and a T-shirt — but he does like his pair of $600 Dolce and Gabbana shoes. “But no green shoes or silver jackets for me,” he says. “And I don’t really care about the bling.” This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.