Suveer Ramsook believes the stigma, stereotype and perception of men as models are prejudicial and outdated. He knows that through the lens of socially constructed ideals, male modelling for the “average masculine man” may come across as being “feminine.” But who determines what is masculinity and femininity?
“When people stereotype a male model, they think of them being a certain sexuality because of how they pose and are not afraid to show their bodies or express themselves,” Ramsook told Sunday Newsday.
The 23-year-old Chaguanas resident said during photoshoots he models swimwear on the beach, exudes sexual looks and emotions while posing – things the “average man” may find weird, but he does not want to be pigeon-holed.
“Men are free to express themselves and be comfortable in their own skin.
“Why should I let someone’s opinion shape the way I see or do something, just to please their sake or have them give an opinion?”
And while he is confident in what he does, it took time for him to fully understand the industry.
“Back then (when I was younger), my idea of modelling was not in the right headspace.
“My thinking was very small-minded and judgemental of the term model. I really didn’t want to have anything to do with it.”
While studying at Presentation College, Chaguanas, he played cricket and a teammate’s mother encouraged him to make a modelling portfolio and submit to local ad agencies. Back then, however, the focus was less on appearances and more on cricket, a passion inspired by his uncles’ love for the sport.
Playing for the Central zone in inter-zonal tournaments as a teenager participating in national cricket camps and in youth leagues, with clubs like Preysal Cricket Club, he went as far as being on trials for the national cricket team. Even playing Intercol football as a goalkeeper for his school.
In all of this, modelling was nowhere in mind, but opportunity came knocking again. In 2015, a photographer messaged on Facebook and expressed interest in a photoshoot. Thinking it was weird and being hesitant, he paid the request no mind but one year later he crossed paths with the photographer at a gym.
“The first question he (the photographer) asked, ‘When are were going to do a photoshoot?’
“Being away from cricket, at that time, because I was learning to be a commercial diver, I thought about it.”
However, he did not consider the offer with becoming a male model in mind but thought it as a good way to get some pictures – a reminder of the improvement made to his physique at the gym as part of his training to be a commercial diver with OTSL, an off-shore technology company.
Taking up on the photographer’s offer, little did he know it would change his life’s trajectory. He has since worked with Detours, Peter Elias, Ecliffe Elie, Francis Fashion and is currently the face of cricket icon Brian Lara’s eyewear line with Ferreira Optical Limited.
His photos have been featured in local and regional magazines such as Fashion Focus, Caribbean Belle Weddings, WE magazine and Leve, a Tobago-based magazine. A career highlight was walking in New York Fashion Week 2018, modelling for fashion brand Melo – owned by US NBA player Carmelo Anthony.
Recognising the potential of modelling he placed his pursuits of commercial diving on hold. A long journey from his own misconception of the industry.
“People pass judgment and automatically class you in what they think a male model should be. I just think it’s a big downside.”
His family’s support has been unwavering since the start and said they paid no attention to the stereotypes.
“They (my family) didn’t know about the industry and so did I but we learnt it together,” he said of the support which encouraged him to express himself. But there was another stereotype to conquer.
“People automatically think that you are full of yourself because the line of work is always about you being the centre of attention.”
Noting people confuse the confidence of models with them being egotistical, he added, “Yes, we (models) are confident in our own skins but we are all genuine, real to ourselves and not ashamed to be who we are.”
Representing TT in Poland at the Mister Supranational pageant in December 2018, he became the country’s first representative at the competition. Approached by the pageant’s TT franchise holder earlier that year to represent the country, there was uncertainty at first.
“My initial thoughts were that I never heard of male pageantry. The most I would have thought about was maybe Mr World.”
He later accepted the offer after meeting the franchise holder in Tobago while returning from a fashion show.
“It was something different from what I was accustomed doing. When she broke it down for me, I really thought that it was something that I found interesting.”
More convincing was being TT’s first representative and helping to lay a foundation to develop local male pageantry. While placing in the top 25 of 40 contestants was not the best result, the opportunities after the pageant opened doors.
He has since travelled to England from Poland and met with modelling agencies. Not intending to stay more than a month, opportunities were presented which allowed him to secure modelling gigs in the UK and across Europe. From photoshoots in Lagos, Portugal to the Swiss Alps in Switzerland, he explored Europe’s culture and scenery, also visiting Norway and Denmark.
In England, he did courses in method acting at The Actors Studio in London, seeking to learn new skills. Since returning to TT in January, he acted in the short film Asha, based on the soucouyant folklore and would be part of the TT Film and Folklore Festival. The event had to be postponed last month due to the coivd19 ordinance.
Ramsook wants to work on more films, to audition for TV and movie roles in Europe and potentially the US.
Apart from his family and friends, he thanks the late photographer Calvin French and Peter Elias for their support. French, a world-renowned photographer, worked with magazines such as GQ, Vogue and Details.
With much more to discover, Ramsook said he will continue to set the bar high on whatever comes next for him.