I was sitting in the break room of our tiny and cramped office when Andrei showed me his latest interview online. There he was, slick head shot on the screen, looking as gorgeous as ever and to the right, in 9pt Arial were the questions. What is your favorite food? What advice would you give someone starting out? What is your favorite thing about modeling? Typical, really, and to my disappointment, and Andrei's, totally cliche.
I smiled and read through these questions with amusement while simultaneously telling Andrei one day he would spontaneously transform into a peanut. Yes, a peanut. Since I've known Andrei, and it hasn't been very long, it's become apparent he does have a perchance for this curious food. Hang around him long enough and you will see him shuck them, eat them out of a can or otherwise rip into a tiny package of salty, delicious trail mix.
Andrei is difficult to quantify and certainly impossible to figure out through a few vapid questions. He is aggressive–a top level predator with a point of view he's not afraid to share. He is witty, fast and hard to impress and if you want to grab his attention you better do yourself a favor and get down to business or get out of the way. He doesn't suffer fools nor is he interested in superficial people. He prefers a challenge and despises stagnation. When I asked him to describe himself as we were brainstorming his new site design, in what he's termed his Starbucks office, the words that emerged were a revelation. Andrei sees himself as introspective, quiet and a little shy. He's not a "Fan" and certainly not a follower. He is focused and determined with a very healthy dose of perseverance. He doesn't cut corners nor does he turn and run at the first sign of trouble. He succeeds because he wills it.
One of the first things that we realized we had in common was our strangely bizarre childhoods rooted in poverty. Perhaps it is this fact, most of all that has instilled the desire in us to succeed and rise above second-best mediocrity. The bottom line is not enough for us. We have things to do and goals to accomplish and will stop at nothing when it comes to pursuing our dreams.
From the moment we met, it became brutally clear that I had better wipe the slate clean of expectation. He is viscerally real, not some cookie cutter mold of what a supermodel should or shouldn't be. He is neither self absorbed or egotistical but that is not to say he doesn't' have a healthy ego. Andrei knows he's good–good enough not to have to "tell you" he's good. WYSIWYG applies wholeheartedly as he is honest and unpretentious–a breath of fresh air.
One of the most striking things about hanging with Andrei is watching the way he moves. There is a cat-like grace to him that is mesmerizing. It is not that he is self conscious of his movement, rather, that he has a natural dexterity that manifests in subtle, unexpected ways like the way he hovers over his laptop, occasionally adjusting his black-rimmed glasses or the casual way his body leans to the right, one foot over the other when he's holding his beer.
Look past that shiny exterior and you will be rewarded with tongue-in-cheek humor, enthusiasm and a heart-warming smile. When Andrei is sincerely happy he beams, and that is one of the most fun aspects of knowing him. In spite of all the drive and ambition he is laid back and happy to be alive, appreciative of his opportunities.
I met with Andrei in early May to discuss the business of web design at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was instantly impressed with his arsenal of knowledge. A few days later I gave him a small project to work on to assess his skill set and the work that came back was very polished. Shortly thereafter, I offered Andrei an internship at Rustybrick, Inc. with very little expectation. I was shocked to find him working at all hours of the day and night. Between casting calls, workouts and a slew of commitments he found the time to work on the project, oftentimes having to switch locations in search of Wi-Fi in NYC. In a few short days he had wrapped up his mockups for his first e-commerce site. Though far from perfect, it demonstrated design savvy, balanced composition and attention to detail. Instantly, I knew he was someone I could have a professional relationship with.
Andrei is extremely reliable. If he says he will do something–have no doubt–he will get it done. Somehow, someway he will come through. Call it gut instinct or a hunch but to this day there is no doubt in my mind he will succeed in this business just as he has in modeling.
Working with him has kept me on my toes. It is not good enough for him to know that I am good at what I do–he will always seek proof. It is just who he is. Andrei asks questions and if the answers he gets are unsatisfactory his faith inevitably begins to erode. Luckily for me, a few chocolate martinis didn't detract from my ability to troubleshoot pesky code. The word "TABLES" is enough to crack a smile on our faces.
A little known fact about him is that, like me, he is a geek living out of his laptop. We spend nights talking design, troubleshooting annoying scripts, and exchanging ideas and links on IM. His passion for web design and his hunger to learn has in many ways inspired me to take a new look at my design accomplishments–something I was, perhaps, beginning to take for granted.
Design-wise, Andrei is often attracted to slick and shiny surfaces that are modern and angular but deep down he’s a jagged jumble of hand drawn lines. He will tell you that he despises blackletter and grunge styles but so far Andrei has proven to be more Boycott than Akzidenz; and more shades of gray than pristine white.
Has Andrei been good for me? Yes. Will he be good for you? Who knows. Ah but you want to go deeper, more personal. I think I can help you there as well.
The things that frustrate Andrei about modeling are the very same things he finds exhilarating. He is always on the move; never lingering too long in the same place and always meeting new people. In the short time I have known him I have caught a glimpse into his harried and hectic life. Andrei is rarely in one place for more than a few hours. His life revolves around staying in supremely good shape, which invariably translates into a lot of time at the gym, studying and learning, photo-shoots and a lot of casting calls. On an average day Andrei, with backpack slung over one shoulder, will scour New York City twice over looking for work.
One of the most startling things about him is his spartan lifestyle consisting of a bag of peanuts, his gym clothes, laptop, a few changes of clothes and an air mattress. Not many people can live like this and Andrei makes this look like fine art. He does it gracefully.
Romance. Yes, yes, alright. We have had personal conversations about romance and the types of women that thrill him. Andrei doesn't like to play mind games and like me, he is easily bored. One of the first things he told me when he found out I was married was, and I quote, "Your life is over." Pretty harsh isn't it? He reminds me every so often of this very fact. "Who cares," he'll say, "your life is over." It puts a smile on my face every time. Andrei is not ready to settle down, he’s got too much to do, but stranger things have happened!
I think for most women, Andrei can come across as very intimidating, for one thing he's prone to tell you the truth–which may or may not be what any woman wants to hear. He doesn't have the time to dote and pamper although he openly admits he ends up doing most of the cooking in relationships. Is he a nice guy? Yes, but be careful. He's piping hot and it's very easy to get burned.
Like our friendship, my truth about Andrei is ever-evolving. If I’ve extolled his virtues and steered clear of his pitfalls it is only that his negative traits are, in some ways, very similar to mine and therefore manageable. Does Andrei have a dark side? Yes. Like the rest of us he’s not perfect. He can be brutally honest, crass and insensitive. He binges on huge bags of candy and gets so lazy his desktop reads “DON’T BE A LAZY FUCKER GET YOUR ASS TO THE GYM!” He’s got a short fuse when it comes to dealing with stupidity. He’s as impossible hold onto as the wind and don’t even begin to ask what was in the hard drive he lost, but alas, that is a story for another day.
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